Exciting Umpetha gets Dusi season rolling

This year’s Clanfin Umpetha Challenge kick-started the 2022 MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon preparation and as expected a number of next year’s Dusi title hopefuls were seen in action for the first time on Sunday.

The race took paddlers from the start of the Dusi down the first 18km of the course and through a number of the early Dusi obstacles, providing a good hit-out for the crews who got a first taste of Dusi-style competition this season.

The men’s race was always going to be hotly contested with a number of crews favouring the fact that the race ends on a long portage and they took full advantage of that as the experienced Team MyLife duo of Thulani Mbjanwa and Msawenkosi Mtolo produced a race-winning performance.

It was a fairly dominant display as they won by a minute in the end ahead of the Citibank Change a Life Academy pair of Banetse Nkhoesa and Bongani Ntinga while Hunter Houston and Thabani Msia came home in third place overall.

“We managed to get away from the other guys at Taxi Rapid but were surprised to hit a tree block around the corner,” Mbanjwa said after this win. “We got a little bit stuck there and about five other boats managed to catch us there.

“Luckily we managed to get in first on the other side and got away from the guys to come home first which we are really happy about.”

Another Dusi pair that will threaten the podium come February is Khumbulani Nzimande and Stewart Little, however their first outing together ended in fifth but they will continue to improve through the season.

From a women’s perspective it was the duo of Bridgitte Hartley and Pippa McGregor who took home the line honours in what was eventually a dominant display as they came home 24 minutes ahead of the second all-women’s boat.

The pair finished 26th overall and for Hartley the race was a good first outing on the Dusi for the season.

“I think it was a good first time out for the season and that first portage is always a shock to the system,” Hartley said.

“We had a little swim at Taxi and it’s one of those things you want to get out of your system in the pre-Dusi races!” Hartley laughed.

Wilma Deyzel teamed up with Louis van Staden to finish second in the women’s race while the Under 18 crew of Sarah Jones and Rachel van Deventer finished in third.

From an age group perspective the first Under 23 boat across the line was that of Sandile Mbanjwa and Mpilo Zondi while the first junior boat across the line was Matthew Millward and Murray Behn.