Pink Lady Drakenstein

The WCCU’s 2-day K1 multi-day canoe race, held on the Berg River on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th June, was this year sponsored by Pink Lady Apples and hosted by Paarl Canoe Club, under the strong leadership of both Chairman, Eric Farringer and Pink Lady’s, Rob Meihuizen.
It was a fantastically well organized event with some 150 paddlers taking part and this notwithstanding the fact that because of the minimal rainfall that the Western Cape has received to date, the Berg River was running very low – so much so, that the planned first day of racing (over 45 kmilometres) from Paarl to Hermon, was changed to be run from Gouda Bridge to Bridgehouse (30 km), with the 2nd planned day of paddling also changed from a start on the Berg River dam, to Paarl (21km) to be run from Paarl to Skooltjie near Wellington (23km).
Two major themes also run with this event – income for development paddlers in the Paarl region of the Western Cape and the continued assistance to the school at Skooltjie (near Wellington), that was started under the Swartland Canoe race banner. Development paddling in the Paarl region – very much the flagship of development paddling in the Cape, was started by Robin Graves, a Paarl Canoe Club member, several years back, when he persuaded youngsters from the nearby informal dwellings, who used to watch the Paarl Canoe Club paddlers in action on the Berg River, to also try their hands at the activity. This small beginning by ‘Oupa’ Robin, has grown into a section of the Paarl Canoe Club that has not only produced very good paddlers but also a good number of them have won their SA canoeing colours. One in particular is Wayne August, who not only came through the ranks as a paddler who won his colours, but who now has a full-time job as the coach at this club and who has coached and managed SA canoeing teams to numerous international events.
This is all costs money of course and not only does the club provide training and equipment for these youngsters, but meals as well, which for many, is the only decent meal of the day. So, with the input from Pink Lady Apples, they provide ‘not just an apple’ to the Paarl community at large, and to the youngsters who have taken to paddling in particular – a fantastic support scenario.
Fortunately, the weather came to the ‘party’ and despite paddlers were on a very low Berg, the weather was perfect for a canoeing event and this went a long way to satisfying the competitors who lined up on the river on both days.
Taking a lead from Peninsula Canoe Club”s former multi-day K1 race, the Swartland, as well as how WCCU runs the Berg River Canoe Marathon, paddlers were divided into batches for the start on day 1 according to canoe event results held so far this season and for day 2, on the times that were paddled on day 1.
On Saturday 13th June, ‘A’ batch lined up of some 30 paddlers, which included the top women paddlers entered, lined up under the Gouda Bridge under the eagle eyes of the starter.Such was the eagerness of this elite group of paddlers to get going that he was forced to delay the start as the seeded rows had all floated over the start line, contrary to his request to them to stay behind the red flag and so they all had to back paddle and re-set in their seeded lines! However, once the gun was fired, there was no holding back as this elite bunch churned up the muddy waters ofthe Berg as paddlers sprinted to try and get into the first obstacle of the course – a narrowing of the river some 400m from the start and this was very effective in reducing the size of the leading bunch although, such was the quality of the field that a leading group of some 8 paddlers set the pace as they raced to the first major obstacle of the race – Black Rock Rapid – some 18 minutes into the race. These were Brandon van der Walt (Pen), Greg Louw (E. Cape), Graeme Solomon (Pen), Tom Schilperoodt (Pen), Heinrich Schloms (Prl), Sbonelo Khwela (KZN), Ivan  Kruger (CTY) and Louw van Riet (US) – all paddlers who have outstanding canoe racing pedigrees and most of whom have represented SA in the past and currently are pretty much the top paddlers – bar a few – in SA at the moment.
At Black Rock Rapid, where paddlers must take the chance of shooting one at a time or portaging on river right, Graeme Solomon, opted to ‘carry’, van der Walt having led the group into the rapid. However, Solomon’s banking on this being the better option backfired on him when he re-entered the river with the bulk of the group ahead of him and it took a mighty effort to catch to group so that he could lead into the next obstacle – the not-so-well-known ‘river left sneak’ approximately 3 km after Black Rock and continued to dominate down to the channels that lead to the Train Bridge, where he won the Pink Lady Bridge Prize.
After the Train Bridge and in the narrow channels that form a good part of the river, the quality of the field ensured that the leading bunch of paddlers didn’t split up as much as one would have expected. Whilst there is many a section where the paddlers had to take a ‘follow-the-leader’ line, such was the paddling expertise that in the open stretches, the group would reform and it wasn’t until approximately 3km from the end at Bridgetown where Solomon, in showing a rare moment of indecison at the final tree block, that van der Walt made his break getting away from the WC paddling legend, to cross the line in first place in 2 hours 14 minutes 53 seconds. Solomon crossed the line on his slip in 2:14:45, Louw crossing in 3rd in 2:14:55.  
Amongst the senior women, Bianca Beavitt (Mil) had an almost faultless paddle, crossing the line in 21st place overall in 2:30:04. 42 seconds later, KZN’s Jenna Ward (and the current Berg River Women’s Champion) came home whilst another local, Peninsula’s Alex Adie, stopped the clocks at 2:32:25 to record 3rd place.
Day 2 saw the paddlers start on the flat waters of the Berg above the Market Street weir and in front of the Paarl Canoe Club, in elapsed time for the 1st 20 paddlers and from the start van der Walt threw down the gauntlet by leading into the 1st portage around the weir. The 3 leaders (van der Walt, Solomon and Louw), decided on the strength of Louw van Riets’ suggestion to ‘run long’ on this portage, putting in after the shallow rapid below the weir but in 1.5 cumacs of flow, Solomon was always going to face an uphill battle against the other two, he being significantly bigger and heavier.
Van der Walt’s decision was to dominate through what is a relatively short day of racing – 23km – and on a shallow river where overtaking was going to be very difficult. Add to this his excellent portaging ability, honed on years of canoe marathon racing where he has won the World Junior Championship and was runner up in the U23 division in 2013, he made a point of getting ahead and staying ahead, forcing Louw and Solomon to give chase as well as to continually have to paddle over his wave, using up much needed energy, after every narrowing in the river.
The only slip-up in van der Walt’s planning was in his failing to win the Rheebokskloof Wines Bridge Prize at the Lady Loch Bridge (which was won by Greg Louw), although this was due to his lack of knowledge of the river, rather than his paddling ability. Nevertheless, he regained the lead shortly after the bridge and did not lose it until the end, again using his portaging ability to blitz the two hyacinth blocks and then taking a quick ‘carry’ at the ruined bollard bridge some 2km from the line, when he could have taken a very narrow left-hand slot.
Louw followed him on this final (extra) portage whilst Solomon opted for the slot on river left, but this was a slower option, van der Walt and Louw getting away from him. Van der Walt then turned up the heat, because, knowing that Louw has an amazing final sprint (after all, he has represented SA as a sprint paddler in international events), he worked on putting as much distance as he could on Louw. His tactic worked and he crossed the line in the 1st place for a 2nd day in a row in 1 hour 41 minutes 30 seconds to record a total time of 3:56:24 to become the first winner of a Pink Lady 2nd day canoe marathon. Louw came home some 38 seconds behind van der Walt in 1:42:08 (3:57:03 in total time), whilst Solomon crossed the line 3rd in 1:42:49 (3:57:44 in total time).
Bianca Beavitt continued her dominace of the women’s section, recording a time of 1:56:27 (4:26:30 – 21st overall) to Jenna Ward’s 1:56:59 (4:24:45) and Alex Adie’s 2:05:18 (4:37:43).
The prize giving, held at the Paarl Rugby Club where a Pink Lady Festival got into full swing, was an extremely pleasant affair where good food, music and general paddling bonhomie under the MC work of popular radio announcer, Deon Bing, along with the many paddling war stories of the race, got under way with the worthy winners of the the many and various categories collecting  cash and product prizes, generously put up by the major sponsors of the event.
Given the success of this event, there is no doubt that WCCU will call upon Paarl Canoe Club to repeat the success of the 2015 event, again in 2016.
Top Ten.
1) Brandon van der Walt, Pen, 3:56:24
2) Greg Louw, E. Cape,  3:57:03
3) Graeme Solomon, Pen, 3:57:44
4) Tom Schilperoodt, Pen, 4:00:28
5) Heinrich Schloms, Prl, 4:00:31
6) Sbonelo Khwela, KZN, 4:04:34
7) Ivan Kruger, CTY, 4:04:41
8) Louw van Riet, US, 4:05:10
9) Ernest van Riet, US, 4:11:07
10) Ryno van der Westhuizen, Prl, 4:11:24
Juniors – U16
1) James Horner, Prl, 4:51:14
2) Peter Meihuizen, Prl, 5:09:24
3) Allessandro Passerine, Prl, 5:18:20
Juniors – U18
1) Ryno van der Westhuyzen, Prl, 4:11:24
2) Mark Keeling, Pen, 4:16:01
3) Zach Preyser, Pen, 4:42:34
1) Grant van der Walt, Pen, 3:56:24
2) Ivan Kruger, CTY, 4:04:41
3) Tyron Maher, UCT, 4:16:01
Sub Veterans
1) Louw van Riet, US, 4:05:10
2) Ernest van Riet, US, 4:11:07
3) Nock Longley, Cty, 4:11:56
1) GraemeSolomon, Pen, 3:57:44
2) Greg van Heerden, Mil, 4:17:33
3) Anton Cartwright, Pen, 4:37:31
Sub Masters
1) Peter Cole, Pen, 4:30:57
2) Richard Allen, Mil, 4:40:19
3) Rob Meintjies, LAN, 4:54:35
1) Rob Hart, Pen, 4:21:33
2) Chris de Waal, Mil, 4:27:16
3) James Tutton, KZN, 4:56:57
Sub Grandmasters.
1) Daantjie Malan, US, 4:52:21
2) Paul Lange, Pen, 4:55:41
3) Ian Glass, Pen, 5:05:14
1) Rob MacLean, Pen,4:48:30
2) Shaun Butler, Pen, 4:50:10
3) Adie de Kock, Prl, 5:06:27
Great Grandmasters
1) Andre’ Hawarden, Mil, 4:42:35
2) Giel van Deventer, Prl, 5:03:57
3) Edgar Boehm, Pen, 6:50:58.
Rob MacLean
Media Liaison – Pink Lady Berg River Canoe Marathon, 2015.


Dear Paddlers,

Please find attached a notification of the Pink Lady Drakenstein Race. This race replaces the Swartlands Marathon. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peninsula Canoe Club for the hard work developing the Swartlands. I think all will agree that their good work produced an entertaining race.

We were invited by Peninsula to take over the Swartlands Marathon and agreed. We have changed the emphasis of the race slightly and also the name. So please find below the notification for the “new Swartlands” , now known as the Pink Lady Drakenstein Canoe Race. We have a lot of new innovations, great goody bags, a paddling top prize money about which we will inform you in the days ahead. So underline the 13th and 14th of June on your calendar and we hope to see you there!!

Best Regards,
Eric Faringer (Chairman Paarl Canoe Club)

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