As a cold front grips the country over the weekend, the 2021 Petrefuel Dolphin Coast Challenge is expected to dish up some hot racing as paddlers take on the two day race between Durban and Salt Rock.
Conditions have been changing constantly throughout the week and this weekend’s conditions seem to have subsided from exciting downwind conditions to what could be a flat paddle on Saturday where paddlers will take on the 22km stretch from Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club to Umdloti.
Sunday’s action will be different as organisers try and harness the best of the wind that is predicted and paddlers will race from Salt Rock on the North Coast to Umdloti over 23km.
This year’s race will have added incentive for a number of the paddlers in the field as it will double up as the KZN single ski championships and this has seen one of the country’s form paddlers slot a late entry in.
Hamish Lovemore, who won both the senior K1 and K2 marathon titles, will be out on the ocean again challenging his training partner and decorated surfski ace Hank McGregor over the two days.
McGregor recently finished second in the Berg River Canoe Marathon – a race where Lovemore ended third.
The pair is building for their assault on the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Romania at the end of September so the mileage might be key at this stage but more the competitive nature of racing might be more important.
McGregor’s record at the Dolphin Coast Challenge is unrivalled and the veteran has won every edition that he has competed in and given the waters of the North Coast are his training ground he will again prove to be a difficult person to beat.
Young paddlers Josh Simpkins and Matthew Millward have also put in their entries and will be fighting it out for the junior provincial title. Both are also in the final preparation phase for their debuts at the World Marathon Championships in seven weeks time.
From a women’s perspective one can’t look past current world surfski champion and Durban ace Michelle Burn.
Burn has been in fine form this year and has been training hard which has paid off for her after she won both the national surfski title and then followed that up with victory in Lanzarotti at the global showpiece.
She will have some resistance though in the form of another world champion Saskia Hockly.
Hockly has been another form paddler this year and is also focusing on the world marathon championships but her surfski form cannot be ignored and she will provide Burn with her biggest test across the two days.
Hockly’s younger sister Valmajean will also be a contender after she showed form beyond her years to finish third in the junior girls race at the Ocean Racing World Championships.