Christie Mackenzie Edges Nix Birkett for Overnight Drak Challenge Lead

Christie Mackenzie safely negotiates the Glenhaven Rapid on her way to a narrow Day 1 victory, at the 2023 N3TC Drak Challenge, in KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday, 27 January, 2024. Photo: Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

Christie Mackenzie took a massive step toward defending her N3TC Drak Challenge title when she overame a pre-race setback to claim the Day 1 lead in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday, 27 January, 2024.

“The water level was nice. It was technical – which I liked, so it was awesome!”

N3TC Drak Challenge Day 1 Leader, Christie Mackenzie

Mackenzie must have thought the Gods were against her when somebody stood on her paddle before the start but she quickly changed to a spare paddle for the 39km first stage from Swartberg Bridge to Hopewell Farm on the Umzimkhulu River.

Any setback didn’t reveal any damage to Mackenzie after Day 1’s results were in and she crossed the line two seconds ahead of Nix Birkett, with Bridgitte Hartley recovering from an early swim at Taylor’s Weir to end the opening stage in third position.

The less-than-perfect pre-race preparation was no setback as the defending champion calmly handled all that was thrown at her from before the race, and on the river.

“I had a rocky start when somebody stood on my paddle before the start so it broke and so I had to use a paddle I was not used to – so that was the first obstacle.

“From there I had a good start and led through the Gorge and did not make any mistakes, and from there it was just a long slog on the flats to the finish. So I was happy with my day.

Nix Birkett is just two seconds off the pace, and a Birkett double with husband Andy leading the mens’ race is certainly not out of the question, but the safe bet would be a repeat of the 2023 results with Christie Mackenzie on the top step of the podium.

Sunday’s stage two will see entrants race from Castleburn to the Swartberg Bridge.

Leading results after Day 1 of the N3TC Drak Challenge, in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday, 27 January, 2024

1. Christie Mackenzie 2:44:14
2. Nix Birkett (1st Sub Vet) 2:44:16
3. Bridgitte Hartley (1st Vet) 2:47:41
4. Saskia Hockly (1st U23) 2:48:30
5. Abby Solms (2nd Sub Vet) 2:50:03


Main Photo Caption: Christie Mackenzie safely negotiates the Glenhaven Rapid on her way to a narrow Day 1 victory, at the 2023 N3TC Drak Challenge, in KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday, 27 January, 2024. Photo: Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

Photo 2 Caption: A scenic view of Day 1 of the 2023 N3TC Drak Challenge, in KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday, 27 January, 2024. Photo: Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

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