Favourites Abby Solms and Jessica Behn take Dusi Canoe Day 1 Lead

Abby Solms (front) and Jessica Behn have paddled themselves into a big lead after Day 1 of the Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday. Photo: Ant Grote / Gameplan Media

The K2 pairing of Abby Solms and Jessica Behn lived up to their pre-race hype when they claimed the opening leg of the 2024 Dusi Canoe Marathon from Bishopstowe Hall to the new Day 1 finish at Mphaya Bridge by an 8+ minutes clear lead on Thursday – but their lead is not without threat as they contemplate  Friday’s second stage.

“Today was quite a brutal day,” said Solms with a huge smile on her face seeing the size of their lead, after the two-times champion and her schoolgirl partner, Jessica Behn, built a solid early lead on Day 1, only for Bridgitte Hartley and Hilary Bruss to start making inroads into the deficit.

“It was a quite interesting, those last three little portages that we do not normally do on Day 1. We had to think ahead and keep something in the tank for them, but I think that is where we came into our own and put the hammer down.”

Abby Solms for the leading K2 pairing, also including scholar Jessica Behn

Just after halfway through day 1, a decision to paddle around the tough Cabbage Tree portage late in the race – while Solms and Behn took the traditional run option – meant Hartley and Bruss suddenly lost huge chunks of time.

A gap that was down to just over a minute before the portage-or-paddle decision, ballooned to over nine minutes over the final third of the 36km stage.

That gap is going to make things tough for Hartley and Bruss, and even though they may feel they can make up time on Day 2 – which is now very much a paddlers’ stage, with just one major portage – it is hard to see them claw back that much of a disadvantage.

Sitting in third in the women’s race is the Jenna Nisbet and Nix Birkett crew, who are likely to also enjoy the faster-flowing uMngeni River and deep water of the Inanda Dam on Friday. They are six minutes behind Hartley and Bruss and will be hoping to make some inroads into that deficit on Friday, to set up a dash for Durban on Saturday.

In the mixed doubles event, multiple world champion hank McGregor and his wife Pippa are in control with a solid 6:41 lead over Euro Steel team-mates Brad Boulle and Emma Hatfield.

Stage two on Friday takes paddlers to the confluence of the uMngeni River within two kilometres of the start. 

From there the nature of the river changes dramatically and paddler will have to negotiate some big rapids before the steep Ngumeni Portage. 

After that it is all downhill with a trio of major rapids – Gum Tree, Thombi and Hippo – before the headwaters of Inanda Dam and the 12km flat-water grind into the overnight stop at the Msinsi Resort.

Elite K2 Women’s Results after Day 1 of the 2024 Dusi Canoe Marathon

1. Abby Solms / Jessica Behn 3:00:14
2. Bridgitte Hartley / Hilary Bruss 3:09:37
3. Jenna Nisbet / Nix Birkett 3:16:28
4. Caitlyn Odell / Rachel Van Deventer 3:22:59
5. Amy Hulett / Neriyah Dill 3:23:01

Mixed K2

1. Hank Mcgregor / Pippa Mcgregor 2:54:11
2. Bradley Boulle / Emma Hatfield 3:00:52
3. Dave Mckenzie / Helen Buley 3:16:32
4. Scott Rogers / Michaela Geytenbeek 3:20:44
5. Abbey Hackland / James Hackland 3:24:14

For more information please visit https://dusi.co.za/


Main Photo Caption: Abby Solms (front) and Jessica Behn have paddled themselves into a big lead after Day 1 of the Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday. Photo: Ant Grote / Gameplan Media

Photo 2 Caption: Scholar Jessica Behn (front) and Abby Solms pictured during a portage on Day 1 of the Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday. Photo: Ant Grote / Gameplan Media

Photo 3 Caption: Bridgitte Hartley (front) and Hilary Bruss have a big deficit to make up after Day 1 of the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Photo: Ant Grote / Gameplan Media

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