LEN Jenkins continued his dominance of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon when he claimed his sixth consecutive title at the weekend in Cradock.
The Fisher King, as Jenkins is known, led for most of the two-day event but had stiff competition from Hank McGregor, who was neck-and-neck with the winner, while Grant van der Walt was also in contention.
The second day on Saturday, which covered 35km, was a three-horse race. Jenkins held the lead when they got to Baroda Bridge, but by Gauging Weir, a smiling Van der Walt had taken over.
But it was not to last for the young man as Jenkins reclaimed the first spot.
Jenkins and McGregor hit the Cradock Weir at the same time, but Jenkins came out first and never looked back.
"It used to be faster shooting from left to right but since they removed the sandbank it's actually quicker the other way around now and so I made sure I was on the outside, which gave me the chance to get going again first," Jenkins said.
With a couple of kilometres left, the marathon became a sprint between Jenkins and McGregor, but it was Jenkins who crossed the finishing line first in five hours, one minute and 41.28 seconds. McGregor finished in 5:01:41.86, while third-placed Van der Walt finished in 5:02:12.59.
Jenkins said he was happy with his performance.
"It was more of a tactical bunch race [on Saturday]," he said. "They [McGregor and Van der Walt] are both fantastic athletes. I knew it was going to happen [taking the lead at Cradock Weir]."
Cradock hero Greg Louw powered his way into fourth place ahead of Lance Kime and Cam Schoeman.
"I didn't quite realise Cam was that strong and Lance was just impossible to shake off," Louw said. "Cam had an unfortunate swim at Gauging Weir though and I went over Cradock Weir ahead of Lance and from there I just put my head down and managed to get clear."
The women's race saw Michele Eray coming back from shoulder surgery last year to claim her first K1 title. Eray became the first local to win the race after it was won by the man who introduced her to canoeing, Daniel Conradie, in 1997.
The women's race was pretty much decided on day one when Eray finished on 3:15:44, ahead of Robyn Kime (3:18:57) and Abby Adie (3:20:46).
Eray maintained her lead on Saturday and was first in a time of 5:39:58, while Kime finished in 5:42:39 and Adie in 5:47:08.
A happy Eray said: "The guys put on a nice show despite the obstacles on the way. I am very excited because it is the first time I have won it."
Jenkins walked away with the Sunley Shield trophy and R20000 prize money. Eray received the Jennifer Barry trophy and the same amount of prize-money.
In both the men's and women's, the runners-up received R16000, while third place took R12000.
Grant van der Walt claimed the men's under-23 title, while Robyn Kime took the women's title. In the hotly contested junior boys' category, the honours went to KZN's Murray Starr, while Jordan Peek took the girls' title.