Defending FNB Dusi champ Andy Birkett will be approaching the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Superspar on Sunday, 29 October with plenty of vested interest as he tries out his Dusi combination with Lance Kime for the first time.
Kime, a K1 Dusi winner himself, has been traveling abroad for most of the year and will return to his hometown of Pietermaritzburg with just a few days to spare before the key FNB Dusi seeding race on the upper Mngeni River.
“We have never paddled together before,” confirmed Birkett. “We will jump into the boat in the week of Ozzie Gladwin and work it out from there.
“I sat in the back seat for the Hansa Fish with Greg Louw, and that was a first which I really enjoyed. So we will try the boat out and see what works best for us.”
Birkett admitted that there was no way of telling whether two athletes will be able to combine well in a K2.
“Some guys click, others don’t. So hopefully Lance and I click!” he said.
He was however quick to point out that one of the key ingredients to a successful K2 partnership was to be on good terms with your partner and share many common traits.
“Lance and I are good mates, which I think will make it easier to work together in the boat. We both go out there to have fun when we paddle.
“Hopefully we don’t have a lean in the boat! We don’t have a lot of time to sort that out before Ozzie Gladwin,” said the Euro Steel athlete.
Birkett pointed out that Ozzie Gladwin is a an important Dusi seeding race and the second front row seeding race of the season but, with the FNB Dusi now staged in mid-February, he guarded against reading too much into next weekend’s outcome.
“It’s early days still,” said Birkett, “There’s plenty of time for crews to wake up before the Dusi.
“Obviously if one of the crews is clearly struggling it will give you a clue that they have a lot of work to do, but for most of the top guys Ozzie Gladwin is the start of the serious Dusi training.
Birkett won his first Ozzie Gladwin title last year when he held off Sbonelo Khwela and Thulani Mbanjwa over the 26 kilometres of K1 championship racing to claim the top honours.
“It is a great race to do well in.
“I usually come into it undercooked and overweight and last year’s win was pretty unexpected.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself for Ozzie but you can be sure that Lance and I will give it our best shot on the day.”
Birkett said that the race would be a key tussle between a few crews that had established themselves early in the season, like Sbonelo Khwela and Banetse Nkhoesa, Ant Stott and Carl Folscher, and a number of other K2 crews made up of paddlers who are not able to paddle with their FNB Dusi partners of choice.
The 2015 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon gets underway at 09h00 on Sunday, 29 November at Albert Falls Dam and finishes 26km later at Thornvale Farm.