Birkett wins a tight Dusi
In the closest finish in its 60-year history, just 0.23sec made all the difference. Last year's K2 winner, 20-year-old Andrew Birkett, crossed the line first in the Dusi Canoe Marathon in 8hr 6min 8,08sec ahead of two-time Dusi champion Ant Stott, 32.
The 2008 K2 winner and Dusi's first black winner, Michael Mbanjwa, was third in 8:15:22.23 ahead of Sibonelo Zondi, who paddled across in 8:22:22.49.
Robyn Kime won the women's race in 9:37:33.27, ahead of Abby Adie (9:58:14.10) and Hilary Jean Pitchford (10:19:37.46).
Said Birkett: "I got off to a good start and at the bottom of Ernie Pearce Weir it was Len (Jenkins), myself and Ant out in the front which was quite special as we're all from (Maritzburg) College.
"But after that it was a long slog all the way and once I took the lead I had to work incredibly hard to keep Ant at bay."
Despite a bent rudder near Witness Weir, Birkett said he lost just one minute making the repairs, thanks to a helping hand from Stott.
Birkett - who started competing in the Dusi at 13 - was thrilled to win his seventh Dusi.
Stott said problems had dashed his hopes of winning the three-day, 125km race.
"Coming over a small wooden bridge at Pine Tree portage one of the planks snapped under me and I went tumbling through. I was stuck with half my body in the bridge and half out, my boat went flying into the stream but I had to pick myself back up and refocus," said Stott.
Mbanjwa, a firm favourite, was the leader at the end of the 4.5km Campbell's Farm portage, where Birkett and Stott had problems. But he said the gap was too wide at the end and he concentrated on finishing.
In the women's race 20-year-old Kime shattered the under-21 record by more than 15 minutes in medium river conditions not suited to fast paddling.