Hank keen for Prescient Freedom Paddle 

 March 13, 2024

CAPE TOWN – There can be no doubt defending champion Hank McGregor is looking forward to the 2024 Prescient Freedom Paddle surfski race on April 27th.

The multiple World Canoeing Champion was the first paddler to submit his entry and he is definitely looking forward to defending the title he won convincingly with Josh Fenn in 2023.

“I think I was the first entry for the Prescient Freedom Paddle this year,” said McGregor with a chuckle. “I just happened to be online when the entries opened, so I entered quickly.

“I’m doing it again with Josh. It is just a race we always do together as mates, so I am really looking forward to it. We have won it a couple times together and it’s such a great race.

“I think it’s just going to become even bigger every year. It is unique in South Africa to be paddling on Freedom Day around Robben Island. That is pretty cool to experience for every paddler, never mind just the winners.

“I think especially for the older era of athletes it’s great to do that particular paddle on that historic day. I think maybe the new generation doesn’t feel it as much, but for the older guys who know and remember what Freedom Day is all about, I think it is really cool. A lot of people pay to take a tour to see the island, and we get to paddle around it.”

From a surfski racing perspective, McGregor enjoys the somewhat different challenge the event throws up.

“From a paddlers point of view it is different. You know that if the wind is blowing you will get a headwind as much as a downwind. Compared to so many of the modern races that have just become downwind orientated, this is one of those races where you know you’re going to have to tough it out for one leg.”

The veteran, who shows no signs of slowing down as he remains competitive in his 40s, has some advice for younger, less experienced paddlers at the popular annual event.

“Most of the pictures are shown for the race with big waves breaking around the wild side of Robben Island, and so many people are a little bit nervous of this open-ocean event. But novices do not have to take the fine line around Robben Island. If they just go a bit wider around the island then nothing is going to break out there, so its safe.

“… and of course, it is just a fantastic experience to paddle around Robben Island,” he added.

Before McGregor defends his title at the Prescient Freedom Paddle he also has decided to have a go at one of the rare elite paddling events he has not been able to win, the Olympic Games.

McGregor will be teaming up with Uli Hart at the South African Sprint Canoe Championships later this month, and he is hoping they can win the 500m K2 event which doubles as the trial for the Olympic team.

“I don’t really know how we will do to be honest. I remember sprinting and winning South African Sprint Champs and stuff, but that was twenty years ago.

“You never really know what you’re capable of until you’re actually in the race and you can see if you’re going to combine. Uli and I have done some training together and been in Cape Town and trained together and we seem to combine well. This is just one of those things you do not know. We might have a cracker and do well, or we might not.

“Our big plan is to do marathons together, so this was just a stepping stone for that. He’s young and powerful and we’ve got nothing to lose and I think that makes us dangerous. We’re not coming into with any expectations other than the fact that we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Entrants will have the option of two different distances on April 27. The majority of the field will tackle the full 27km route, which takes all competitors from the Oceana Power Boat Club, around Robben Island and back to the start.

The additional shorter 10km route, introduced in 2023, is sanctioned by Lifesaving SA and caters for those paddlers and lifeguards who are not confident enough for the long, open-water route around Robben Island. That course begins from Oceana but takes paddlers west along the coastline to a turning buoy off Sea Point, before returning to the start/finish area.

The event is open to all human paddle-powered craft that are seaworthy enough to complete the course. This includes surfskis, lifesaving paddle boats, stand-up paddle boards, ocean skulls and ocean kayaks.

Entries are open at the race website and will close on April 14.

For more information, please visit http://freedompaddle.co.za.

related posts:

Leave a Reply:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}