Two-time defending champions Hank McGregor and Josh Fenn will reignite their partnership at the iconic Prescient Freedom Paddle, which will double as the South African double ski championship, in Cape Town on 27 April.
The 27 kilometre paddle around the famous Robben Island on Freedom Day attracts the country’s best paddlers keen to test themselves against the unique challenges of the course and the top class elite field that will assemble for the race, particularly with the national double ski title up for grabs as well.
For Euro Steel’s McGregor, it was an easy decision to rekindle the partnership with East London star Fenn for the doubles race.
“We are good friends and get on really well on and off the water,” the three-time Freedom paddle champion McGregor said. “I think that we are unbeaten in the doubles races that we have paddled together.
“We won the SA title in Durban last year; we’ve won the Freedom Paddle twice and then won the Pete Marlin last year as well.
“I always know that he is going to give his all and I can rely on him at every race that we paddle together.”
In the first year of the race McGregor finished in fourth with Lee Furby, then won it with Andy Birkett and followed that with back-to-back wins with Fenn. McGregor understand that dealing with the conditions that you could encounter is a crucial part of being successful off the coast of Cape Town.
“The surf around Robben Island can be so different because if it’s low tide you need to take a wider line around the island but if it’s high then you can be tighter to the shore, but it’s always different.
“Looking back at my Garmin distances they have been different every year so it’s always going to be a different experience.
“The one thing you know is that you are never going to paddle a downwind or into the wind and you can always expect a side wind which makes it unique and just being able to paddle around the island makes it such an iconic event.”
Crews will develop tactics before the race, however for McGregor he believes that things evolve and develop during the race meaning that he likes to be fluid in his approach.
“With the surf around the island as well as the wind you try and make sure that you can adjust your race plan as you go,” he explained.
“You always have to make sure you are prepared for the intervals and the attempts to break up the bunch so you have to ready and it’s a race where you can’t be complacent about your tactics.
“Also, the field is going to be so strong again with the national title on the line which raises the quality and intensity,” he added.
Apart from the privilege of paddling around the iconic Robben Island, McGregor feels that there is more that makes the Prescient Freedom Paddle a unique experience.
“I think that it being a stand-alone doubles race makes it appealing for a lot of paddlers and that also draws the top paddlers to the race.”