Tricky conditions on the menu for 2023 Freedom Paddle 

 April 25, 2023

The 2023 Prescient Freedom Paddle coming up on Freedom Day this Thursday, 27 April, is set to encounter some exciting conditions as paddlers are predicted to have to deal with strong winds for the 27km route out to and around the iconic Robben Island and back to the Oceana Power Boat Club.

Following a few benign years from a weather perspective, it is predicted that paddlers will have to deal with some significant wind gusts and cold temperatures for the event, however two-time champion Hank McGregor said he was relishing the chance to test his skills in the conditions.

McGregor and partner Josh Fenn, who are two-time champions of the race, will be back this year with an eye on regaining the title they lost to Nick Notten and Andy Birkett in 2022.

McGregor is in the final stages of his preparation for the Molokai which happens in May and with the power of Fenn the pair will be favourites to regain their Freedom Paddle crown.

Unfortunately for the race, Notten will not be on the start line in 2023 which means that Birkett will take on the Freedom Day outing with another Cape-based star Uli Hart. It’s an untested pair but with their respective pedigrees they will surely be amongst the contenders come the final stages of the race.

A pair that will have everyone’s attention is the Mocké brothers, Dawid and Jasper. The two have proven time and again that they continue to be a threat whenever they climb into a boat together, and in home conditions one cannot count them out. The brothers will be looking to improve on their third place finish last year.

Amongst the other challengers will be a former Surfski World Champion and Cape Town local Kenny Rice, who will be paddling with Clinton Cook, while Dom Notten and Matthew Fenn will be pairing up for the race as will the young pair of Dyllan Farrell and Josh Smith.

The women’s race is shaping up to be equally exciting with a number of crews standing out amongst the entries. The Freedom Paddle attracts the best of the best in both the men’s and the women’s categories consistently and this year is no different.

2022 champions Bridgitte Hartley and Pippa McGregor will return as a combination this year with McGregor deep into her preparations for the Molokai later in May.

The all-Durban crew of Michelle Burn and Saskia Hockly look like a pair that will be vying for that top step of the podium and should the conditions shape up as predicted, expect Burn’s downwind skills to come to the fore in the race back from the island to the finish.

After missing the 2022 event due to Covid-19, Candice Murray will team up with Kira Bester in what could also prove to be a title-winning combination, while Jade Wilson and Nix Birkett have the ability to challenge given Wilson’s runner-up finish with Bester in 2022.

The race in 2023 will once again welcome S3 craft with four three-person boats set to take on the race around the island.

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