Easy going: Hank McGregor won the Bay Union Singles Surfski Challenge in Durban on Sunday. Michelle Burn won the women’s race. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA
Easy going: Hank McGregor won the Bay Union Singles Surfski Challenge in Durban on Sunday. Michelle Burn won the women’s race. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA

Durban — Top KwaZulu-Natal paddlers Hank McGregor and Michelle Burn lit up the opening 2017 Bay Union Surfski Series with wins in Durban on Sunday.

In mild conditions, paddlers raced a 12km loop course that took them up the coast to the Mngeni River mouth and back to the Marine Surf Lifesaving Club with a few short runs to help them on their way.

Euro Steel-Epic Kayaks’ McGregor was once again in a class of his own.

"It’s been a couple of weeks since I last raced in a ski so it was great to get back out there," he said.

"It was great racing against another top-class field as I head into my final preparations for the Moloki Ocean Challenge in Hawaii at the end of the month.

"I am training really hard and working towards racing a 56km race so it was great to see that my preparation is on track as I just finish testing my equipment and paddles."

McGregor’s form is a worrying sign for the other paddlers hoping to claim wins in the Bay Union Series, but the current World Surfski Series champion is not slowing down as he looks to other races in the series.

"Racing against a strong field week in and week out is the best preparation for me and to get a win over Matthew Bouman, who is going well at the moment, is always a good gauge on my form.

"Next week is the King of the Bay, one of the most unique races in the country in that we get to paddle out of the harbour. It’s always a race that I look forward to and am excited for that one," said McGregor.

SMG-Epic Kayaks’ Bouman had to settle for second behind a dominant McGregor. However, he was a class apart too as he finished more than two minutes ahead of Bailey de Fondaumiere in third.

In the women’s race Fenn Kayaks’ Michelle Burn was too strong for the rest of the field as she showed further impressive winter season form claiming her second win in as many weekends ahead of Euro Steel’s Kyeta Purchase in second and Nikki Russell in third.

In the junior race, Hilton College’s Hamish Lovemore finished in seventh overall and beat Under-16 Hamish Mackenzie by three minutes with Brendon Delport finishing third in the junior category.

The doubles race saw an unfamiliar face in Euro Steel’s 2017 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Andy Birkett, who hopped in the back of a ski with his Euro Steel teammate Hayley Nixon. The pair were dominant as they won the doubles category by a minute and a half over Steve Woods and David Russell in second and Alex Masina and Stewart Little in third.

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