Hank McGregor takes aim at Freedom Paddle
World marathon champion targets victory with partner in the double ski race around Robben Island
Cape Town — Multiple world marathon champion Hank McGregor will jet into Cape Town for the Freedom Paddle double ski race around Robben Island on April 27 with the single-minded intention of winning the race with partner Andy Birkett to add the prestigious title to his comprehensive CV of achievements.
The Euro Steel-Fenn Kayaks pairing come into the race as the defending SA double ski champs, and McGregor is looking forward to reuniting with Birkett, the first time they will have paddled together since they won the Pete Marlin doubles title last November.
In 2018 McGregor raced the Freedom Paddle with his friend Lee Furby and they finished fourth overall, getting a good close up view of the race unfolding as Jasper Mocké and Nick Notten took the win ahead of a charging Tyron Maher and Clint Cook in near ideal sea conditions.
McGregor knows the Cape Doctor can dish up harsh ocean conditions that will make the circumnavigation of the island testing.
“The course is very weather and wind dependent,” he said. “I did the course there with my dad around the World Cup race in 2004, which was interesting to say the least. We were leading the race when I took a line inside the breaking wave at Robben Island and we got smoked,” he recalled. “So I feel like I have paid my school fees on this course."
McGregor is also making no secret of his desire to claim the elusive double again, winning the SA single and double ski title over the same weekend. This year the Freedom Paddle hosts the SA S2 champs, followed the next day by the single ski decider at the Strand.
McGregor is looking forward to rekindling his friendship with Birkett, who relocated to East London in 2018.
“He has kind of disappeared off the map since he moved to East London, so I don’t know what sort of shape he is in,” said McGregor, who added that he was not even sure who would be driving the double ski.
“I suppose if I get there and see Andy setting up the front cockpit of the Fenn then I will know that he is driving,” he added philosophically.
“It is going to be a great race. We take our national double ski titles very seriously here, unlike other big surfski racing countries like Australia. The field will be stacked with some of the best double ski crews in the world, so it should be a tough and tight race,” the Durbanite concluded.
The Freedom Paddle 2019 takes place on April 27 from the Oceana Power Boat Club at the V&A Waterfront, around Robben Island and back, a distance of 27km.