Pre-race favourites Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett took full advantage of sublime conditions to race away with the overall title at the Freedom Paddle around Robben Island on Saturday, while Hayley Nixon won her second title as she and partner Michelle Burn wrapped up the women's title. A record field took off from the Oceana Powerboat Club at the V&A Waterfront in clear, calm conditions, with very little swell or wind on offer to assist the experienced surfski exponents. That played right into the hands of McGregor and Birkett, both marathon world champions. "We got to the front early on and started to push the pace, but it was a real scrap because the conditions were pretty passive," said McGregor. Within minutes the race for the lead was down to a two-boat affair, with the Durban Euro Steel/Fenn Kayaks crew and the defending champions Jasper Mocké and Nick Notten. “We slowly managed to open up the gap as we approached Robben Island," said McGregor. “That allowed us to take a pret...

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