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Hank McGregor during day 1 of the 2021 Berg River Canoe Marathon on August 5, 2021 in Paarl. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER
Hank McGregor during day 1 of the 2021 Berg River Canoe Marathon on August 5, 2021 in Paarl. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER

SA’s most decorated paddler Hank McGregor has confirmed he will be back to challenge for a fourth title at the N3TC Drak Challenge in partnership with FNB on the weekend of  January 29-30, extending his relationship with the race that dates back to the inaugural race in the flood of 1994.

McGregor, now 43, was a youngster and one of the minority of paddlers to finish that dramatic first edition of the two-day race on the uMzimkhulu and went on to win a hat-trick of Drak titles from 2009 to 2011.

He has been a regular feature on the Drak podium, with three wins, six second place finishes and two third places, and has only twice not made it onto the podium, once as a junior in the first Drak and a rare 14th when he holed his single on a low river in 2019.

“I will be back from the Drak for sure,” said McGregor. “It is one of the races that you just can’t miss.”

McGregor, as one of the heavier paddlers, has struggled in the medium to low water that has characterised the race in the past seven years, and is hoping the  2022 Drak will see a reversal of that trend.

“There has been really good rain in the Berg this summer so I am holding thumbs for a full river for a change,” he said. “It is always a great race and I am looking forward to lining up against the best paddlers in the country as normal,” McGregor said.

“It is always a competitive race. There are always lots of war stories afterwards because it is quite a technical race,” said the Euro Steel ace.

McGregor’s remarkable record at the Drak has established a benchmark for the aspirant elite paddlers, who grade their performance over the two days against McGregor’s times. The shortlist of paddlers that have been able to win the race when McGregor has been part of the field make no bones about how much they cherish that result.

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