It was another Lovemore Brothers Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon masterclass from Sbonelo Khwela as he powered his way to an unprecedented ninth Dusi in a Day title at Blue Lagoon on Friday.
A surprisingly large field of over 35 boats set off on Friday morning on their way to Durban and it seemed like the K2s were going to dominate proceedings as they took the race by the scruff of the neck.
“Racing against the K2s was something different because they were so strong today,” the four-time K1 winner said. “I am really chuffed that I managed to hold them off, it was an awesome race!
The first portion of the race was controlled by Thabani Msiya and Banetse Nkhoesa, with Richard Cele and Nhlanhla Cele also making a push. “I got a little bit worried at a stage because when I was at Finger Neck, my seconds said that I was four minutes and 10 seconds behind the leaders,” said Khwela. “I did panic a little bit and asked myself if I would be able to catch the guys but it was a long day and I knew that anything could happen. From there I kept a constant speed and remained focused and I managed to catch them. That focus really paid off for me,” added Khwela. Slowly but surely Khwela ground down the lead and after the Nqumeni portage, he and the K2 boat of Msiya and Nkhoesa took control.
One might have expected Khwela to dominate from this stage, however the K2 held on and they seemed to make the most of the company throughout the rest of the race. There was an interesting dice that developed to Inanda Dam with the lead changing hands fairly regularly. The race was going to boil down to the infamous Burma Road portage and Khwela managed to get himself a little gap over the K2 and put in the other side with a straight shot into Durban.
It seemed that it was going to be a formality, however Msiya and Nkhoesa didn t give up and pushed the 2019 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon runner-up all the way to the finish line. Eventually Khwela managed to get the win by just over a minute, one of the closest finishes in recent times. “I will definitely be back next year for a shot at winning my tenth,” Khwela added.
Coming home in third was the K2 boat of Mpilo Zondi and Mthobisi Cele. The pair were the first boat across the line in 2017, but had to settle for third place on the day. Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy dominated the top five with ambassador Khwela, former member Richard Cele amongst the current squad of Nkhoesa, Msiya, Mthobisi Cele, Mpilo Zondi, Nhlanhla Cele and Sipho Canham.