Despite all the requirements to be COVID compliant, the Prescient Freedom Paddle took place after a delayed start due to fog, posing safety risks for the competitors. It was just in keeping with the 2020 roll-out that there may be additional curveballs that the organisers would have to contend with.

Despite these, they managed to pull off an expectational event where the competitors were thrilled to journey around Robben Island. Proving that experience has massive value, Hank McGregor steered his young partner, Josh Fenn, to victory over the 27km course who pushed to give their utmost from their chasing competitors.

Local Western Province crew Kenny Rice and Nic Notten finished runners-up but may have had a different impact on the result had they not had early trouble with some kelp stuck on their rudder. This caused the boat some drag in the early stages and then forced a quick break to free the kelp.

They then had to work exceptionally hard to gain lost time. The women’s race, however, was a different affair, with Jenna Ward and Saskia Hockly, both from KZN, leading the ladies’ field from start to finish. It was both athletes’ inaugural trip around the Island and both paddlers were apprehensive.

Ward, a seasoned ocean paddler, was still tentative before the start stating that she would be happy just to make it around safely. This exciting new combination brings a new dimension and energy to the ladies’ race and looks set to go from strength to strength. Race organiser, Robin Tindall was relieved at the success of the event and the appreciation expressed by the competitors for making the event possible.

Tindall commented, “It was a challenge in so many ways and we were never certain it was possible. The fog on the day just added another safety challenge decision but we were prepared for all eventualities, knowing that 2020 will just be “one of those years”. We thank everyone for making this year’s event happen.”

It was a combination of hard work, collaboration, and input from both sponsors, organisers, hosts, medics, crew, and helpers to make it come together on the day. Most notably, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Department of Culture and Sport assisted in making it possible.

Title sponsors, Prescient, stood by the date change of the event and were rewarded through their continuation by being part of the success. The 2021 version of the race now has an impressive springboard to go forward in leaps proving that if they can make it happen in 2020, then 2021 will be something spectacular.

The addition of having rowing boats, along with SUP and prone paddleboard athletes going around the Island added to the possibility that the journey is achievable by many. The stories of their journey around the Island will unfold over the next few days. We look forward to both these and the build-up to the 2021 event, going forward with confidence and courage.

With thanks to our partners to the event; Prescient, Euro Steel, The City of Cape Town, Dunlop, Mocke Paddling, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), Carbonology Sport, Coca Cola Peninsula Beverages, Devils Peak, and Brian’s Kayaks.

Pictures: Supplied

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