2010 Cape Point Challenge – Zulu Power!

Sunday, 19 December 2010 11:23 | Written by  Murray Williams
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Kwanda Mhlophe - making history Kwanda Mhlophe - making history Credits: Owen Middleton

Two humble Zulu paddlers have made history in one of the Cape’s toughest annual adventures.

Yesterday saw the 18th staging of the Fenn Cape Point Challenge – a super-demanding 50km ocean paddle around the majestic southern tip of the Cape Peninsula.

And, for the first time in the starting line-up at 5.30 at Scarborough yesterday morning were two black paddlers from rural KwaZulu-Natal who were braving the ocean for the very first time - Kwanda Mhlophe, 19, and Richard Cele, 21.

Cape Point Challenge

Cape Point - one of the most awe inspiring sights ever from a surfski

No rookie paddlers, these

But these were no rookie paddlers. As members of South African adventurer and canoeing champion Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy, their reputations preceded them.

The groundbreaking initiative has seen Dreyer train up young men from largely impoverished communities on the banks of the Umzindusi River in The Valley of a Thousand Hills to become champions.

The pair arrived in Cape Town on Thursday night on their first-ever flights, on their first-ever visits to the city. They spoke quietly, with only a modest mastery of English – slightly over-awed by the challenge which faced them, rounding the mighty Cape Point, one of the world’s most revered passages of sea.

“Very, very tough”

But, partnered by local paddling aces Peter Cole and Steve Farrell, who piloted their double surfskis, the pair did not disappoint.

Competing against a field of 50 doubles, the two crews romped home across the finish line at Fish Hoek beach in staggering second and sixth places respectively – earning an "RESPECT!" for their courage and steely determination from the local and international paddlers at the prizegiving.

Kwanda and Pete

Kwanda Mhlophe and Pete Cole at the finish - 2nd overall in the doubles

“Ya, it was great – but very, very tough!” said Mhlophe.

And Cele enthused, standing on the beach lapped by turquoise waves in perfect sunshine: “I love this place Cape Town!”

Richard Cele

Richard Cele - setting up his ski the day before the race

Cole sang their praises: “It’s absolutely fantastic what Martin’s doing in KwaZulu-Natal – and now for us to have been able to bring these young men down here to conquer Cape Point. Hopefully we can get more of these superb young paddlers down more often, and on other races – they really enjoyed themselves!

“The sport will be so much the better for it.”

Sean Rice

Sean Rice powers in to Fish Hoek nearly 2min ahead of Hank McGregor

The doubles race was won by Brendan Thompson and Bevan Manson and the singles men’s race by local Fish Hoek protegy Sean Rice, who trounced world-beaters such as Hank McGregor and reigning world champion Dawid Mocke to take gold.

Michele Eray

Michele Eray coasting in to a comprehensive win in the women's race

The women’s race was won by reigning SA champion Michelle Eray – her third successive victory on “The Point”.

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