Hank McGregor Favourite to win Steelcase Dragon Run

Thursday, 17 November 2011 02:01 | Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Hank McGregor on his way to his third Durban World Cup title Hank McGregor on his way to his third Durban World Cup title Credits: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

With the array of talent that will line up in Clearwater Bay on Saturday, it’s clear that it’s going to be tough to make the top ten.  But one paddler above all has to be the man to beat: Hank McGregor


McGregor had been scheduled to paddle in Dubai next weekend.  “It’s one of the few races I haven’t won,” he said.  But the Dubai Shamaal was called off in the face of sponsorship difficulties and McGregor decided to paddle the Dragon Run instead.

A “good year”

“It’s been a good year,” said McGregor.  “I’ve lost only two races out of about forty.”

McGregor has been on rampant form – winning on rivers (Drak Challenge - 2nd consecutive win, Umkomaas - 2nd victory, Berg River Marathon – for the 8th time, Fish River Marathon – for the 4th time, Swartland River Marathon - for the 2nd time, Fish River Marathon - for the 4th time "I think", the Avon Descent for the 2nd time), on the sea (Dunlop World Cup, SA singles and doubles Surfski Champs) and most notably at the ICF World Marathon Championships in Singapore - also his second win...

Hank McGregor

McGregor wins the SA K1 Marathons

He’s currently South African K1 and K2 river champion, K1 and K2 marathon champion AND singles and doubles surfski champion – a unique achievement.

“You just don’t do that…”

The Marathon Worlds saw McGregor drop the lead group within a kilometer of the start.  “The crowd was going ballistic,” said McGregor.  “I looked to my left – no-one there.  I looked to my right – no-one there.  I looked behind me – no-one there.”

He paddled on his own for the next couple of laps and then made an astounding decision that demonstrated his confidence – and superb big match temperament.  He stopped and let the other paddlers catch up.

“I realized that I either had to go for it – and if the rest of them caught me I’d have nothing in the tank, or I should play the tactical game and paddle with them and drop them at the finish.”

And that’s what he did, paddling to a clinical victory over the best in the world.

Hank McGregor

McGregor shows the flag at the Marathon Worlds

He wasn’t even straining himself.  “I can’t explain it,” he said.  “Everything just came right – all the training, the equipment.”

Defending champion Ben Brown came up to McGregor after the race.  “Dude,” he said, “You’re a machine!  You just don’t do that to guys like us!”


Hank was paddling an unconventional K1 built by the Durban, South Africa-based Kayak Centre that featured a drop down rudder – and rudder pedals.  “The rudder just makes sense,” McGregor said.  “If you drop your boat and damage the rudder, that’s it, game over.  And it happened to several of the K2s.”

As a result Kayak Centre’s order book has gone stratospheric.  “From a local canoe builder, they’ve suddenly gone international,” said McGregor.  “They’re getting order for the exact same boat, layup, pedals, rudder, even the same color scheme!”

“It’s great for South Africa – it just shows that you don’t need to buy imported boats, or paddles.”  McGregor uses GARA paddles made by the same company.

What’s next?

“I’m going to paddle Cape Point again,” he said.  “That’s why I did the 50km downwind this weekend, to get a bit of distance in.  It went well, so Grant van der Walt and I decided at the after-paddle braai to do the Ozzy Goodwin race too.  That put a few noses out of joint, it was good money!”

(The Ozzy Goodwin is the longest one-day event in the South African calendar.)

And his prospects for the Dragon Run?

“Yeah, I’d like to win it,” he grinned.  “But on the sea, anything can happen!”

Steelcase Dragon Run

Weather Forecast

The current forecasts for the Steelcase Dragon Run on Saturday disagree with one another...  Windguru is calling a gentle northeaster, which would at least be in the right direction.  But the local Hong Kong Observatory forecast says that we'll have a force 4 southeaster (ghastly, headwind) becoming north, force 5 (more or less perfect).  The race organisers are sweating!   

Latest Forum Topics

  • No posts to display.