A young Team South Africa believe they have a fighting chance to turn the tables on Australia in the annual Southern Shamaal International Surfski Challenge that will take place over 240 kilometres between Port Elizabeth and East London from December 5 to 8.
Last year, the home team lacked spark and received a humiliating 45-minute drubbing at the hands of the Aussies in the event that is renowned as the longest and toughest in the world.
After the first ever formal trials, South Africa has entered two representative teams for the four-day event, which, for the first time, will be contested in a team relay format.
The first choice squad consists of Durban’s Barry Lewin (captain), Port Elizabeth’s Richard von Wildemann and East London’s Bevan Manson. They will be supported by East London’s Hennie Roos, Cape Town’s Tom Schilperoort and East London’s Steve Woods.
Ash Nesbit (captain), multiple world champion Dean Gardiner and lifesaving ironman champion Brandon Sarson will make up the formidable Australian unit.
Also expected to be in the mix are Team USA and Team UAE.
The American outfit consists of six-time Olympian Philippi Bocarra, current national champion Noah Hawk and former South African Patrick Hemmens.
The dangerous Emirates team is made up of Australian expats Hayden Smith, Pete O’Higgins and Jonathan Crowe – all winners of national and international long-distance titles.
Lewin, who finished eighth in Wednesday’s prestigious Dubai Shamaal, said they had a “huge” chance of holding off the defending champions on the course along South Africa’s Sunshine Coast, which he described as “raw and exposed”.
“We have a very strong team with lots of character. Richard (von Wildemann) is a fighter in the true sense of the word and Bevan (Manson) knows the conditions like the palm of his hand.”
Lewin said he expected the Aussies to be their main rivals. “They always perform when it matters most and with the experience of Dean (Gardiner) they will be an exceptionally strong unit.”
With later starts than in previous years, the wind will definitely be a factor, Lewin predicted. “However, conditions will be different every day and the team that is able to adapt the best will be the one to beat.”
He singled out the team from the Emirates as the dark horse.
Adapting to world trends, the race will be a downwind affair for the first time. This means each day’s start is determined according to the prevailing wind.
Race coordinator Mike Zoetmulder, of Axxess DSL Ocean Racing Series fame, said if the easterly wind continued the first stage was likely to start in Port Alfred at 10am on Saturday with the finish at Woody Cape – a distance of 52km – predicted around 1pm. The changeover would then be at Kenton-on-Sea after 22km.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Zports and Southern Shamaal