LEADING MEN:  After avoiding the early drama when favourites Hank McGregor and partner Jasper Mocke collided with Len Jenkins, Andy Birkett, front, and Lance Kime powered to victory on day one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA
LEADING MEN: After avoiding the early drama when favourites Hank McGregor and partner Jasper Mocke collided with Len Jenkins, Andy Birkett, front, and Lance Kime powered to victory on day one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA

IN A drama-filled first day of the 65th Dusi canoe marathon, Andy Birkett and Lance Kime took a firm grip on the race with a deserved first-place finish.

Their time of two hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds gave them an advantage of four minutes and 43 seconds over favourites Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke.

The latter pair’s time of 2:40.17 gave them a 39-second gap ahead of third-placed pair S’bonelo Khwela and Banetse Nkhoesa, who were seventh at one point.

The race came to life at the Ernie Pearce Weir, not far from the start at Camps Drift, where noted adversaries McGregor and Len Jenkins collided, leaving the former in a difficult position.

It was the kind of start the race needed on a warm but wet morning as heavy rain teemed down.

Having dropped to 15th, Mocke and McGregor’s skill and experience saw them power through the field. However, McGregor was seething at the end at Dusi Bridge — and his genuine dislike of Jenkins was clear.

"It’s not the first time Len has done this to me, so I’m immune to it. We abide by the International Canoe Federation rules and when you collide with another boat, there will be a penalty given. The person behind you doesn’t have any right to touch you, let alone spin you out.

"Surely something has to be done about it because it was seen and that put a spanner in our works and that was uncalled for," McGregor spewed.

"I’m not going to lodge a protest because I’m not like that. The organisers should do it themselves because there’s no doubt that what Jenkins did was blatant.

"That’s not going to change our race unless they give us a bonus. You need to learn a lesson and it goes for everyone.

"I’ve been disqualified at a world event so I know how it feels. At the end of the day, you need to abide by the rules."

Race organisers said Jenkins was found guilty by the race committee of a collision between two crafts and was slapped with the mandatory two-minute penalty. Jenkins has appealed against the finding and it will only be known this morning whether this was successful.

In what was an indifferent day, Jenkins and his partner Siseko Ntondini took a wrong turn on a portage and went on to finish sixth, in a time of 2:48.40.

McGregor’s rant may have taken the sheen off a quality contest but there is no doubt Kime and Birkett are the men to beat.

Benefiting from the fracas at the first weir, they forged ahead and never looked as though they would relinquish their lead. It thinned for a time, though, as the chasers found their groove.

The pair led at the Pinetree takeout into the Campbell’s Farm portage, with Andrew and Alan Houston 45 seconds behind. The brothers ended up fifth, 14 seconds ahead of Jenkins and Ntondini.

Mocke and McGregor were then 13 seconds behind the Houstons but reeled them in, while Khwela and Nkhoesa were 2:40 behind the leaders in sixth place.

The chasing pairs came into their own in the portages but the leaders relied on their superior paddling strength.

Birkett and Kime’s dominance was clear at Mission Rapids, where they had a 3:58 lead on Mocke and McGregor. They were battling to hold off Khwela and Nkhoesa at that point, a second behind them.

Abby Solms and Czech paddler Anna Koziskova took the early honours in the women’s race in a time of 3:05.04.

I’m not going to lodge a protest because I’m not like that. The organisers should do it themselves because there’s no doubt about what Jenkins did was blatant