Pre-race favourites Andy Birkett and Christie Mackenzie are the winners of this year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Birkett won the final stage in a time of two hours 31 minutes and 23 seconds while the Women’s race winner came in at three hours and 38 seconds.

Over 1000 canoeists endured the three day paddling and portage marathon which started in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday and ended at Durban’s Blue Lagoon on Saturday.

The final leg was a reverse start. It had lead paddlers hitting the waters from Inanda Dam on Saturday morning.

Nine time winner Andy Birkett had a five minute lead over Sbonelo Khwela.

Tipped as one of the pre-race favourites, Birkett maintained the lead until the finish line.

“I had a great Dusi, no big mistakes just a few along the way. I really enjoyed it. Happy to be first at the end of the race,” says Birkett.

Khwela remained a tough competitor as he managed to shorten Birkett’s lead.

“I was so happy when I realised that I had closed gap to Andy at the dam. It showed that I’m a little bit stronger than him from there I pushed and said let me push and see if I can close the gap. My plan was working but the gap was just too much,” says Khwela.

An unbelievable end sprint between the women was a crowd highlight.

As Dusi women’s winner Christie Mackenzie and Tamika Haw were seconds apart. This was recorded as one of the closest women’s race in Dusi history.

Christie Mackenzie Women’s Dusi winner says: “Its super cool after getting two silvers in the last two races finally getting the gold is amazing.”

Winning paddlers receive R25 000 each, while race runner-ups receive R20 000.