Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge 2011 breaks all records

THE eighth annual Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge was lauded a great success as top international sport stars, holidaymakers and local athletes competed in the multidisciplinary competition in Plettenberg Bay on 28 and 29 December 2011.

Sponsored by Stonehage, international family wealth advisers, and Discovery, the Challenge drew close to 3000 participants to compete in 2 days of sport and fun for the whole family. While day one took place at Plettenberg Bay’s popular Central Beach, the second day of the Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge moved for the first time ever to the prestigious Kurland Polo Estate.

The Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge is the main fundraising activity for the Sabrina Love Foundation. Established in 2003 by Tony and Suzy Lubner in memory of their daughter Sabrina, who died at age six from complications of a rare bone disorder, the Foundation supports children and families living with physical disabilities in the Bitou region.

Events of the first day included:

The 6km Ocean Swim from Robberg Corner to Central Beach once again lived up to its iconic status as Paralympic gold medallist Natalie du Toit and Olympic long distance swimmer Chad Ho finished both in first position in their category. The sea conditions were difficult and times where slower than in previous years. Du Toit addressed competitors ahead of the Swim, encouraging them to “have fun and remember the Sabrina Love message of hope.”

Olympic paddler and Plettenberg Bay local Michele Eray teamed up with Neil Stephenson and came in third in the Surfski Paddle behind the winners Warren and Wayne Jacobs, while the single paddle was won by Kevin Hill in a time of 1:05:55.

Comrades Marathon legend Bruce Fordyce hosted the 10km Run, which was won in an incredible time of 38 minutes by Kane Riley and Carlyn Fisher (43:00). Conditions were very hot and humid and although the race took place in the early morning, athletes were battling with the heat.

The beach walk was once again the atmospheric climax to the first day event as hundreds of walkers, donned pink T-shirts and hats, welcomed the swimmers to the beach.

The second day of the Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge presented by Stonehage and Discovery was hosted at the magnificent Kurland Polo Estate where thousands of supporters of the charity event participated in one or more of the four sporting events on offer. The manicured grounds of the estate were draped in the now trademark Sabrina pink and, contrasted against the lush backdrop of the Tsitsikamma mountain range, made for a beautiful and fitting sight as the fundraising event attracted record numbers. The Kurland Pavilion, better known for its hosting of international polo matches, looked equally gracious serving as the event hub from which the different races reached out into the surrounding mountains, forests and lake.

The first event of the day was the 600 meter lake swim over a star shaped course where participants were required to exit the water at two points. Olympian Chad Ho’s pure power through the water was enough to see him round the course in the fastest time to claim the men’s race whilst Kamilla Snyman was equally unfazed by the short running legs and emerged as the winner of a strong female field.

Attention was then focused on the 25km mountain bike ride where 400 riders, many of them clad in pink Sabrina riding gear, set off on a wide sweep of the estate reaching high into the beautiful mountain before descending on long single tracks back through the forests, over sparkling streams and onto the polo fields to reach the event hub. No one was too surprised when local mountain biking hero Kevin Evens broke from the treeline and streaked into the finish chute to claim his 2nd Sabrina Love trophy while Nicky Booyens lead the woman’s race.

The sun was already high in the sky when the 430 plus trail runners sprinted off into the forests for ten kilometres of pure trail running bliss. The intermediate course was intended to be achievable for the many first timers whilst still challenge the pro runners and that is exactly what the undulating and varied trail did. Melikhaya Msizi was smiling broadly when he sprinted down the home stretch to tremendous applause from the spectators to comfortably claim the men’s race whilst Nicky Rider held off a close challenge from the Crag’s local Kerry Scott, to claim 2nd place in the woman’s race.

For many participants the Sabrina Kids of Steel was the highlight of the day’s proceeding as youngsters racing in their age groups from 6 to 12 were set off on the specially designed adventure duathlon. A short swim was followed by a 1.5km exploration trail through the forests fringing main polo field before the children got to finish under the same arch that many of their heroes had passed under earlier in the morning.

The Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge concluded with a spectacular prize giving ceremony with “Tigger” performing the Sabrina song together with the celebrated Plett Field band.

By Magnetic South

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