For 35 years now, off the East Coast of Southern Africa, men of the South African Surf Lifesaving community have been taking on a monumental challenge every 24 months. Known as "The Maker of Men", "The Blood, guts & glory race", "4 days of hell at sea," or simply "The Challenge" it has captivated the minds of the public through the sheer toughness and bravery of the competitors and the paddling community who offer deep respect to those who can say "I have done it".
The first day of the Old Mutual Bank PE2EL Challenge was “an honest grind” according to veteran campaigner Peter Cole who completed the 77km leg in 6:42, some 22 minutes behind Paul Marais.
The front group of Pete, Paul and the evergreen Oscar Chalupsky paddled together for some 45km before Pete fell off the group.Oscar managed to stay with Paul for another 10km before he too dropped behind.Over the next 20km, Paul put the hammer down extending his lead to an incredible 15min over Oscar.
Newsflash - Old Mutual Bank has become the title sponsor for the PE to EL challenge... Anton Erasmus confirmed today that the race is now secure in terms of sponsorship - paddlers will even get race vests...
Canon the printer/copier guys have also stepped in as part-sponsors.
More to follow - and if you've entered, you need to submit your medical form...
[Editor: Anton Erasmus sent this latest information on the PE to EL Challenge]
Thanks for the many responses to the Challenge questionnaire. Here is a bullet summary of the feed back.
Having a reserve day was a big no no. Race must be over 4 days (some felt that the race should be held a week later)
Check points, varied opinions. Majority wanted to keep them but with stop in race time. Also if surf is dangerous then turn around a buoy of ducky - i.e. a safety call.
Woody Cape - majority want it in but not if it is a mega boat breaker of a day - again a safety call.
Head butt vs. turning days. Most felt that the race should be PE to EL BUT if the wind is forecast to be in excess of 15 knots (some said 10 others 25) then turn it. A number suggested a there and back if the wind is hectic and also changing start time to accommodate the wind prediction.
Two paddlers said the race should be from EL to PE.
Due to lack of sponsorship, Sports World have had to withdraw from organising the PE to EL Surfski Challenge. Michael Zoetmulder of Sport World sent out this email confirming the news:
"At the end of May 2006, Sports World reached an agreement with East Cape Lifesaving whereby it was appointed as the professional event organiser for the 2006 Surfski Challenge - PE2EL, which included being responsible for raising sponsorship. One of the conditions of this agreement was that if Sports World were unable to secure a sponsor by the end of September 2006, they would lose this appointment and the management of the race would revert back to East Cape Lifesaving.