The 47th Gregory River Canoe Marathon

John VanRyt overall winner of the Gregory River Canoe Marathon

The 47th Gregory River Canoe Marathon was a huge success with 181 registered paddlers. There was a large contingent of paddlers from the Tinaroo Canoe Club as well as paddlers from the Sunshine Coast, Tweed Heads, Echuca and the Northern Territory. 

The diversity in age and craft was amazing, with paddlers as young as 16 and as old as 73 and craft ranging from stand up paddle boards, short sit on top plastics and sleek K1’s and K2’s. 

Kenny’s Corner and Galloping Jacks were two of the tricky spots to paddle through and saw a number of boats come unstuck and enjoy the freshness of the water. 

The race was won by John VanRyt from Mareeba in a time of 3.24.03.  The name “VanRyt” is synonymous with the Gregory River Canoe Marathon.  The family has been involved with the race since its inception and also kindly volunteer to look after Checkpoint 4 each and every year.  John gave an emotional speech, noting that it had been 20 years since he won the event and with a tear in his eye, also announced that he was going to be a grandfather and expected a VanRyt to be paddling for years to come.    

John was closely followed by David Smith in 3.25.43 and Geoff Pearce in 3.49.51.  These two paddlers from Buddina and Tweed Heads also came 2nd and 3rd in 2021.  Maybe 2023 will see David Smith take the win. 

The hotly contested Canadian Challenge was won by Mount Isa team BOSS Racing, Tav Cameron, Mark Thinee, Nic Beard and Stephen Derrick in a time of 3.57.50.  The balance prize money for the Canadian Challenge was taken back to Mareeba by The Barrons in 4.13.29 and Tinaroo Canoe Club in 4.26.05.  Mount Isa team In Deep Ship! took home the random draw prize of a unique Gregory River Canoe Marathon esky after stepping up from the short course in 2021.  

Matty Kretschmann-Smith continues to encourage participation on the stand up paddle board.  He was the only entry in the marathon race this year, with 3 paddlers taking on the short course.  

The short, recreational race showcased 36 boats on the start line and the win was taken by Steve McLay in a time of 1.28.05.  The first female across the line was Kristin Edwards from Darwin who crossed in 1.38.11. 

Whilst at the river we also celebrated a number of milestones with Steve McLay celebrating 20 years; Paul Wragg and Chris Barkley celebrating 15 years and Paul Fletcher and Larry Wilson celebrating 10 years. 

It was a wonderfully warm weekend, reuniting the Gregory family and welcoming our newest recruits.  This iconic race is a highlight on the paddling calendar and is unique due to its remoteness, beauty of the river, the community atmosphere and the friendships made. 

Steven Jenje and Donna McCormack on their way to breaking a record in the Master 2 K2 category.
Steven Jenje is now equal long time paddler with Jeff Wilkinson, having paddled the race 36 years!

For more information on the 2023 event click here.

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