Lucy Charles-Barclay, Ben Hoffman win IRONMAN South Africa

Chief Correspondent

Brit defends her 2018 title in Port Elizabeth

Third IRONMAN African Championship win in four years for Hoffman

Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay went into today’s IRONMAN African Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth as the defending champion and hot favourite for victory. She duly delivered on that front, but the five minute margin of victory was hard-earned after after admitting post-race, “I don’t know where my bike legs were today”. A first sub-three hour IRONMAN marathon on her C.V. will provide the biggest positive from the day however – along with a winners cheque of $30,000 of course.

Ben Hoffman, winner in 2016 and 2017, put the memory of a painful 12-hour finish (and a 6:42 marathon…) from 2018 behind him, to return to win in impressive style from a men’s Pro field that was absolutely stacked with talent.



The day started with the opening 3.8km swim shortened to a reported 1.6km distance, due to choppy seas at Hobie Beach. Was that the right decision? Well, you can either:

  • Ask the opinion of people on social media who weren’t even on the same continent, but have access to Facebook and so can say that it “doesn’t look too bad”, based on the pictures appearing on their iPad, or
  • Trust in the decision of the qualified and experienced safety teams who were there, and make those assessments with the facts and forecasts they have, on-site, taking into account detailed risk assessment and logistics, and
  • With the race having happened, perhaps listen to the post-race comments of probably the best female swimmer in the history of IRONMAN racing, regarding whether she felt it was a good call or not:

Sadly today, TWO Age-Group athletes were rescued from the water and later died in hospital. There is no indication as yet, whether or not the conditions had any impact on that.

Lucy emerged from the water in 25:21, with Lauren Brandon (USA) just eight seconds later and not surprisingly, a long gap of more than four minutes until Anja Ippach (GER) arrived in dry land. Those times would appear to point towards the difficult swim conditions and/or, perhaps, a course slightly longer than the quoted 1.6km. Home athlete Annah Watkinson was next, a minute behind Ippach.

Charles-Barclay and Brandon spent the next 180km in pretty close proximity throughout, but the real move was being made by Ippach, who cycled more than seven and a half minutes faster (4:58:10) to turn her swim deficit into an advantage of just over three minutes starting the run on Lauren and Lucy, with a big gap (15+ minutes) to Gurutze Frades (ESP) and Annah Watkinson (RSA).

While it wasn’t a great, by her standards, bike ride from Lucy, she was making progress on the run, pulled away from Lauren and by the 10km mark had caught Anja. From there on, the race was hers and she finished with a 2:59:33 marathon (her best to date), to take the win and stamp her ticket for Kona (she was already pre-qualified from her 2018 second place in Hawaii, but needed a validation finish).

Brandon (3:17:55) and Ippach (3:24:39) dropped back on the run and were pushed off the podium by the fast running of Frades (2:52:41) and Watkinson (2:55:03).


In typical style, Australia’s Josh Amberger lead the way in the water through the revised swim course in 25 minutes flat, before Giulio Molinari (ITA) lead a long line of talent that included Nils Frommhold (GER), Reece Charles-Barclay (GBR), Maurice Clavel (GER), Eneko Llanos (ESP), Tim Don (GBR), David McNamee (GBR), defending champion Kyle Buckingham (RSA) and Ben Hoffman (USA), with Andreas Dreitz (GER) just off the back of that pack… and plenty more talent within a minute too. Truly, this was a very impressive start list.

The pace was definitely ‘on’ at the front of the race, with Clavel, Amberger and Buckingham among those in aggressive mode, but at 90km the lead group was still significant, with Hoffman, Amberger, Frommhold, Clavel, Molinari, Llanos, Don and Buckingham still close, with Andreas Dreitz trying to bridge up to them.

Dreitz did indeed close the gap over the next 30km, but on the final 20km of the ride Hoffman attacked again and reached TS with a 90 second lead. Unfortunately both Buckingham and Don, both in great positions, would son be out of the race due to mechanical issues.

Hoffman started the run with Amberger, Clavel, Frommhold and Dreitz within 90 seconds… but that was about as close as they would get to the 2016 and 2017 champion. Two minutes clear at halfway, a 2:39:18 marathon saw him extend his lead to almost six minutes at the finish and as you can here from his post-race interview below, a performance he was very happy with.

Behind, Frommhold managed to pull away from Dreitx just after the 10km mark to hold second place until the finish, while Michael Weiss (AUT) ran through to complete the podium, running an almost identical 2:43 marathon to that of Frommhold.

After finishing the bike well off the pace, almost 28 minutes down on Hoffman and in 17th position, David McNamee recovered his day somewhat with a 2:42:15 marathon (and ticked off his Kona validation race), but an 11th place finish was not what he cam for and he didn’t try to sugar-coat it in his post-race Instagram post:

IRONMAN African Championship, Port Elizabeth, South Africa – Sunday 7th April 2019
1.6km** / 180km / 42.2km (** swim shortened due to sea conditions)


1st – Ben Hoffman (USA) – 7:34:20
2nd – Nils Frommhold (GER) – 7:40:13
3rd – Michael Weiss (AUT) – 7:42:36
4th – Eneko Llanos (ESP) – 7:45:00
5th – Maurice Clavel (GER) – 7:45:30
6th – Andreas Dreitz (GER) – 7:45:39
7th – Josh Amberger (AUS) – 7:52:20
8th – Matt Trautman (RSA) – 7:54:23
9th – Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 7:56:21
10th – Giulio Molinari (ITA) – 8:02:!4
11th – David McNamee (GBR) – 8:04:48

17th – Reece Barclay (GBR) – 8:20:30
DNF – Tim Don (GBR)


1st – Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 8:35:32
2nd – Gurutze Frades (ESP) – 8:40:48
3rd – Annah Watkinson (RSA) – 8:43:19
4th – Lauren Brandon (USA) – 8:53:36
5th – Anja Ippach (GER) – 8:57:11
6th – Tessa Kortekaas (NED) – 9:10:02
7th – Antonina Reznikov (ISR) – 9:19:26
8th – Frederica De Nicola (ITA) – 9:23:11
9th – Ashley Paulson (USA) – 9:24:12
10th – Mareen Hufe (GER) – 9:27:55

DNF – Natalie Seymour (GBR)

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
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