All ready for tough rapids and tricky portages at Dusi

2015-02-18 00:00

IT’S all systems go for the biggest ­canoeing event on the continent as more than 1 400 athletes are expected to descend on the city tomorrow.

The 64th edition of the annual Dusi Canoe Marathon starts tomorrow and will continue to Saturday as canoeists battle through three stages of ­tormenting rapids and tricky portages.

Water rapids are graded according to their difficulty and has six different ­categories.

Starting on the Msunduzi River, ­contestants will have to take on a number of weirs and rapids of varying degrees of difficulties to make their way to the halfway point. Here they will come face to face with the mighty Umgeni River — a point where many previous contestants had to bow the knee to rapids rating higher than Grade 3+.

On the grading system, Grade 1 is “easy” with fast moving water and small waves, while Grade 3 is “intermediate” with moderate, irregular waves that can swamp an open canoe.

The race is unique in that it includes numerous portages — where the ­paddlers are allowed to carry their crafts over hills and through the bushes ­alongside the river, either to cut out ­unruly rapids, or to eliminate long loops in the river.

Most of these portages are through thick bush on steep terrain and some of them are around four kilometres in length.

The marathon began in 1951 and, ­taking him a total of six days, the late Dr Ian Player was the only contestant to finish that year.

Returning this year is defending K1 champion and record holder Lance Kime (23) and joining him is Nokukhanya Shange (17), who seeks to become the youngest ever black female to finish a K1 Dusi Canoe Marathon.

This year’s event will also see the ­return of the “tea and doughnuts” tradition at the end of each of the three stages of the race between Camp’s Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban.

Also, after a successful pilot project last year, supporters from around the world will be able to share in the event due to live streaming of video feeds ­during the final stage of the event.

It starts early tomorrow morning and the winner is expected to cross the finish line by 1 pm on Saturday.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Dusi by numbers

• Contestants will have to persevere through an average number of 23 150 paddle strokes to complete the 120 km race.

• The marathon was first opened to women in 1981 and has since seen nine female winners.

• Since its inauguration, almost 13 000 contestants have finished the race, with some crossing the finish line over 40 times.

• R381 712 was the record amount raised this year through the Dr Ian Player Memorial Charity batch.

Race officials have issued a late rule change to safeguard paddlers taking part in the Dusi Canoe Marathon following the spate of incidents at the Darvill Wastewater Works.

A decision was made to send all the paddlers up the traditional ­portage at Campbell’s Farm to ­ensure that no paddlers come into contact with water contaminated by the outflow from the Darvill Wastewater Plant.

Paddlers will be required to exit the river at the Braai Take Out at the start of the 4,4-km long Campbell’s Farm portage and the Sewerage Farm Hop used by some of the elite athletes, will not be allowed.

Dusi general manager Brett ­Austen Smith said there will be clear flags and chevron tape at this point and paddlers can either exit on the rocks at the traditional Braai Take Out, or at the natural slipway 50 m further downstream.

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