Expect tougher Dusi

2014-11-22 00:00

AS the countdown to the start of the 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon ticked past the three-month mark on Wednesday, organisers have likened the approaching KwaZulu-Natal river paddling season to those of classic Dusi marathons of yesteryear.

A large portion of the iconic race’s history saw competitors take on the two rivers between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in typically tough KZN summer conditions and often on low water levels.

With the global La Nina phenomenon being felt in South Africa currently and a rainless winter, equally low rainfall in spring and a dry start to summer, water authorities are emphasising the need to conserve water and, inevitably, curbing water releases for recreational purposes like canoe races.

“The Dusi has always been tough and for the past couple of years we have been trying to rekindle the hardened nature of the race, part of which saw men and women prepare for the three days of paddling and running without the reliance on the luxury of water releases,” said Dusi Canoe marathon general manager, Brett Austen-Smith.

As the programme of Dusi qualifiers now shifted into top gear this past weekend with the Pope’s Canoe Centre Alan Gardiner Memorial Race from Ibis Point to Dip Tank — the first major seeding race on the Umgeni River — low river conditions provided a sharp reminder to paddlers of the reality of the current weather conditions.

“The Dusi finishers medal is something that should be prized,” explained Austen Smith. “There were times when paddlers only raced on condition there was an extraordinary water release.

“A water release of any size is a privilege and not a right. We have to be prepared for all conditions and then appreciate whatever water release we may get.”

Austen-Smith said the awe and respect for the 64-year-old race had been entrenched in the arduous nature of navigating the Umgeni and Msunduzi rivers as the paddlers found them on race day and tackling tough portages.

With the Umpetha Challenge, Ozzie Gladwin and the Alan Gardiner Memorial all done, the next major seeding race is the Lettie Paddle 50 Miler on December 6 and 7.

The race serves as a key Dusi seeding and form-determining event and is on two-thirds of the route. It usually incorporates the middle section of the Dusi and the final day from Inanda Dam to Durban.

However, the likelihood of no significant water release from Inanda Dam has forced organisers to rejig the format and utilise the river above the dam.

This enables organisers to take advantage of water released from the obsolete Henley Dam, outside Pietermaritzburg.

Unlike other events, the Dusi expects athletes to do their homework before race day and come prepared and informed.

“There will be no signposting or helpers along the way. We will obviously have safety in place where it is needed, but outside of that, the Dusi is about an athlete taking on the challenge of three days on two rivers getting to Durban in whatever conditions,” said Austen-Smith.

There is a bright side as Umgeni Water officials have predicted significant rain for late January and early February.

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from February 19 to 21.

More information can be found at

www.dusi.co.za. — Gameplan Media.

V Brett Austen Smith, Dusi Canoe Marathon general manager

“A water release of any size is a privilege and not a right. We have to be prepared for all conditions.”

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