Return to popular race format

2012-11-21 00:00

THE canoeing season in KZN shifts into top gear with the Best 4 Healthcare 50 Miler on December 1 and December 2, getting widespread support for its return to its most popular format.

Dusi champ Andy Birkett has confirmed that he will be at the start line, and has given an enthusiastic thumbs up to the return of the format that covers the final leg of The Unlimited Dusi on the second day.“It is fantastic that we are getting to race Inanda dam to Durban because that is the one section that we can’t paddle at race water level before the Dusi,” said Birkett.

The first stage of the race covers 30 kilometres from above Mission rapid to the Marianni Foley causeway, spanning the second half of the Dusi day one and the first half of day two of the Dusi. The second day starts at the Dusi second night stop at Msinsi resort on Inanda dam and finishes at Blue Lagoon in Durban.

The race experimented with a tougher format last year, which received general disapproval from the paddlers.

“The 50 Miler is at an interesting stage in the season, now that the Dusi has shifted a month later to mid-February,” said Birkett. “On the one hand, you can’t read too much into anyone’s form because the Dusi hopefuls have really not done the mileage yet.”“But, on the other hand, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to take races like this one seriously,” he added.

“The prize money is really good now, and you get to race against all the top guys in conditions very similar to what we can expect for the Dusi.”Birkett has won the last three editions of the Dusi and in each case he finished runner-up in the 50 Miler. The Howick-based U23 star, however, has approached his preparations for the Dusi very differently this year, trying to cherry pick the best aspects of his training from the past three years.

The 50 Miler has always set out to be paddlers’ alternative to the Dusi, and this year the race will focus on five so-called Action Attractions, rapids that are not normally tackled during other races on the uMsundusi and uMngeni rivers.

These include Finger Neck rapid, Bell and Pearl Harbour rapids and The Slide on the first day, and Island rapid on the second day. These rapids will be manned by Umzinyathi Canoe Club members to guide paddlers onto the right lines, with NSRI divers on hand to help any paddlers that come unstuck.

The race has assurances of water releases from Henley Dam outside Pietermaritzburg for the first stage, and water from the spilling Inanda dam for the second stage as well.

Entries are currently open, and normal entries close at 6 pm on November 29. More information is at www.50miler.co.za

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