Drak Challenge rises to a new level

2011-01-22 00:00

UNDERBERG — Against a backdrop of a rising river, a new record field (expected just shy of 1 000 paddlers) will start the popular two-day 70 km Global Trader Drak Challenge canoe marathon at Castleburn bridge high in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg this morning.

With the racing conditions entirely determined by the rainfall in the days before the race, the Umzimkulu river, which was in full spate earlier in the month, quickly settled back to a medium-low level this week.

However, a major frontal system looks set to deliver four days of steady rainfall for the region, making it impossible to predict the nature of this year’s race.

Shrewd money will be on defending champion Hank McGregor to repeat his 2010 victory.

He got a serious monkey off his back when he crossed the line first last year, as he had become the regular bridesmaid at this race.

McGregor is the man on form at the moment, but he will start in a powerful seeded A batch with many elite river racing stars, including six-times champ Ant Stott, who he successfully downed in a three-way tussle for the title in last year’s meeting.

Former winner Len Jenkins will be on the start line as well.

The Pietermaritzburger pitched up for the tough FastDrak race over the New Year, which races the entire two-day Drak course in one day, and beat McGregor in tough conditions.

The women’s race sees two standout racers pitted against one another in Robyn Kime and Abby Adie.

Evergreen Hillary Pitchford is sure to be right on their rudders.

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