Focus shifts to Umpetha

2014-10-15 00:00

WITH the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon effectively closing the Cape paddling season, the focus shifts back to the waters of KwaZulu-Natal. The Umpetha Challenge from Camps Drift to Bishopstowe Hall appears to be an appealing season starter this Sunday and is sure to trigger the first signs of Dusi fever in the paddling community.

The aptly renamed Umpetha Challenge was established as the NCC Development Race, and after winning the KNCU Race of the Year title last year, opted for a bold rebranding exercise.

The third edition of the race is also the first official Dusi seeding race that also includes a chance for paddlers to secure a favourable front-row seeding. With the ongoing support of the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation, the prize money for 2014 sits at R36 000 with the winning K1 taking away R6 000 on the day.

The race is seen as the ideal start to Dusi preparations, taking in the first 18 km of the Dusi including Ernie Pearce Weir, Commercial Road Weir and all the way to the Pines Portage takeout, with a portage up the hill to the Bishopstowe farmers hall where it finishes.

The race will receive a significant water release from Henley Dam and should provide the paddlers with a perfect Dusi-level amount of water to paddle in.

This incentive adds a little more spice to the event as paddlers will be vying for these points to give them the best possible chance of getting onto the front row at the start of the Dusi Canoe Marathon in February next year.

The race is organised entirely by the NCC Development team at Camps Drift. Following their successful hosting of the event in 2013 they were recognised by the provincial canoe union and that has helped in retaining the support of the Department of Sport and Recreation as well as the support of KFC, who will once again pledge R5 000 in new paddling equipment to the lucky draw prize winners.

The field for the race has already seen the cream of the crop commit to taking part as 2014 Fish River Canoe Marathon winner and 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon runner-up Abby Adie has confirmed taking part in the race as part of her lengthy Dusi build-up.

The other big name that has been spotted on the entry list is that of Sbonelo Khwela, formely Sbonelo Eric Zondi. The 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon winner with Andy Birkett is eyeing a maiden K1 Dusi win following the heartbreak of 2013. He won the Umpetha Challenge in 2013 with Birkett and will hope to go back to back in 2014.

Entries will close on Thursday midnight although there will be the opportunity for paddlers to enter on the day. More information can be found at

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