THERE is zero risk of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon not taking place in light of the water crisis in KZN, this from FNB Dusi general manager, Brett Austen Smith. The event takes place from 18 to 20 February. Annually the event sees about 1 600 participants, however, there will most likely be a drop in the numbers particularly due to the drought. The majority of participants are South Africans, with about 70% of these coming from KwaZulu-Natal. There is however, significant interest in the event globally with many expats and foreign paddlers coming over for the annual race. Numerous novices from Pietermaritzburg will also be taking part.The Dusi distance is 124km, which is broken down into three stages - stage one is 42km, stage two, 46km and stage three, 36km. The leading men are expected to cover these distances in two and a half hours, three hours and two hours 15 minutes, respectively.Smith said on the Dusi website, “the conditions will make the FNB Dusi hard this year, but the event itself is not easy and is called the ‘Ultimate Canoe Challenge’ for good reason”. The race starts on the Msunduzi River and includes a weirs and rapids using water released from Henley Dam. At roughly the halfway point the Msunduzi River meets the larger Umgeni River and the race becomes more challengingThe race is unique in that it includes numerous portages where the paddlers carry their craft over hills, either to cut out unrunnable rapids and cataracts, or to eliminate long loops in the river. The race ends at Blue Lagoon in Durban where the prize giving takes place.When asked who the favourite is to win Smith said all bets are on current FNB Dusi champion, Andy Birkett, however, this year’s race also includes seven world marathon champions. “The current conditions will make it tough for competitors, but they must embrace the challenge. All [preparations] is going really well. We are looking forward to a super exciting race,” said Smith.