Seconders and picknickers all enjoy the big paddle

2016-02-19 11:30
Paddlers get support during a portage in the Valley.

Paddlers get support during a portage in the Valley. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The 2016 Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday began in its traditional splendour with the cracking of the cannon as dawn broke at Camps Drift.

But the action started well before the paddlers even got into the water, with a mood of anticipation building on the banks as the teams of two (and some threes) ­started to prepare for the three-day showdown.

With a last pat on the back or ­handshake by encouraging family members and friends, paddlers ­entered the Duzi River in a flurry of neon-coloured life-jackets.

With the cannon sounding, the racers sped through the first river bend and were welcomed by hundreds of supporters cheering from the ­College Road bridge.

Maritzburg ­College pupils who filed along the river banks broke into a cheerful hurrah as the contestants made their way down the daunting Ernie Pearce Weir.

The buzz picked up again at the first portage points near Bishopstowe where the paddlers left the water and took to the roads, which had become muddied in the bucketing rain.

“Seconders” — the teams’ support crews — were ready and waiting, armed with buckets of water, swabs, canoe repair kits and paddles.

Running alongside the athletes, they worked feverishly to replace and repair while dabbing down the ­paddlers with cold water.

An hour before the first team could arrive, the riverbanks at Mission ­Rapids near Cato Ridge were ­inundated with race fanatics, who had already started their braais, propped up their camp chairs and cracked open a few beers.

Pietermaritzburg resident Brian Goddard, who himself has completed the marathon 15 times, said this year he was on the sidelines to watch his son Kevin complete the race.

“It’s like my 50th time down here at Mission Rapids as a spectator and formerly a paddler. Kevin is paddling socially so I want to wish him all the best and I hope he enjoys the race,” Goddard said.

Durban resident Suzanne Jones, while tucking into her picnic basket, said even though she has never ­participated in the race, she is a “die hard” fan and tries every year to bring her husband along to watch the race from start to finish.

While the athletes battled it out at the front, the “fish and chips” amateur competitors toiled their way through the race, overcoming their obvious ­fatigue to give a beaming smile every now and again to supporters on the route.

Stage one of the race ended at the Dusi Bridge in the Msunduzi area outside Cato Ridge. Men’s race leaders Lance Kime and Andy Birkett finished the first leg with a time of 2:36:40.

Pietermaritzburg’s Abby Solms and her Czech Republic partner Anna Kožíšková took first place in the women’s division with a time of 03:05:04.

The second leg will begin from Dusi Bridge at 6 am today and will finish at the Inanda dam.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dusi canoe marathon

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