Paddlers grateful for flowing Duzi
Scott and Nkhoesa may just surprise the ‘dream team’ at the Dusi
ABOUT 1 000 gutsy paddlers will contest the Dusi Canoe Marathon tomorrow and race director Steve Botha says everything is in place for a successful event.
The race starts at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg at 6 am tomorrow and ends at Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday. The canoeists have already started flocking to the KwaZuluNatal Canoe club at Camps Drift to get their registrations sorted out.
Botha, a former paddler, said there is nervous excitement for the event, but it’s all systems go. “It’s really starting to take shape now. We’re very happy to have 1 000 entries. The canoeists are excited about the race. There’s a good vibe in the canoeing community.”
He said police will be directing traffic around the event, but there will be no road closures. Botha said his organisation had concentrated on ticking all the required boxes to deliver an operationally sound event for both the paddlers and spectators.
While water levels at the dams have been an ongoing issue in past races, Botha said recent thunderstorms had helped. “We have confirmation from Umgeni Water that there will be enough water. We have to understand that the fouryear drought is a national priority and impacts heavily on the lives of everyone in the country. We have been able to contribute in our own way by managing the water from Henley Dam for our canoeing races going into Inanda Dam, which is a vital part of the water infrastructure for the region,” he said.
“The level of the water will be significantly lower than the paddlers have enjoyed in the past decade.
“While the drought has our province in its grips, this water is something to be very grateful for.
“All in all, our river system is definitely looking a lot better than it was last year. Midmar Dam is just about to overflow. Henley Dam, where we get water from for the first and second days, is 112% full, so that is actually overflowing as well. Inanda Dam is looking a lot better than it did last year.”
WHEN about 1 000 gritty paddlers set off from Camps Drift just after the cock crows tomorrow for the 67th edition of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon, they will expect the threeday event to be led by Andrew Birkett and Hank McGregor — should one of the Dusi’s wellknown mishaps, such as broken limbs and canoes, not emerge again.
This is simply the “dream team” of the Dusi, with Birkett a seventime winner of the worldfamous race and McGregor arguably the globe’s best canoeist and a twotime winner of the Dusi.
Joining them at Camps Drift for the official 6 am start tomorrow will be 434 other K2 teams, 99 K1s and a few K3s, according to the official entry list managed by the KwaZuluNatal Canoe Club in Pietermaritzburg.
Birkett and McGregor will take some competitive heat from Alan Houston and Andrew Houston, Sbonelo Khwela and Siseko Ntondini, and Ant Stott and Banetse Nkhoesa in the men’s section.
The women’s favourites are Jordan and Cana Peek, Bridgitte Hartley and Christie Mackenzie, and Jenna Ward and Hungarian partner Vanda Kiszli.
Stott and Nkhoesa have created a pairing of experience and youth that threatens to unsettle the other race favourites with their mixture of talent, experience and muscle. Stott’s experience from four wins and multiple entries is boosted by 25yearold Nkhoesa’s energy.
The duo got together after the 2017 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon, but Stott believes they are in the best possible shape.
“I made it known early that I wasn’t committing to a specific partner until the last minute and I saw that Banetse was paddling with Alex Masina, who wasn’t going to paddle the Dusi. I made a call to his coach Craig Mustard and we trained together from then,” Stott said in a press release.
“It’s been 20 years since I won my first Dusi, but we will be in the shadows ready to pounce should anyone make a mistake!”
Added Nkhoesa: “I am so incredibly excited for this year’s Dusi, it’s hard to explain. I am the fittest and the strongest that I have ever been and I have learnt so much from Ant over the last few months.”
The titlechasers and the hundreds of “mere mortals” behind them are celebrating the con firmation that there will be enough water in the lower uMngeni River to paddle the final stage into Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday, say the organisers.
“After a gruelling final stage in 2017 when there was no water below Inanda Dam — forcing the field to portage all the way to the tidal estuary — the collaboration between Umgeni Water and the KwaZuluNatal Canoe Union has ensured that there will be seven cubic metres per second (cumecs) in the river system to allow the paddlers that have entered the race to avoid the 22 km of portaging that was forced on them 12 months ago,” the organisers said in a statement.
The overall plan for the water release is that Henley Dam will be used to provide water for the first two days of the race and Inanda Dam helps for the final day.
Race committee head Steve Botha added that the confirmed water was exciting news and a reward for faith that paddlers had in the race after last year’s gruelling final stage.
Stage One is 42 km long, from Camps Drift to Dusi Bridge outside Cato Ridge. Stage Two is 46 km, from Dusi Bridge to Msinsi Resort on Inanda Dam. Stage Three is 36 km, from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon in Durban.
Let the race begin!
The old/young combination of Ant Stott and Banetse Nkhoesa are underdogs for honours in the Dusi Canoe Marathon starting tomorrow.