Pad­dlers grate­ful for flow­ing Duzi

Scott and Nkhoesa may just sur­prise the ‘dream team’ at the Dusi

The Witness - - NEWS - NONDUMISO ZAKWE

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!

PHOTO: AN­THONY GROTE

The old/young com­bi­na­tion of Ant Stott and Banetse Nkhoesa are un­der­dogs for hon­ours in the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon start­ing to­mor­row.

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