Organisers of the N3TC Drak Challenge on 20 and 21 January have confirmed an innovative new scheme that will, for the first time, allow for a water release to supplement the level of the uMzimkhuklu River on the first stage of the race.
The race is heavily dependent on rainfall in the days before the popular two-day 70km event in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg, and the ongoing drought has left the river running low for much of the summer.
Local landowner Dave Barnett and his son Andrew, who heads up the race organising committee, have completed a ground breaking project that has increased the capacity of their dam at Castleburn, allowing them to release a significant amount of water into the river to help get the entire field comfortably through the fabled Valley of a Thousand Rapids.
The Barnetts have added a thirty centimetre high sandbag wall to the top of the Castleburn dam spillway that will add 40 000 cubic metres of extra water, which they have made available for release into the river for the first stage.
The project was trialled at the recent FastDrak race on the same section of river, using just 4 200 cubic metres of water over four hours, releasing the water through 200mm pipes in the dam, supplementing the water on the upper reaches that made the technical first hour a lot more manageable on the low level river.
“We will have around ten times that amount of water available for the N3TC Drak Day One,” said Andrew Barnett. “That will allow us to release the water earlier to ensure it gets further downriver, ideally to ensure the top guys gets through Black Murray rapid at the end of the Valley of a Thousand Rapids on the water release.”
“The race is well established as a K1 race, and even in low water conditions the tight technical upper reaches of the river are still manageable, but it is far more pleasant if we can get the water level up to the footings at Castleburn bridge at the start,” he added.
The move has been hailed as an example of the community involvement and support that has helped the Drak Challenge rocket into the top three races in the country.
Normal entries for the race close at midnight on Wednesday this week, after which late entries will be opened.