With a big field expected for the N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon in the Drakensberg this weekend, the memory and legacy of a legendary paddler will be commemorated by the presentation of the Alick Rennie Fellowship Award.
Rennie was a much loved and respected river paddler who represented South Africa at the Barcelona Olympics in slalom paddling. He died in a plane crash in December 2013.
His selflessness and sportsmanship is celebrated every year in the award of a special trophy handmade by his son Iain from Alick’s favourite slalom paddle blade, to celebrate and promote an act of bravery or selflessness that takes place during the race.
Last year Durban paddler Trent Burnett was awarded the floating trophy, which he has returned in time for this years event, stressing that acts of bravery or selflessness were an integral part of the culture of the canoeing community that he is anxious to see sustained.
Burnett and his father came to the rescue of Graham Christensen and his partner in the technical rapids of the Underberg Gorge, and found his double kayak pinned underneath the water. He stopped and helped extricate the boat and then gave the luckless crew all his spares to enable them to repair the boat well enough to finish the race.
“I am an engineer so I carry a huge repair kit with me in the boat!” said Burnett. “Luckily we were able to get the boat back together, and I gave them my spare paddle to enable them to carry on.”
The grateful crew nominated them for the award, which they received ahead of three other notable nominations for acts of bravery or selflessness.
Burnett said that the ethos of stopping to help a fellow paddler in distress was fundamental to the sport of river canoeing, and involved the recreational part timers and the elite racers.
“No prize money or position is worth not stopping to help a paddler in need,” he said.
The award has been embraced by the Drak paddlers who nominate heroic or generous acts during the race that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.