Now well established as one of the premiere multi-day canoe races in South Africa, the N3TC Drak Challenge in partnership with FNB canoe marathon has become a robust event that pools resources of a wide variety of community organisations, each of which derives important income for their contributions.

The labour-intensive registration process at the Underberg Country Club is run by parents and teachers from the Underberg Primary School Mastery Unit. This unit was set up for pupils who need that extra bit of help, and during the first three lessons of the day the Mastery Unit runs con-current lessons at a slower pace.

On both days of the race, paddlers can get their vehicles driven from the start to the finish by a vehicle shuttle service run by the parents from Noah’s Ark, a preschool based in Himeville.

The core logistics of the race is managed by volunteers from the Underberg Marshall club. They handle the paddlers checking into their batches, and then man all the checkpoints, co-ordinate radio communications and provide manpower to assist paddlers at major rapids.

A popular feature of the race is the catering run by the residents of Pevensey Place, a commune for Cerebral Palsied persons, based outside Underberg. Their pancakes and tea have become a signature of the event, and the income derived from this fundraiser helps bridge the gap created by the gradual loss of government funding. The local Round Table covers the costs of a number of residents at Pevensey Place.

The stalwarts from Underberg Rotary take charge of much of the food provided to athletes and their families at the event, with assistance from St Patricks College from Kokstad.

The busy bar at the event HQ is run by a hard-working team from the Underberg Round Table. They have been loyal supporters of the event since it early years, and have assisted with food and bar services for the visiting athletes, channelling all the proceeds back into local community organisations, and Pevensey Place in particular.

The N3TC Drak Challenge also makes a donations to an Underberg home run by Sister Abigail, who runs a refuge that doubles as a safe house for children and an orphanage.

“This is a lifeline for many people in Underberg. Previously Sister Abigail ran Clouds of Hope. She has probably raised two hundred children, if not more, in her time in Underberg,” said race administrator Lauren Canham.

“The community is at the core of this event,” said race committee head Lloyd Riggien. “The race is unusual in that is doesn’t seek to make any money, but instead to make sure we run a great race at very good value for money for the paddlers, while at the same time involving as many community organisations that can make a contribution to the event and earn money they badly need for their efforts.”

“Our sponsors have seen this and there are numerous community projects that get extra help from the sponsors as well, he added. “It is a win-win-win model that is very rewarding to see operating.”