Paddlers have shown they are eager to get back to the N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon in partnership with FNB on the weekend of 29 and 30 January 2022, after a successful restart to the national canoeing calendar in 2021 following the pandemic lockdown block on sporting events.
The race was the first canoeing major to be cancelled once the hard lockdown was enforced last season, but since then the protocols negotiated with Canoeing South Africa have paved the way for the successful hosting of events such as the MyLife Dusi, Berg, Breede and Fish Marathons.
With an entry already bolstered by a large carry-over of entries from 2021, organisers are gearing up for a substantial interest in this year’s race, particularly as the weekend in the Southern Drakensberg lends itself to the now commonly accepted safety protocols.
“There is a real sense of FOMO after cancelling last year,” said race committee head Mark Willment.
“We were amazed at the number of paddlers who entered the race last season who opted to carry over their entries rather than put in for a refund. That says something to us about the high regard that the paddling community places on the Drak.
Willment pointed out that all the arrangements for the race, and how it dovetails with the other sporting event that make up the Drak Adventure Weekend in Underberg that weekend, will be geared around compliance and safety.
“While we have no idea what the status of the pandemic will be at the end of January, we will ensure that the whole weekend is safe and sensible for the paddlers, their seconds and families,” said Willment.
“The very nature of our race makes it a model for hosting an event safely and sensibly as we have small batches and within minutes of the start the paddlers are comfortably spaced out on the river.”
“We will not be able to stage the massive music concert on the Saturday night, for obvious reasons, and the nature of our events is that paddlers and their families tend to spread themselves out across B&Bs and hotels around Underberg and Himeville. The registration process will be designed to be a smooth through-flow process as well.
“Thankfully the vaccination process is well advanced and the success of recent events such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour have given us great encouragement that we can confidently invite paddlers back to their favourite canoeing in the Berg.
“We pride ourselves in the idea that the Drak is the ‘Most Fun You Can Have Canoeing’ as well as the best value-for-money event on the calendar, which is very pertinent after the pandemic has left a lot of athletes very budget conscious,” he added.
Willment said that the summer rains has started in earnest and the local farmers were expecting a lot of rainfall in the coming months.
“That promises a good Drak at the end of January and for the many paddlers who choose to spend their end-of-year holidays paddling on the uMzimkhulu River, there should be good water to enjoy,” said Willment.