The organisers of the upcoming N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon in partnership with FNB have stressed that they have a number of contingency plans to make sure the event takes place, no matter the status of the national lockdown regulations at the end of January.
The popular two day canoe marathon in the Southern Drakensberg was cancelled as the second wave of Covid-19 infections sent the country into a hard lockdown in January. Race committee head Mark Willment says that a lot has been learnt since then.
“We have watched how safely and successfully the MyLife Dusi, the Berg, Breede and Fish marathons were staged in full compliance with the regulations in force at those times, and that they were safe events that were really enjoyable for the paddlers that took part,” said Willment.
“The beauty about our event is that we naturally fit into the social distancing requirements as we have to start in lots of small batches to get everyone onto the narrow upper reaches of the river safely.
“We have plans to ensure that we contain the numbers in any one place at any time to well within the limits set for outdoor events by reducing batch sizes and spacing the batches out.
“Spectators aren’t allowed, as set out in the regulations, and the technical supporters there to assist the paddlers are naturally restricted as there are not many places where they can gather on the river banks during the race.”
Willment said that the safety and enjoyment of the weekend of paddling was always going to be put first, and that he and the Canyon Kayak Club committee organising the race were keen to make sure the 2022 race happened safely.
“The sense we are getting from the paddlers is that they are desperate to get back onto the river,” said Willment. “It has been a hard two years for everyone and as an event that has always positioned itself as ‘The Most Fun You Can Have Canoeing’ and we expect a lot of paddlers to make the Drak a priority in January.
“It is pretty clear that budgets are tight in many households as well, so the value-for-money- ethos has always been central to the Drak will be particularly important now,” he added.
While the weekend has grown to three sporting codes with the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB races and the Euro Steel Run The Rivers trails runs, Willment said that the music concert element that has become a key part of the Drak Adventure Weekend in recent years would not be happening.
“As much as we enjoy the concert in the marquee at the Country Club on Saturday night, this is not going to fit in with the lockdown requirements, so we will expect people to head back to where they are staying for the weekend on Saturday night rather than gather en masse at one venue,” he said.