After enjoying some of the best river conditions in the race’s history, the 29th edition of the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon on the uMzimkhulu River through Underberg is expected to draw a huge field of eager paddlers on 28 and 29 January 2023.
The first post-Covid event in 2022 drew a large entry of paddlers that waited with bated breath as a thunderstorm pummelled the area on the evening before the start of the race and left the uMzimkhulu River breaking its banks.
Fortunately by the time the first group of paddlers arrived at the start on Saturday morning the water level had settled back to an ideal level, and the big field revelled in what was billed “the best Drak ever”.
Based on that enthusiastic response, the race committee is planning another large entry for the race, now confirmed in its traditional calendar slot on the last weekend in January, and forming part of the trio of sporting events that comprise the Drak Adventure Weekend with the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB races and the Euro Steel Run The Rivers trail runs.
“We had a run of low-water Drak Challenges that was ended by the great rains we had for last year’s race,” said race committee chair Mark Willment.
“The race is entirely rainfall dependent, and the paddlers enjoy their weekend paddling on the uMzimkhulu, no matter what the river conditions, but there is no doubt that every single paddler would want to have the water levels that we enjoyed in 2022 every year,” he said.
Willment added that the race was fortunate to have a number of core principles that resonated with the paddlers, and brought them back year-after-year.
“We are passionate about positioning the race as “the best value for money canoeing event on the calendar”, and in these post-Covid times, recreational athletes are very budget sensitive,” he pointed out.
“Across all sports we are seeing athletes being far more selective about which events they do, looking for rewarding experiences that don’t break the bank,” he said.
“The N3TC Drak Challenge is built on a number of pillars, including community involvement, our Southern Drakensberg hospitality, good value-for-money and making sure the paddlers have the best possible two days paddling on the river while their seconders and families enjoy the summer weekend in the Berg,” said Willment.
Founded in 1994, the two day 63,4 kilometre, two-stage race starts at the Castleburn bridge high up on the Drakensberg Gardens Road and finishes at Early Mist Farm on the second Coleford Road.
Entries open on 1 November 2022.