Three paddlers stand poised to joined the Super Trout club at the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon on 28 and 29 January as the popular two-day race attracts another big field excited by the full uMzimkhulu River.
Gary Atkinson, Jeremy Ferrow and Shane Millward have all completed nineteen Draks and should they finish the 2023 edition of the 72km race they will be welcomed into the sixteen-strong group of paddlers with twenty or more Drak finishes to their credit.
There is also set to a shake-up at the top of the list as Colin Simpkins sets off on his 27th Drak and will top the list of Drak Trouts, a list that was for much of the races 28 year history was topped by Pietermaritzburg paddling icon Owen Hemmingway.
“The Drak sums up what paddling is to me,” says Simpkins. “It is full of great, exciting rapids, raced on a clean, untamed river and in the beautiful scenery of the foothills of the Drakensberg,” said Simpkins.
“The race always attracts the best paddlers in the country and to do well at the Drak you have to be on top of your game,” he added. “What is notable though is that, while it is so competitive, the mood and atmosphere at the race is so relaxed.
“But what makes it special is that it is so much more than a race,” he went on to say. “The community embraces everything about the event. There is so much for the families to do on the weekend.”
Simpkins ring-fences Saturday afternoon for the festive social nine hole golf tournament at the Underberg Country Club, and has over the years, been able to lift the massive gaudy Spanish trophy above his head for winning the golf day.
Macleod, who has left the door has been left open for Simpkins to top the Drak Trout list by emigrating last year, says he wishes Simpkins well, but added that there was no guarantee Simpkins would overtake him.
“For years the Trout list has been sorted alphabetically by surname so I have technically been just above him. This year is his chance.
“I started every year in the same batch as Colin so I have seen how he paddles,” Macleod added. “It’s a bit like watching a ping-pong ball in a washing machine the way he bashes all the rocks. So who knows…” he speculated.
“Dave has, over the years become the Phil Liggett of paddling. His voice has become synonymous with major races around the country,” Simpkins weighed in.
“Since the inception of the Drak, I have come to admire Dave for his contribution to the sport. Looking at his results, I was always under the impression that he was unselfishly acting as a sweep.
“It was only brought to my attention recently that he has actually been “racing” all the time. After 26 hits at it, one would have thought that there would be a modicum of improvement in his performance, but alas…”
“He has also taken it upon himself to make videos of the various rapids, which he has been complicit it giving a variety of very nondescript names, dolling out advice on which lines to take. By the number of non finishers each year, it appears that some of the more gullible have actually taken these seriously.
“Off the river, he is no legend either,” he added.
“Year after year, when the announcer calls his name at the first tee of the Drak golf day, there is a deafening silence, despite flurries of correspondence expounding his virtues on the links, running up to the event.
“It’s probably not a bad thing that he is stuck in the frozen wastelands of the maple leaf, where he can concentrate on his actual talent behind the keyboard,” said Simpkins.
N3TC Drak Challenge Super Trouts
26 – Dave Macleod, Colin Simpkins
25 – Owen Hemingway
24 – Kirsten Oliver
23 – Glenn Hilliar, Greg Hitchins, Gavin Tarr
22 – Lawrence Blackbeard, Gary Waud.
21 – Bart Fokkens, Nigel Stevens, Anthony Van Tonder, Bruce Wenke
20 – Kevin Middleton, Dean Oellermann, Hugh Raw