Underberg – Organisers of the 30th annual N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon on the uMzimkhulu River are hopeful the early-season rains are an indicator of ideal conditions for the popular annual two-day event on January 27-28.
With the uMzimkhulu catchment area so close to the race course, the river level fluctuates quickly and the early spring rains means the river levels in the past few weeks have already presented a range of conditions for the local paddlers to enjoy.
The race committee is hard at work preparing for a bumper 2024 race, but are excited to see river levels offering some early omens for a good river level for the 30th anniversary event that will provide paddlers with water conditions that match the spectacular scenery of the area.
The canoe race will once again share its traditional calendar slot on the last weekend in January with the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB races and the Euro Steel Run The Rivers trail runs in a bumper Drak Adventure Weekend of sporting fun.
“The early rains are surely a good omen that we are in for some ideal river conditions in 2024 for our 30th event,” said race committee chair Rollo Woodhead.
“With no dams and a mountain catchment area, the race is very dependent on rainfall each year, but with good rains so far we are hopeful the water table will be saturated and we can have a great event in January.”
Woodhead added that there were a few improvements to the weekend format that were being finalised and they would be announced shortly, but is adamant some core principles of the race will remain.
“We are looking at some potential improvements to align ourselves with the other events over the weekend so everybody can have a better experience, but there are some things that we simply refuse to compromise on.
“We pride ourselves on making the event the best value for money canoeing event on the calendar and that cannot change, and we also refuse to compromise on giving paddlers two days of quality organisation. Paddlers must arrive for what we believe is one of the most beautiful races in the country, and get an event that matches the spectacular Drakensberg scenery.
“Across all participation sports, athletes becoming far more selective about which events they do, and that means we have to constantly look at improvements and keep doing what we do better.
“The N3TC Drak Challenge is built on a number of non-negotiable 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 of sporting action in the Berg,” said Woodhead.
Founded in 1994, the two day 63-kilometre, two-day stage race will see paddlers paddling between Castleburn Bridge high on the Drakensberg Gardens Road and Early Mist Farm on the second Coleford Road.
Entries will open on 1 November 2023.