Organisers of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon are confident the 2016 edition of the iconic Pietermaritzburg to Durban paddling race will be staged on manageable river levels despite KwaZulu-Natal, and much of the rest of South Africa, continuing to be plagued by the current drought.
While the management of the precious commodity continues to remain top priority for the Department of Water Affairs and Umgeni Water alike and heavy rainfall unlikely to occur any time in the near future, participants of the Dusi are likely to still enjoy an adequate water level for the three day event from 18-20 February.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to ensure there is enough water in the rivers for the 2016 FNB Dusi while also bearing in mind the desperate need to conserve water as best we possibly can during this difficult time for all,” confirmed FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon General Manager, Brett Austen Smith.
“As always, we will make the relevant official requests for a full release from Henley Dam – which is not a water supply dam – while we will also try to assist Umgeni Water however we can to ensure a release from Nagle Dam,” he added.
While the Henley and Nagle Dam releases assist paddlers during the opening two stages, the third and final stretch from Msinsi Resort to Blue Lagoon is solely influenced by flow out of Inanda Dam.
With enough rainfall set to fall between December and February to fill Inanda Dam and see it spill for the first time in months unlikely, organisers are working closely with relevant authorities to secure a coordinated water release.
“Umgeni Water is required to perform an environmental flush annually and we have been fortunate in the past that they have been willing to ensure this coincides with the staging of the Dusi.
“We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from Umgeni Water on this in years gone by and are hopeful that this can continue in 2016 once more.”
Austen Smith however also pleas with participants to revisit the essence of the 120km, three day journey in the build-up to 2016’s FNB Dusi.
“We urge everyone to see the Dusi as the challenge that it is and to embrace that challenge!
“The medal is something that doesn’t come in the goodie bag that is collected beforehand, it is something that is earned and an achievement that comes from hard work and dedication.
“Participants are encouraged to ensure they put in the hours in training to ensure they are prepared adequately for the challenge that is the Dusi!” said Austen Smith.
While the water level affects all, the elite racers at the front of the field will be paying extra close attention to the latest developments on the matter over the coming weeks.
Jasper Mocké – again teaming up with Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling team mate Hank McGregor with whom he secured second place in 2014’s K2 Dusi – is however dismissive of low river level murmurs.
“The drought obviously has everyone talking about a low Dusi but to be honest all I’ve ever heard about before I’ve paddled a Dusi are the low water levels and then come day two the water level is always massive!” said Mocké
“I’ll believe it will be a low Dusi when I see it,” he added. “The organisers always seem to find water for the race!”
Others, such as Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela – who will form a potent partnership with Computershare Change a Life Academy member Banetse Nkhoesa – are however concerned by the shift in emphasis a lower than usual water level will have on the race.
“The water level for 50 Miler was lower than Dusi and Banetse and I battled technically at the start of Day One,” said Khwela. “If Dusi is like that then it will be a very difficult Dusi for us!”
Khwela is also quick to point out that the third of the pre-race favoured trio, Euro Steel’s Lance Kime and Andy Birkett, will be formidable the more technical the river level becomes.
“Lance (Kime) is one of the best river paddlers and he knows the river so well so he and Andy will be very dangerous if the water level is lower than normal!
“The lower river suits the paddlers more than the runners and it can become a very long day on the water.”
While each crew will have their preference, all will undoubtedly have a close eye on long term forecasts throughout the coming festive season, eager to make the necessary plans to best overcome the FNB Dusi challenge.