As the summer rains relieve parts of KwaZulu-Natal temporarily from the severe drought, paddlers from far and wide will take on the waters of the uMsundusi and uMngeni Rivers this weekend as the next instalment of FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon preparation, the 50 Miler Canoe Marathon presented by StaminaGro, takes centre stage alongside the famous Canvas Dusi.
With the lack of rain being a huge talking point, paddlers taking part in the 2016 50 Miler do so under the race’s revised one-day format from Geoff’s Road to Mfula Store.
With the Umpetha Challenge and the recent Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar having already taken place, the 40km route will be another good early season gauge as to where the top paddlers, and the weekend warriors, are in terms of their preparation for the 2017 three-day showpiece.
The field is expected to contain a number of the top paddlers with the likes of Euro Steel’s Andy Birkett, winner of the recent Ozzie Gladwin, Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela, who won the Umpetha Challenge, and evergreen Build it/William Hunt’s Thulani Mbanjwa all expected to take part.
The women’s field should prove to be just as competitive as the Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles’ Abby Solms and Euro Steel’s Bridgitte Hartley take each other on in another epic encounter.
While a little less race orientated, the 50 Miler’s staging on Sunday also signals the start of the second day of the iconic Canvas Dusi.
The fifteen-paddler strong team and their handmade canvas craft will leave from Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday morning with their sights set on arriving in Durban four days later.
“I have done all fourteen of the previous Canvas Dusi’s and we started it as a commemoration of the 50th Dusi Canoe Marathon but it has evolved a lot from then,” Anton Venter mentioned on the cusp of their Saturday departure.
“We have such a great crowd of people together for this year’s event and the camaraderie that we have amongst ourselves is incredible.
“We are a tight-knit bunch that enjoy our time on the water and with all the boats ready, we are looking forward to getting on the water on Saturday morning!”
The four day long recreational journey has always been an attraction for the more seasoned Dusi paddler and with numbers down slightly on the 2015 numbers, the stalwarts of the Canvas Dusi are in no rush to get to Durban this time around.
“The guys are getting a little bit older and more tired, so we have got all day to get to our destination!
“The first day we are hoping to stop at Geoff’s Road, the second day will take us to Mfula Store and the third day we will stop at the Inanda Dam wall; then its on to Durban from there!” an expectant Venter added.
The veteran of thirty Dusi Canoe Marathons is prepared for the expedition and is excited about having roped in a Canvas Dusi novice for 2016.
“I have got a friend, Andre Hawarden – one of the top Dusi paddlers in his day – coming up from Cape Town to do the Canvas Dusi with us this year!
“We have managed to get everything ready and we are now really looking forward to getting the event underway on Saturday!” he added.