This weekend will see two of the 2019 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon’s most important qualifiers with the 50 Miler taking place on Saturday and the Mfula to eNanda race taking place on Sunday ahead of the Dusi from 14-16 February.
Both these races hold significance for a number of reasons but mainly it gives paddlers the chance to qualify for the Dusi which is just over a month away, while getting a chance to recce almost half the Dusi course on a water release similar to the one they can expect on raceday.
The 50 Miler will take paddlers from just above Mission Rapid, over the iconic Nqumeni portage, through the famous Big Three rapids to the finish at Mfula Store.
Amongst the entrants to both races will be a number of the top paddlers getting in some final preparation in race conditions ahead of the Dusi next month; however the 50 Miler entry list has a few absentees.
Defending champion Andy Birkett has decided to pick a later qualifier as he eyes the N3TC Drak Challenge, in partnership with FNB, next weekend.
There are a number of usual suspects on the entry list for the 50 Miler, with the likes of Red Bull/Euro Steel’s Sbonelo Khwela and a number of Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy squad paddlers.
The likes of Banetse Nkhoesa, Andrew Houston and Thulani Mbanjwa are not on the entry list but could well make an appearance on Saturday.
Young David Evans has been hard at work in preparation for the Dusi and his runners-up result at the FastDrak could mark him as a dark horse this weekend with entries into both events.
An interesting development in the women’s field is that Jenna Ward seems to have thrown her name into the Dusi hat.
She has entered both the 50 Miler and the Mfula to eNanda races this weekend which is a clear indication of her intentions at this year’s Dusi.
She will be up against a number of the younger generation paddlers with the likes of Amy Peckett, Caitlin Mackenzie and Tracey Oellermann all having entered this weekend’s races.
Sunday’s Mfula to eNanda race incorporates the second half of the second day of the Dusi. While it doesn’t include many significant rapids, however the race will give paddlers a taste of what to expect on eNanda Dam.