Pietermaritzburg – The Dusi Canoe Marathon may be one of KwaZulu-Natal’s oldest and most iconic sporting events, but that is not stopping the organising committee from innovating to give entrants what they want from the three-day classic.
The 2024 race will take place on February 15-17, and this week the event organisers announced a couple of route changes to improve the race and ensure all competitors have a better all round experience.
The new start venue for the 2024 Dusi Canoe Marathon at Bishopstowe Hall was announced recently, and now it has also been confirmed that the finish of the opening stage, and thus the start of the second stage, has also been moved about six kilometres downstream. One of the traditional portages has also been removed with the corresponding stretch of river around Finger Neck now a compulsory paddle for all paddlers.
The finish of the opening stage will now finish just above the confluence between the Umgeni and Msunduzi Rivers, about 100m after the put in for the Second Saddles Portage.
The altered Day 1 start and finish, and new Day 2 start, means the distances for all three days are now all about 35km or 36km.
For organising committee chairman Steve Botha, the changes are simply part of the process of improving the race and “listening to what the paddlers want”.
“The paddlers have come to us with suggestions and as much as possible we try and accommodate what the competitors want,” said Botha this week.
“Having moved the start because of the not-so-clean water, the first day was a bit short. We took out over 10 kays of the first day last year and the winners finished within two hours, so it was just too short.
“Secondly, the second day has always been notoriously long. So a lot of people that were maybe not as fit as they thought they would be, opted not to do the Dusi because the second day was such a long day – it took six or seven, or even eight hours for some people.
“Now a lot of lot of people are looking at the shorter second day as a positive and saying: ‘Yeah, you know what, we can finish 35 kays on the second day in that heat.’
“Obviously the heat is another thing. In February the heat is huge and many people used to get dehydrated on that second day. So those are some of the reasons that we changed and moved the first day finish.
“This hasn’t been something that’s only come about through the organisers making a decision on what we want. It has come through the paddlers. After we had to move the start last year due to the pollution, the participants have come to us and asked us to have a look at where we could finish. So that’s what we’ve done. We have listened to the paddlers.
“The finish is going to be about 100 metres after the Saddles Portage put in. So competitors will put in after the portage and then basically paddle to the other side of the river and finish on the left bank.
“The reason for removing the Finger Neck Portage is the same as last year. Because we have shortened the race by 10 kilometres and taken out a lot of the paddling, we felt we had to put in a little bit more paddling on Day 1. The take out for the Finger Neck Portage is also not the easiest and the roadway where we used to run has been damaged, so it was an easy choice.
“There is also an awesome rapid on the paddle around the Finger Neck portage that the guys really enjoy shooting.
“For us as a committee, it’s all about feedback from the paddlers and the feedback we’re getting now is really positive.
“At the end of the day, all we are doing is listening to the paddlers and hearing what they would like to see out of the race, and then, as much as possible, we try and accommodate what they want,” said Botha, before adding that he believed “we’re in for an awesome Dusi in 2024.”