With the Western Cape still firmly in the grips of the four year-long drought, the organisers of the 57th edition of the annual Berg River Canoe Marathon are determined to stage their annual classic race from 12 to 15 July, even if it requires some lateral thought.
“We managed to stage a successful race last year, despite the severity of the drought, and we are committed to making it happen this July,” said race committee chair Andre Collins.
Collins said the race committee was planning a rejigged race route that will take best advantage of the most paddleable sections of river in very low conditions, but said they would remain flexible right up to the race hoping for the arrival of the annual winter rains.
The race normally covers the 240 kilometres from Paarl to the West Coast town of Velddrif in four stages. But Collins explained that the back-up plan involved starting downstream of Paarl and racing the more reliable sections of the river.
Under the low water rules, the first day will be raced from Gouda Bridge to Misverstand Dam Wall (46km); Day Two over a shorter segment of the same stretch of water from Gouda Bridge to Bridgetown (30km); Day Three from the normal fourth stage start at Zoutkloof to Oordraplek (49km); and the final day spanning the usual last stage from Zoutkloof to Velddrif (59 km).
“While we try to hold the race over the original course from Paarl to Velddrif every year, we have to be realistic,” said Collins.
“Under the low water plan the total paddling distance will be less than a normal Berg, the total time spent on the water will very similar to a marathon on a medium level river,” he said.
The 2017 race was held on the lowest river ever, with the Berg River running at a paltry 1,61 cumecs, but still saw 75 brave paddlers completed the race, which was won by Hungarian racer Adrian Boros.
Last weekend the race from Gouda to Train Bridge was held in extremely low river conditions. Maties paddler Evan Knight won the outing after running six of the 15 kilometres of the race.