Organisers of the Berg River Canoe Marathon have confirmed that the second stage will be run over a shortened format, repeating the stage format forced on them last year by vegetation growth on the river.
The second stage on Thursday 12 July will start at Gouda bridge and finish at the normal seconds stage overnight stop at Bridgetown at the headwater of Misverstand dam, shaving an hour off the second stage.
The river from the first stage finish at Zonquasdrift to Gouda is blocked by hyacinth that has continued to spread during the dry summer months, aggravated by worsening tree blocks on the section, making it impassable for paddlers.
The race has put in place arrangements to help transport kayaks from Zonquasdrift to Gouda for paddlers camping along the race route.
The decision has been warmly received by the paddlers, who have entered the race en masse just before the normal entry deadline this week.
“It is a fantastic idea to start Day Two at Gouda,” said former winner Graeme Solomon. “The section from Zonquas to Gouda is basically unpaddleable, and would have been a miserable start to the second day.
“Day two will be a little bit shorter, but it is probably the most fun section of the entire race, so it will be a day that the paddlers will all look forward to.”
Solomon added that the 33km stage would be tough because it will be raced at breakneck speed, and was tactically the most important stage of the race.
“The mood at the start at Gouda was awesome last year,” he added. “The start was a little bit later, and it helps having a slightly easier day going into the long third stage.”
Solomon said the decision was a far-sighted one, and was welcome because it was based around the needs of the paddlers.
“Sure the race is from Paarl to the sea, but if conditions don’t realistically allow that then it makes complete sense to leave out sections that can’t reasonably be paddled,” said Solomon.