With exactly three months to go to the 59th edition of the Berg River Canoe Marathon, the ultra-paddling classic is in a cautious wait-and-see mode as the country comes to grips with the national lockdown to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
All sporting events within the current lockdown period have either been postponed or cancelled, and with many other events after April 16th, including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo which have been moved to 2021, under a cloud of uncertainty, the new team charged with organising and managing the Berg is monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
The four day race, scheduled for 8 to 11 July, has been taken over by BAHM Events, and they have planned a sweeping series of changes and innovations to invigorate the marathon, with a view at hosting the 60th anniversary event in 2021 in style.
“We are heavily guided by the directives from national and provincial government, and the departments of sport involved in the Western Cape,” said BAHM Event’s Brandon Macleod.
“With three months to go before the scheduled race dates no-one has any idea of the exact path that the COVID-19 outbreak will take in South Africa and how long the lockdown and restrictions on public gatherings will be in place, which makes it impossible to take firm decisions on the 2020 Berg yet,” he added.
Rescheduling of sporting events calendars as a result of the coronavirus clampdown is a complex matter that all national sporting federations are wrestling with. In the case of the Berg Marathon, the event is heavily reliant on winter rainfall to bolster the levels of the Berg River to comfortably paddle-able levels.
Recent years have seen the rains arrive later in the Western Cape, truncating their river paddling season, with the river only flowing until the beginning of September.
“The nature of the event also requires a significant amount of advanced notice as it demands a lot of training and preparation for an athlete to be able to complete the 240km race safely and comfortably,” Macleod pointed out.
“This is an event with a massive legacy and history, and the team that has been entrusted with running it is excited to harness that heritage and add new elements that will make it more appealing to the paddlers, their seconders, families and spectators,” he said.
Local weather watchers point out that the Western Cape has a regular seven-year cycle, and with 2013 being the last year of consistently heavy rains, the region may well be in for good rains in 2020, and with it premium paddling conditions.