Just days away from 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon

Traditional canvas Dusi for DUCT for paddling pair in 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe MarathonDusi Logo

Pietermaritzburg – While the current drought has many predicting ‘old school’ type conditions for this year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon when the race takes place from 18-20 February, a pair who will be certain of the challenge being a ‘blast from the past’ are canvas boat entrants Andrew Booth and Diana Rietz.

The veteran paddling pair of thirteen and twelve Dusi finishes respectively, will tackle this year’s 120km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in old fashioned canvas canoes similar to those used by the founder of the race, the late Dr. Ian Player, and his fellow Dusi pioneers back in the early 50s.

Booth and Rietz have opted to return to wooden shelled craft with stretched canvas over –the forerunner in boat design to the fiberglass, Kevlar and now even plastic boats used today – in an attempt to raise much needed funds for the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), one of three official charities of the 2016 FNB Dusi.
With the recent drought, water has come into sharp focus,” explained Booth, an employee of DUCT’s from 2008-2010 and keen environmental enthusiast. “But, if the truth be told, as South African’s, this should be one of our main focuses perennially as the impact water security will have on the generations to come is massive!

While DUCT will receive one third of all money raised by the FNB Dusi’s charity batch, Booth believes more can be done to support the programmes of this important initiative.
I know that organisations like DUCT struggle for core funding to pay salaries and cover running costs so Di and I hope that by paddling this year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in an unconventional way, we can draw attention to DUCT’s work and raise funds!”

While Rietz became one of two women to join the annual Canvas Dusi for the first time ever in December 2015, the drought and subsequent lack of flow out of Inanda Dam prevented the 22-strong contingent from paddling from the dam to the FNB Dusi finish venue at Blue Lagoon.

Therefore, should Rietz successfully tackle this year’s FNB Dusi in her canvas craft, she will become the first women ever to paddle the full, modern day Dusi course in a traditional canvas canoe.

As the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon gets closer, the anticipation of three days of exciting adventure is mounting,” said Rietz. “On top of that, doing it a canvas boat and raising funds for DUCT is going to make it an extra special one!” she added.

The pair, under the guidance of paddling stalwarts Anton Venter and Hugh Raw, have been hard at work building their boats for months ahead of next week’s race start. Raw, who draws great pleasure from building boats, will also double as the crew’s seconding team on race day. Anyone wishing to support the pair’s adventure can do so by pledging a contribution to their DUCT fund raising efforts.

To do so, visit www.duct.org.za and follow the steps of depositing a donation directly into their bank account. Donors are asked to use their initial and surname followed by the code word “CANVAS” as a reference.
The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban from 18-20 February 2016. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

A wooden frame covered in stretched canvas will be the traditional 'old school' craft Andrew Booth and Diana Rietz look to successfully navigate from Pietermaritzburg to Durban during the 2016 FNB Dusi. Supplied/Gameplan Media

A wooden frame covered in stretched canvas will be the traditional ‘old school’ craft Andrew Booth and Diana Rietz look to successfully navigate from Pietermaritzburg to Durban during the 2016 FNB Dusi. Supplied/Gameplan Media

 Hugh Raw, pictured alongside his Dr. Ian Player tribute canvas canoe he hand crafted in 2014, has played a vital role in the building of the canvas boats Andrew Booth and Diana Rietz will tackle this year's FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in and will provide race day assistance to the pair should they need it as well. Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

Hugh Raw, pictured alongside his Dr. Ian Player tribute canvas canoe he hand crafted in 2014, has played a vital role in the building of the canvas boats Andrew Booth and Diana Rietz will tackle this year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in and will provide race day assistance to the pair should they need it as well. Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family trios highlight 2016 FNB Dusi K3 charge

Taking on the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in a K3 could prove to be a daunting task given the forecast low river levels however the Evered-Hall trio of grandfather Tony, father Mark and daughter Sarah are planning on taking it in their stride as they join one other all-family K3 on the three-day adventure starting Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg from 18-20 February.

With sights set on becoming the first grandfather-father-daughter trio to complete the ‘Ultimate Canoe Challenge’, they could well have achieved the feat in 2015 however a strict age race rule prevented them from writing history.

We were two days out from the Dusi last year when Brett Austen Smith phoned us to tell us that unfortunately we couldn’t race,” Dusi veteran Mark Evered-Hall mentioned.

It was obviously a disappointment for us but we respected the race ruling, put it on ice for a year and we are just really excited to be able to race together this year!

As the competitive field thins out, the paddlers that make the Dusi special come to the fore on their journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and Evered-Hall, who is doing his 23rd pilgrimage this year, understands the importance of taking in the whole experience.

It would be very different if we were racing, because the top paddlers are going to have some interesting decisions to make in the low conditions, but we just want to have the best race we can have and I want Sarah to enjoy her first experience of the Dusi Valley,” an excited Evered-Hall added.  “We did the same thing with my eldest son, Joshua, so it seems that the Dusi runs through this family’s veins, which I am really happy about,” chuckled Evered-Hall.

Tony, who is now 72, appears to be ready for the three-day challenge as he lines up his 15th charge at the FNB Dusi.

From when his children were born, Evered-Hall has wanted to re-create a specific moment and in 2016 he feels that he can complete his dream.

When both of my kids were born I had a photo with them at the finish in Durban and I have been able to do it with Josh and now I am really looking forward to being able to have a photo with Sarah in her paddling gear.  It is such a special event for our family and now that Sarah will be taking part in her first, it will make me immensely proud to say that I have been able to do the race with both of my children,” beamed an excited Evered-Hall.

Dusi K3 2016EveredHall web feb16The race has processed a total of four K3 entries ahead of the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon with another all-family crew joining the Evered-Halls in taking on the challenge.

The experienced Symington duo of Wayne and Des will be joined by sixteen year-old Elijah in their boat as he takes on his first FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon this year.

While not family members, Hugh Cocksedge and Debbie Bothma will join elite racer and Valley of a Thousand resident Nhlanhla Cele (Computershare Change a Life Academy) in their three-seater craft while Cassia Forsyth, Jim Taylor and Roland Heuff will also combine in the fourth K3 tackling this year’s race.
The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban from 18-20 February 2016. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

FNB Dusi build-up laced with Drama
The path that has led to the start of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday, 18 February features more intriguing twists and turns than the fabled route up the Nqumeni Hill portage and more drama than the 65 year-old race usually dishes up before the Carbineer’s cannon is fired at the start at Camps Drift.

The complexity started when 2014 K2 champions Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Khwela surprisingly parted ways as Khwela opted to give the shot at the 2016 title to his young Shongweni protégée Banetse Nkhoesa, leaving Birkett in the market for a partner ahead of his sixth Dusi title bid.

He was fortunate that 2013 K1 winner Lance Kime returned from his travels abroad in time to be able to commit to the partnership and the pair, like most of the male and female contender crews, was soon snapped up by the newly formed Euro Steel team.

 The Euro Steel pair of Andy Birkett and Lance Kime will head into the 2016 edition as favourites when the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon gets underway from 18-20 February.

The Euro Steel pair of Andy Birkett and Lance Kime will head into the 2016 edition as favourites when the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon gets underway from 18-20 February.

Khwela and the 22 year-old Nkhoesa started the summer season like a house on fire, sweeping everything before them, laying down a marker with an emphatic win in the first serious Dusi-style race, the Umpetha Challenge over the first 18km of the FNB Dusi course.

While they were shaded by Euro Steel’s Kime and Birkett in a needle Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon encounter – a maiden win for Kime and Birkett in their first serious race together – Red Bull athlete Khwela and Computershare Change A Life Academy product Nkhoesa were being talked up as the crew to beat in the FNB Dusi in mid-February.

That however all changed just before Christmas when Nkhoesa was the victim of a brutal knife attack in his home deep in the Shongweni Valley that left him with a nasty stab wound in his shoulder, and more importantly, with a punctured left lung.

With Nkhoesa hospitalized, a jittery Khwela scrambled to find a replacement and was fortunate to be able to conscript the more than able and willing Nhlanhla Cele. That was however short lived as Cele suffered a badly dislocated shoulder in the pre-Dusi race on the Euro Steel Highveld Croc, leaving the exasperated Khwela high and dry with the FNB Dusi six weeks away.

I don’t know what I have done to anger my ancestors,” said Khwela at the time. “Maybe I have to go and slaughter a goat…

Miraculously though, Nkhoesa re-entered the frame thanks to the tireless work by the team of medical experts, led by Olympic team physician Dr.Kevin Subban, working with the Elite Athlete Development Programme at Prime Human Performance Institute.

Suddenly the Shongweni dream team was back on track, with Nkhoesa using all his youthful determination and enthusiasm to fast track his recovery.

Latest tests show that the injured lung has not fully recovered, but that is clearly not going to stop the youngster from his shot at Dusi glory.

Conspicuous by their absence at many summer races, the 2014 runner-up crew of six time Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké (Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling) have flown under the radar, bar their solid win the StaminaGro 50 Miler in early December, where they edged out most of the Dusi title contenders.

The duo, K2 gold and silver medallists at the last two Marathon World Championships, are the most established crew within the hotly contested title race and, based on how much weight the two athletes have shed during their Dusi training, have clearly been putting in the hard yards.

The enigmatic Len Jenkins has elected to further his Hansa Fish partnership with Soweto based Siseko Ntondini, eleven years his junior, and the ADreach/Euro Steel duo will bring a distinct wildcard element to the sharp end of the race.

They will probably find themselves gunnel-to-gunnel with another former Dusi winner Thulani Mbanjwa and Capetonian Shaun Rubenstein, another crew that pools massive individual talent into a boat untested in the heat of battle.

Lurking in the wings are the likes of the potent Maties pairing of Owen Gandar and Murray Starr (Kayak Centre/Starsky) and Under-23 brothers Alan and Andrew Houston (USN).

The women’s race has a very different complexion.

Leading ladies Euro Steel pair of Abby Solms and Anna Kožíšková are well into their delayed preparation for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon when the race gets underway from 18-20 February. (pics: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)

Leading ladies Euro Steel pair of Abby Solms and Anna Kožíšková are well into their delayed preparation for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon when the race gets underway from 18-20 February. (pics: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)

Six time runner-up Abby Solms can be excited about the prospect of finally bagging the country’s most famous canoeing title after long being condemned to a bridesmaid role, particularly as she has reunited with the Czech Republic pocket dynamo Anna Kožíšková, riding the crest of a wave since toppling the legendary Renata Csay at the World Marathon Champions in Hungary last year.

The pair will be tested on the portages and in the rocky rapids by several classy female crews including the Techpro Racing pair of Durbanite Jenna Ward and Hungary’s Under-23 Marathon World Champion Vanda Kiszli as well as the irrepressible Euro Steel juniors Cana Peek and Kyeta Purchase, seeking to make a statement about the future of ladies canoeing by grabbing a spot on the overall women’s podium.

The 65th edition of the 120km adventure from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban takes place from Thursday, 18 to Saturday, 20 February.  More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za