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Drak Challenge date moves as rainfall patterns shift

Drak row

The Drak Challenge canoe marathon has been moved two weeks later in the season to February 1 and 2 to adapt the changing weather patterns.

The two-day, 75km classic on the Mzimkhulu River – in 2020 heading into its 27th year – has become one of the most popular races on the national calendar but it depends on rainfall to provide conditions suitable for paddlers.

The last two editions of the N3TC and FNB-sponsored Drak Challenge have been held on low rivers as summer rainfalls have moved to later in the season.

The race organising committee took the bold decision to move the race a few weeks later in the year to try to cash in on better rainfall.

“The last two years we have been frustrated to race on a low river, only to have the rains come literally days after the race,” said race committee head Lloyd Riggien. “The pictures going out on social media of the full river set this process in motion.

Realities of climate change

“One of the realities of climate change is that the summer rainfalls patterns are changing,” he added. “Most of the local paddlers are farmers and they monitor the weather systems very closely.

“There is no point fighting it, we just have to adapt,” he added.

Riggien added that the old date coincided with the first week back at school, which made logistics difficult for some families who wanted to be in Underberg for the event.

Suit school paddlers

“It was also a week or two into the new work year, and so soon after the December holidays it was difficult for some people to take time off work.

“This new date should suit the school paddlers as well as the parents,” he said.

The race is part of a trio of sporting events that make up the FNB Drak Adventure Weekend, along with the FNB Drak Music Experience concert at the Underberg Club on the Saturday night.

The canoe marathon takes place in Underberg on February 1 and 2, 2020. More information can be found at

Picture, top: The 2020 N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon has been moved several weeks later into the year to take better advantage of rainfall patterns and move away from the pressure of the start of the work and school years. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media


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