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Excitement builds at top conditions for 2020 Dusi

With more rain predicted for the coming days, organisers of the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon expect the race water levels to be the best seen in a decade. Pictures: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Paddlers entered for the 69th Dusi Canoe Marathon, which starts on Thursday, could well be in for bumper river conditions if the predicted rainfall happens on time.

Currently the weather forecast is for cool and dry weather for the first stage of the race on Thursday, which will be ideal for the paddlers, particularly on the two long portages that are a key part of the 42km first leg. The big field of paddlers will be guaranteed medium river levels for that stage thanks to the water released from Henley Dam outside Pietermaritzburg.

The water levels predicted for the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon, starting on Thursday, are set to be the best in a decade, with rain predicted over the next few days. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

The rain is forecast to start late on Thursday afternoon and continue on Friday and into Saturday.

Friday’s river levels will be excellent, thanks to extra water from Nagle dam supplementing the water from Henley dam, and additional run-off from the overnight rains.

What is exciting the paddlers is the forecast of steady rain around Durban on Friday that could see water flowing into the Mngeni River through the Mzinyathi and Molweni Rivers, adding to the 17 cumecs of water that will be flowing out of Inanda dam.

With the Burma Road portage out-of-bounds this year, the entire field will paddle around the section of river that includes rapids like Graveyard, Island and Five Fingers, which are legendary river paddling obstacles when there is good water in the Mngeni.

Best in more than a decade

“While weather forecasts are not wholly reliable, conditions look set to provide the best Dusi paddling conditions in more than a decade,” said Dusi organising committee head Shane le Breton.

“A cool day with the paths dry underfoot is ideal for the first stage. And it really eases concerns about the water quality in Pietermaritzburg if there are no storms in the days before the race,” said Le Breton.

“Day Two will see more water coming in from Nagle dam at the confluence with the Mngeni, and with a little run-off from the tributaries in the valley, this is the paddler’s favourite stage,” he said.

“Water flowing into the Mngeni below Inanda Dam for Day Three will bump the river level up to conditions that we haven’t seen for a long time, and the 20km from Tops Needle to Mango Rapid should be superb paddling,” he added.

Academy stars show fine form ahead of 2020 Dusi

Le Breton added that the regular summer storms had helped the recovery of the river system from the devastating oil spill in August.

Dr Mark Graham from GroundTruth has been leading the rehabilitation project after the spill and he will be in the valleys with his team during the race during another series of tests.

“Together with the great job being done by the Euro Steel and AdReach Save Our Rivers clean-up teams, our partners the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), and the passion of the paddlers to ‘Do The Dusi’ every year, it is so encouraging to see another big field lining up for what is sure to be a special Dusi,” said Le Breton.

New incentive added to SA’s biggest canoeing prize pool

Competitive crews eyeing podium places at the 2020 Dusi can look forward to the biggest prize pool in SA canoeing once again and a brand-new incentive that will reward an exceptional result by the winning women’s crew.

The winning male and female K2 crews will once again receive the same prize of R25 000, but the new incentive that will run as a new thread through the racing will offer a R45 000 bonus based on the relative finish of the women’s race winners.

“The performance of the winning women’s K2 is always assessed as a percentage of the winning men’s K2 crew’s time,” explained Le Breton. “Based on the last 10 years’ results, the winning women’s boat has finished at 116% of the winning men’s boat.

“The new incentive will be given to the winning women’s K2 if they finish in a time that is less than 114% of the overall winner. If it is 114% or rounded down to that percentage point it will be shared. If the women’s winners are 115% of more behind the overall winner, then the men’s K2 will get the incentive,” he explained.

“We are excited to have women’s river paddling very well supported and highly competitive at the moment, and together with the equal prize money, we feel that this new race-within-a-race will draw further attention to the strength of women’s paddling at the moment,” he said.

Aerial view of rapids. Race organisers expect exciting racing if the expected rains fall on Thursday. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Sprint finish

Last year the thrilling showdown between Christie Mackenzie and Tamika Haw for the Dusi women’s K1 title came down to a sprint finish into the race finish at Blue Lagoon, and was undoubtedly the highlight of the 2019 edition of the race.

That finish was savoured by a big crowd at Blue Lagoon, thanks to a novel staggering of the reversed order start designed to ensure that the women’s winners arrived at the finish shortly after the first few men’s boats.

“I think this new incentive is a great step forward from a racing point of view,” said surfski world champ and respected athletes representative Hayley Nixon. “We’ve seem similar approaches adopted in surfski races over the past few years.

“What it means is that there is no room for either the male or female leading crew to back off, because you may well be winning your gender fight but you don’t want to lose to the other gender.

“It’s a magic incentive, it’s really fair for all, it screams out equality and that’s what we want to see in our sport.”

The full prize money allocation is available on the Dusi website.

The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from February 27 to 29, 2020.

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