Pietermaritzburg and Durban, South Africa
The Dusi Canoe Marathon is arguably the world's most prestigious canoe (or rather, kayak) race, held between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, South Africa. It is run along the Msunduzi River, which is more commonly referred to as the Dusi (or Duzi) river over a total distance of 120km. The 2013 race attracted a total of approximately 10000 people - 1700 paddlers and seven to eight thousand seconders, helpers and supporters over the 3 days. The 2014 race expects to attract double the amount of people to the race.
The Original Dusi
The first Dusi was started on the 22nd of December 1951. Unlike the current race the first race was held on a continuous basis, with the racers only stopping when they reached the finish. Only eight paddlers took part in this first race. They were: Ian Player, Miles Brokensha, Ernie Pearce, John Naude, Basil Halford, Willie Potgieter, Fred Schmidt and Denis Vorster. Only Ian Player finished the race in a time of six days. This was despite having been bitten by a night adder during the race. The canoe that he used to complete the race was made from wood and canvas and weighted roughly 70 pounds. It also held all the supplies he needed to complete the race.
The following three races were all held on a non-stop basis, before it was decided in 1956 to hold the race over three days. The reason for this change is the danger involved in paddling at night. Before the change was introduced, the winning time had been reduced to 1 day, 3 hours and 28 minutes.
The first known trip down the dusi was not in fact on the race itself, but rather by two Pietermaritzburg men William Foley and Paul Marianny in 1893. They covered the distance in seven days.
The Current Race
The race is currently held over a period of three days, with each day having a defined beginning and end. The race is referred to as The Dusi Canoe Marathon.
The first day is 45 km which includes roughly 15 km of portaging with the canoe, with shorter portaging sections on day 2 and 3. Day 2 is also 45 km and ends with a 10 km stretch on flat water on the Inanda Dam. Day 3 is 35 km of clean cold water let out from the dam. There are several sections with large rapids, particularly on day 2 and 3.
Competitors have a choice to either compete in a K1 or K2 canoe.
The current record stands at around 8 hours (over the three race days).
The Race Organisers
The Race is organised by the Natal Canoe Club, a club affiliated to Canoe South Africa and consisting of approximately 450 members. The club is based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The clubhouse is located on the banks of the Msunduzi River, at the exact start point of the race.