Words: Dave MacLeod
The popularity of the annual Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon looks set to grow exponentially with the innovative addition of a new “short course” option to the famous two-day race on 10 and 11 October.
Photo credit: Jetline Action Photo / Gameplan Media
The Hansa Fish rivals the Dusi Canoe marathon every year for the status of being the country’s biggest canoeing event, and has attracted a loyal core of supporters, thanks to its unique location right in the centre of the country, the mix of fun rapids and flowing water and the guaranteed water release that it offers every year. The race, however, rates as a AR River Marathon, thanks to some tougher obstacles like the Keith’s Flyover Rapid, Cradock Weir and the dense thickets of dangerous willow trees that line to the top half of the first stage of the race.
The organisers have taken the bold step to run a “short-course” option that will make the race access to less experienced and less fit paddlers by racing the second half of each stage and eliminating all the dangerous obstacles. The first stage of the new “short course” will start immediately below the Soutpansdrift rapid to the overnight stop, covering around 20km. The second “short course” stage will start below the Baroda bridge and takes in 26km to the race finish in Cradock, with the strict rule that all short course paddlers will have to portage Cradock Weir. The multi-stage “short course” race has been designated a BR River Marathon by Canoeing South Africa, putting it within reach of novice paddlers who have not yet attained the AR proficiency required to do the full marathon.
The race is aiming at creating a feeder for future years paddlers by creating the opportunity for up-and-coming paddlers to experience the unique river and the atmosphere synonymous with the Hansa Fish. The first novice (paddler involved in their first season of paddling) to complete the “short course” will win a brand new K1 kayak from Knysna Racing Kayaks. News of the innovative “short course” option has travelled fast and been warmly welcomed, with numerous schools and clubs now able to get less experienced paddlers involved in the popular two=-day event in the Klein Karoo.
The organisers have gone to great lengths to stress that every entrant will be screened to make sure they have passed the required river proficiency tests to take part in a B grade race. There will be no qualifier race requirements. The short course races will start once the bulk of the field has passed the designated “short-course” starts on each stage. The race will have extra safety personnel on duty on the two “short-course” sections as well as extra Sweeps, who will be authorised to instruct any paddler to leave the water if it becomes clear that they are not competent enough to handle the conditions.
The Hansa Fish River Canoe marathon takes place on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 October 2014.
More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za