Words: Kyle Gilham | Photo: Anthony Grote
The character testing Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon’s 2014 showdown on Friday 28 February has been given the green on the a safety and security front as organisers look to safeguard all paddlers throughout their exhausting challenge from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
After women’s title contender Anna Adamová of the Czech republic was stuck on her shoulder and the back of her head by rocks thrown at her from the river banks a few kilometres before reaching the finish line of this year’s Dusi Canoe Marathon, organisers of this year’s Non-Stop Dusi have assured all participants that they have taken every precaution possible to ensure similar incidents won’t occur during this year’s ‘Dusi in a day’.
“We had no incidents reported to us on day one and two of this year’s Dusi and the incident involving Anna on day three involved young, unsupervised school kids who were mischievous rather than malicious,” explained the Dusi Canoe marathon’s safety and security officer, Brad Glasspoole.
“Anna’s incident during Dusi was extremely unfortunate and for this year’s Non-Stop Dusi we will have special security in place to ensure nothing like this happens again,” added Natal canoe Club General Manager, Brett Austen-Smith.
The unique event sees participants head from Natal Canoe Club’s headquarters at Camps Drift to Blue Lagoon in just a single day via a similar route to that of the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon.
There are however a few shortcuts, particularly towards the end of Dusi’s first stage and early parts of the second, that participants of the Non-Stop Dusi happily welcome, especially given the usual tough water level, traditional high temperatures and exhausting length of the challenge.
“Paddlers are required to get themselves from the start to the finish within the rules of the race, however the actual race route is, to a point, left open for the participants to determine individually as they see fit,” said official event time-keeper and long standing KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Union administrator John Olivier.
“There are four compulsory points all paddlers have to pass under or through, otherwise it is left up to those taking part to find their fastest way to Durban,” he added.
The four compulsory points require paddlers to pass under College Road Bridge as well as through the three checkpoints on the Finger Neck portage, at Mfula Store and on the Inanda Dam Wall portage with a 09h30 and 14h30 cut-off time imposed at the Finger Neck and Inanda Dam Wall points respectively.
Starting at Camps Drift, paddlers first head for Ernie Pearce Weir with many of the race’s front-runners opting to get out just above the double story drop and run the early part of the course.
Some years ago the streets of Pietermaritzburg became a hive of paddlers and boats on Non-Stop Dusi day as some looked to run their way down to as far as Low Level Bridge on Woodhouse Road or even Darvil’s Sewage Works.
“Many years ago there was even talk of the Edmonds brothers running from the clubhouse all the way to Mission Rapid because they had worked out that it would be 5km shorter, which would give them about a 25 minute lead!” explained Dusi Duke and six time Non-Stop Dusi winner Martine Dreyer.
“That was when the rule that all paddlers must go under College Road Bridge was brought in,” he added.
Today though, while some of the back-markers still look to head down Ernie Pearce Weir and paddle the traditional Dusi course’s first few kilometres, most of the race’s top contenders will run through Alexandra Park before putting in just below Commercial Road Weir.
‘The Hop’ at the sewage works is the second brief change to the Dusi route that Non-Stoppers will experience before returning to the traditional Dusi first stage course until shortly before the first stage’s finish at Dusi Bridge.
A jump over the hill at Yellow Rock, 1,5km upstream of Dusi stage one’s finish line, sees paddlers avoid the Dusi bridge stretch before a run down the D1004 to Marianni Foley causeway cuts out the well-known Saddles 1 and 2 portages, Confluence Rapid, Washing Machine Rapid, the brief Ibis Point portage and Gauging Weir.
A Dusi-like journey from Marianni Foley to the headwaters of Inanda Dam takes paddlers to the brink of Dusi’s second stage’s finish line however paddlers are spared a portion of the mind-numbing 14km of flat water by the leg-stretching Inanda Dam portage.
“If it’s really low then some of the tops guys may even jump out and run a short stretch here and there and cut the odd corner between Marianni Foley and Inanda Dam,” explained Dreyer.
“The Inanda Dam portage really is a saviour though! Without it that dam stretch would just be an absolute killer!”
The usual portage around the dam wall puts paddlers onto the popular stretch of the lower uMngeni River and leaves them with only one more major decision to make before they get to the finish line at Blue Lagoon – whether to run the notorious Burma Road portage or to paddle around.
Pumphouse Weir and Rapid, Dog-leg Rapid and Mango Rapid pose the final few obstacles before paddlers are greeted with the welcome finish straight towards the finish line at Kingfisher Canoe Club.
The leading men are expected at Blue Lagoon around 13h00 on Friday 28 February having started at 05h30 that same morning with the leading women estimated to cross the finish line at 14h30. More info can be found at www.nonstopdusi.co.za