N3TC Drak Challenge
Drak marshalls brush up river rescue skills
Underberg – With the N3TC Drak Challenge just weeks away, and the influx of
holiday makers leading to a significant increase on recreational users of
the uMzimkhulu River, the local marshalls club has completed a river rescue
refresher course to enable them to best deal with any crisis that might
The N3TC Drak Challenge is ably managed by the KZN Canoe Union safety team
under Rob Hill, but key danger points are manned by men and women from the
Sani Search Volunteers ready to provide assistance should a paddler get
injured or entrapped in the river.
The volunteers have completed a refresher course with experienced local Mark
Willment brushing up on the best practices for river rescue, using the
Glenhaven rapid outside Underberg as their training base.
Willment is fully confident in Hill’s KNCU sweep and safety team, but says
the Sani Search volunteers provide a vital service to the race.
"These guys are all part of the Mountain Rescue Club, and in fact we are in
the process of amalgamating with them formally," said Willment.
"They are well prepared to carry out rescues at major rapids like Black
Murray and Glenhaven, where they will be deployed on raceday, and the course
we conducted went through all the protocols for rapid rescue, foot
entrapments and rescue swimmers," he said.
He added that being a mountain rescue squad they were best equipped to hike
into remote areas to assist with rescues if needed, a reality given the
numerous major rapids scattered in between the more accessible major rapids.
"We are all active in the mountain rescue squad, and these guys and girls
have all the climbing and rope skills that will be needed if there is a
remote rescue. They are incredibly versatile," said Willment.
He said that the capacity of the local river rescue squad has been
dramatically improved by the donation of specialised rescue equipment from
the race sponsors N3TC last year.
"It has made a huge difference! We have specialised rescue life jackets and
ropes, we have an inflatable croc that allows us to access any part of the
river now, no matter how remote, and we have been training using the croc in
specialised situations at weirs as well.
"They have indicated that they will be making another donation this year,
which we have earmarked for more equipment, like small sit-on-top kayaks
that will really help our rescue capacity," said Willment.
"Swift water rescue is a really specialised field, and for a group like the
Sani Search volunteers it is always a work in progress. we have to keep
holding clinics and workshops to make sure we are up to speed with the best
techniques and skills.
"It is holiday season now and there will be a lot of recreational trippers
enjoying the uMzimkhulu on all sorts of craft. Hopefully it will be an
incident free holiday season, but it is good to know that if there is a
drama there is a uniquely skilled and committed group of men and women that
can be deployed to respond and help," he added.
The 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon takes place in the Southern
Drakensberg on 21 and 22 January 2017.
More information can be found at
Click to download the hi-res
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2017 Logo - JPeg
Members of the Sani Search
Volunteers undergo a river rescue refresher course with mark Willment in
Glenhaven rapid as part of their preparations for the N3TC Drak Challenge
Canoe Marathon on 21 and 22 January 2017..
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