N3TC Drak Challenge 2017 Media Release

 No: drak1721

19 Jan 2017

Embargo : None

Written by: Nick Tatham

Paddlers gearing up for exciting N3TC Drak Challenge

Underberg – As the summer rains replenish water stocks throughout the Southern Drakensberg, paddlers from all over the country will be making the journey to Underberg to tackle what is expected to be one of the best N3TC Drak Challenge’s in a number of years when the race gets underway on Saturday.

The small town of Underberg has been a hive of activity throughout the festive period with people enjoying the full and clean water that the uMzimkulu River, after two lean years as the drought strangled the usual summer rainfalls.. Not only will there be some of the best river paddlers in the world there but also many paddlers who have rediscovered their love for the sport.

With the race entry comfortably exceeding the previous year it is easy to see that people enjoy the laid back, country atmosphere that the event provides and with the favourable rains and exciting water level, the residents of the greater Underberg and Himeville region are ready to turn on their traditional warm hospitality for everyone attending the event this weekend.

At the narrow end of the field there are a number of paddlers champing at the bit to break the three year streak that Andy Birkett has been on. The Euro Steel star has been imperious at the Drak Challenge and it is going to be another tall ask if anyone is to dethrone the 25 year old.

The one man amongst the top contenders who has also succeeded on a plethora of occasions at the Drak Challenge is the ever-green Hank McGregor.

Euro Steel/Kayak Centre’s McGregor, who has won the Drak Challenge three times himself from 2010 to 2012, didn’t finish the 2016 edition of the race due to illness and with conditions predicted to be fuller than the previous three McGregor will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.

There will be a number of under the radar contenders with the likes of Owen Gandar, who finished third in 2016, Euro Steel’s Andrew Houston as well as 2013 champion Grant van der Walt on the start list.

The women’s race could shape up to be one of the most exciting yet as Euro Steel’s Abby Solms attempts to become the most decorated Drak Challenge paddler – she is aiming for her seventh win at the two-day event.

Hunting her down will be a relative newbie to KZN river marathon paddling in the form of Euro Steel’s Bridgitte Hartley. The 2012 Olympic sprint bronze medallist has shown that the transition from flat water to river paddling has not been too difficult and if she can stay dry she will be in with a shout.

The women’s field will be a strong one; however it does not seem that there will be any challenge to Solms and Hartley at the front of the race with Jenna Ward, having recently returned from a holiday in South-East Asia, and young Kyeta Purchase being the most likely to compete for that third spot on the podium.

The race will also see a number of milestones reached as a number of paddlers approach their tenth Drak Challenge however the accolades must go to Kirsten Oliver who is lining up her 20th assault on the Drak Challenge.

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 www.drak.co.za


Photo Caption Photographer Click to download the hi-res pic
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2017 Logo - JPeg


With three consecutive titles to his name, Euro Steel's Andy Birkett will have the favourites tag on his back at the 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Having won the ladies race on six previous occasions, Euro Steel's Abby Solms will be hoping to become the most decorated paddler with a seventh win at the 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

With three wins to his name, Euro Steel/Kayak Centre's Hank McGregor will look to make it a fourth at the 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Could he upset the apple cart? Owen Gandar, who came third in 2016, could spring a surprise at the 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

It is going to be a memorable year for Kirsten Oliver as she prepares to join a select few before her as she takes on her 20th N3TC Drak Challenge this weekend. Jetline Action Photo/
Gameplan Media

The welcome rain that the Drakensberg has experienced in the past few weeks has meant that the uMzimkhulu River is flowing at a level that will excite all paddlers at the upcoming N3TC Drak Challenge. Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

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