N3TC Drak Challenge
Birkett back to defend his Drak title
Underberg – Two-time defending N3TC Drak Challenge champion Andy Birkett has
confirmed that he will be back to contest the 2016 edition of the two-day
race on 23 and 24 January, saying that he will be ready for whatever
conditions the Southern Drakensberg weather throws at him.
"I am amped!" said Birkett. "It seems to have crept up on me and suddenly I
am getting excited to be back on the Mzimkhulu again."
Birkett's summer season is focused on the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon in
February, where he will be paddling with his new partner, and former FNB
Dusi K1 winner Lance Kime. The middle of January however will see the Team
Euro Steel pair settle into their K1s as they prepare together for the Drak
"It's actually such good Dusi training," said Birkett. "We spend a good few
weeks training in Underberg because the river is such good fun and the water
is so clean, and when it comes to running you are spoilt for choice.
"It is a technically demanding paddle, no matter what the river level is
like. The first stage is not long but you are really tired at the end of it
because it is so demanding.
"It is tough, stop-start paddling as there are so many rapids and shelves,
and the racing is usually really aggressive because of that.
"That makes it excellent Dusi training as it really sharpens your boat
skills. There is nowhere to hide on the Drak, especially on the top
section," said Birkett.
Having won the K1 title for the last two years, Birkett will start as the
clear favourite to scoop a hat-trick of N3TC Drak Challenge wins and equal
the record of three consecutive K1 wins held by Hank McGregor.
His Dusi partner, Kime, will turn into a serious adversary on the Mzimkhulu
in January, as he also ranks the Drak Challenge as one of his favourite
races of the year.
Birkett is not fazed by the currently low level of the Upper Mzimkhulu given
the prevailing drought, and heaped praise on the organisers last year for
their decision to run the race over its full 62km distance, despite the low
"Sure we all want full rivers all the time, but we have no choice with the
current drought, and the Mzimkhulu in particular is heavily dependent on
"At a low level it is still a fantastic paddle, and the fact that so many
people enjoyed last year’s race from the top (from Castleburn bridge) when
the river was low proved that it was the right decision by the race
committee," said Birkett.
Birkett and Kime will spend the first part of their FNB Dusi training phase
in Plettenberg Bay, one of his favoured training destinations, before they
move to the Southern Berg early in the new year to prepare for the Drak
Challenge and the Dusi.
The N3TC Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday 23 and
Sunday 24 January 2016.
information can be found at www.drak.co.za
Click to download the hi-res
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2016 Logo - JPeg
Euro Steel's Andy Birkett has
confirmed he will be back to defend his title at the N3TC Drak Challenge on 23 and 24 January 2016.
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