N3TC Drak Challenge
All systems go for 2016 N3TC Drak Challenge
Underberg - The organisers of the weekend’s N3TC Drak Challenge have given
the green light for the popular paddling race to go ahead as scheduled on
Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 January, ending months of speculation about the
water level in the uMzimkhulu River that has been hard hit by drought.
Following a thunderstorm high in the Southern Drakensberg that sent the
levels of the river up by over half a metre last week, race committee
members have been closely monitoring the level of the uMzimkhulu at four
points along the 65km race course and have been gratified to see that the
surge has had a significant positive effect on the overall river level.
“The base level has definitely improved after last week’s storm!” said race
committee head Barry Cole.
“We can now confidently say that the race will go ahead this weekend and we
have all the infrastructure heading to Underberg this week ahead of the
race,” he added.
“At worst it will be a low level start at the Trout Hatcheries, which our
paddlers are familiar with,” said Cole. “There are thunderstorms forecast
for every day this week though, including decent rain forecast for Friday,
and if that falls in the right place then we will not hesitate to start the
race at the usual start at Castleburn.”
Last year the race bosses took the courageous decision to start the race
from Castleburn despite the river running at a level below the footings at
the bridge, which had been for many years the widely accepted cut-off level
for racing from the top of the river.
The big field of paddlers responded warmly to this decision and almost all
of them thoroughly enjoyed the technical demands of the Valley of a Thousand
Rapids at a low level, including eventual race winner Andy Birkett who
showered praise on the race organisers for their brave decision.
Cole said that the recent rise in the base flow of the river had come at
just the right time for the race, after the annual FastDrak race had to be
postponed at the end of December because the base flow of the river was too
low to race on.
The race has been providing daily photo updates of the river levels on their
website, Facebook and Twitter accounts to ensure that paddlers are fully
aware of exactly what is happening on the river.
The event has also bent over backwards to accommodate uncertain paddlers by
scrapping their early entry deadline, dropping late entry penalty fees and
extending entries until 6pm on Thursday, 21 January.
In 2003 the race took the decision to make the N3TC Drak Challenge a K1 race
for the competitive paddlers.
"This section really is best suited to K1s, no matter what the water
levels," said Cole. "We have always allowed paddlers to bring up both K2s
and K1s to the race, and if they have entered in a K2 and they see that the
river is not that full they can easily swop to K1 entries."
The efforts have not gone unnoticed by the paddlers, who have been on the
receiving end of several races being cancelled due to low river conditions
“It can't be easy, especially with the terribly low river, but you have kept
us updated every day and you truly have the paddlers' best interests at
heart,” said paddler Pete Jacobs on the N3TC Drak Challenge Facebook page.
“It reminds me of why we love this race... it's paddling in its purest form,
on what nature provides us on the day. Hopefully we see some good rain
falling for the race!” he added.
The race committee has vowed to keep up the daily river updates during the
week and encouraged keen paddlers to follow their Facebook and Twitter
“If we have serious rain on Friday night then the final call on the race
start will be made early on Saturday morning” said Cole. “So it is
imperative that paddlers keep an eye on our social media accounts and our
website if there is any uncertainty.”
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
Paddler and race official Lauren
Canham confirms the go-ahead for the N3TC Drak Challenge this weekend, while
storm clouds build above Castleburn bridge in the Southern Drakensberg.
A big field thrived on the
medium to low conditions of the Mzimklhulu River at last years N3TC Drak
Challenge. Entries for this years event have started pouring in following
news of a well-placed cloudburst that has seen the river level rise
significantly for the first time this summer, ten days before the popular
two-day race in the Southern Drakensberg.
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