Dusi Canoe Marathon

Drought sets tone for old-school Dusi

2015-02-11 13:22
Henley Dam (Dusi Archives/Gameplan Media)

Pietermaritzburg - With just a week to go to the 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon, the big field of paddlers that has entered the three day epic from Pietermaritzburg to Durban from February 19-21 is sizing up the prospect of a race harking back to the tough pioneering days thanks to the drought that has gripped the region this summer.

Despite recent thunderstorms, storage dams are still well below expected levels and several regions of the province are feeling the brunt of water restrictions. For the Dusi paddlers this means that the luxury of water releases that have been a hallmark of the modern Dusi will be noticeably reduced.

This has however triggered a buzz of excitement for some paddlers as the race, which this year pays tribute to race founder and pioneering conservationist Dr Ian Player, returns to its classic endurance format of racing the rivers “as you find them.”

“We never used to have all these water releases,” said Dusi stalwart Nigel Briggs, who is sizing up his 40th Dusi medal this year. “I am excited to race what will be more like a classic Dusi than what we have had for many years.”

“With the 2015 Dusi honouring Dr Ian Player, I think it is fitting and appropriate that we are heading for an old-school style Dusi this year,” he added.

With that said, the rivers certainly won’t be empty. Thanks to a sound relationship between the Dusi and Umgeni Water, there will be water in the Msundusi and Mngeni Rivers coming from some of the storage dams.

According to Kevin Trodd, who manages these water releases on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Union, the paddlers can look forward to more water than he initially expected.

“We all know the severity of the current water situation, even though the Mngeni system is not under as much pressure as the North and South Coast regions,” said Trodd.

He was able to confirm that the final stage from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon in Durban will be run on a release of 20 cumecs for 18 hours, more water than many experts were predicting.

“Umgeni Water understands our needs and holds the Dusi in high esteem, which we are very grateful for!” said Trodd, who explained that the water released from Inanda Dam will be almost entirely compensated for by water coming into the dam from the Msundusi.

“We have been given one million cubic metres of water from Inanda Dam for the final stage, which is exciting news for the paddlers. While it is less than the 30 to 35 cumecs they often enjoy on the leg below Inanda dam, it is more than we were expecting.”

“We have also secured the usual water release from Henley Dam above Pietermaritzburg, which totals about 900 000 cubic metres of water, which will flow down the Dusi into the Mngeni and eventually end up in Inanda Dam, effectively replacing the water that will be released.

The small Henley Dam is not a water supply dam, making releases from the dam possible for canoeing events. The dam can effectively be emptied by a water release for a race such as the Dusi and then filled again in around a week.

Trodd added that Umgeni Water was mindful of the ecological need for regular water flow from major dams such as Inanda to simulate natural summer river flows to help keep vegetation in check.

Trodd said that there was no undertaking for a significant water release from Nagle Dam, which will impact on the second stage of the race.

“Nagle Dam is filling and there is usually a small release into the Mngeni when they routinely test the sluice gates,” said Trodd. “This is unlikely to be a significant amount this year though and it will be carefully timed to ensure that it is in the system for the lower sections of the second stage of Dusi.”

Meanwhile race bosses will closely monitor the effect that the 20 cumec release has on the major Island Rapid on the final stage, which has been the subject of major earthworks as the water pipeline feeding the northern eThekwini region is being buried beneath the Mngeni River.

Two thirds of the excavations have been completed and the pipeline has been laid under the left hand side of the river, with the right hand channel – occasionally used by braver, more experienced paddlers to shoot the rapid – still open.

“Until the water starts to flow we will have no idea how the rapid will behave,” said Dusi Canoe Marathon General Manager, Brett Austen Smith.

“The water may break through on the left channel where the excavations and temporary road are, or the water might all channel down the right which will change the nature of that rapid a lot.

“We will have marshals there on the day to assess it and make the right calls in terms of whether the right hand channel is shootable and where best to let paddlers portage on the left.”

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 February 2015. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

Read more on:    dusi canoe marathon  |  canoeing

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