Pietermaritzburg - Among over a thousand
paddlers that will start the Dusi Canoe Marathon are a handful of die-hard enthusiasts who have completed the race
dozens of times.
Many of the Dusi aficionados who are
targeting their 30th and 40th medals say this is what they want from the
country's premier canoeing event taking place at the Camps Drift on Thursday, February 16.
"We've been spoilt, there no doubt about that," said four-time Dusi winner John
Edmonds, who will be eyeing his 40 medal.
"The essence of this race is to take
it on as your find it, water or no water."
Whether racing hard for a top position or racing socially as many of the older
paddler do, the challenge of completing the 120km, three day classic remains
the same for every participant.
With the dams in the uMngeni catchment area severely depleted, there is no
water release likely from Nagle or Inanda dams, and the race will be carried by
the water coming out of the obsolete Henley dam outside Pietermaritzburg for
the first two days.
Add to that the encroachment of water hyacinth and the participants in this
year's race may well find themselves doing more running than usual on the Dusi.
For master paddler Alan France, who is aiming for his 30th Dusi medal, this
comes with the territory.
"This is the Dusi! You never know what you are going to get, and the fun part
is just having to deal with it," said France.
"When I think back to the Dusi in the 80s, one of us ran most of the way while
the other paddled the double through the empty river!
"Whether it is in flood or bitterly low there is such a great vibe about this
event that it is a 'must-do' in my eyes.
"The race is all about the spirit and camaraderie than times and results," said
France, who will be paddling with longstanding partner Russell Solomon.
Mark Perrow is another former winner of the race who is going for his 30th Dusi
medal. Originally part of a strong Gauteng racing group, Perrow is settled on
the KZN north coast, and says the Dusi is in his blood.
"I have done five with my father-in-law, two with my wife and now I want to do
two with my daughters," said Perrow.
"The greatest news ever is that I have my wife back as a second because I am
doing it with my daughter Alice this year - it will be her first Dusi.
"I hear it will be really low, which does make me nervous, but I know what
racing a low Dusi is all about.
"I raced in 1983 as a novice on a low river, in a home-made wild water boat
that weighed nearly 25kgs. So I am not stressed.
"When you aren't racing for places or prizes the Dusi is all about having fun,
and that's what I plan to do," said Perrow.
Paddlers with 20 or more finishes to their names are afforded the luxury of
starting in special early morning batches reserved for the races most avid
All eyes will be on Lyle Wheeler, who is levelling the record for the most race
medals with the late "Dusi King" Graeme Pope-Ellis, with 46 finishes in the
race that looks set to live up to its billing as the "Ultimate Canoe Challenge"
Paddlers aiming to complete their 30th Dusi:
Manie Visser, Luke Doig, Vaughan
Armstrong, Hugh Cocksedge, Peter Mountford, Derek Holdsworth, Gary Waud, Alan
France, Rob Kirby, Gordon Bateman, Mark Perrow
Paddlers aiming to complete their 40th Dusi:
Stuart Dixon, Damon Clark, John