Adventure Sport

River level puzzler at Breede

2011-08-29 18:20
Pierre-Andre Rabie (File)
Cape Town - The big field that has entered the Hansa Breede canoe marathon this weekend is anxiously watching the wet weather forecast for this week and wondering whether any of the predicted heavy rainfall will result in a full river for the race.

It usually takes three days for heavy rainfall in the Ceres mountains to have a significant impact on the level of the Breede river at the start outside Robertson. However, despite the forecast of rain all week, the heavier rainfall only looks set for Thursday and Friday, which may just be too late for the paddlers hoping for a full and fast flowing river for the event, which also decides the Western Cape K2 championship titles.

Last weekend paddlers racing on the river and scouting the course for the Breede marathon enjoyed around 57 cumecs of water, but the level was dropping noticeably over the weekend.

The previous weekend paddlers racing the first day of the marathon course bumped and scraped downriver on a miserly 9 cumec water flow.

"My guess at this stage is that we will have a flow of around 20 cumecs for the race come start-time on Saturday morning," said race committee chair Richard Kohler. "If the rainfall gets heavy later in the week, it might well be too late to make any major impact on the river by the start of the race."

The nature of the race is heavily moulded by the amount of water in the Breede river. At a low level the weirs and rocky drops become brutal on canoes and equipment, as race leader Pierre-Andre Rabie and UCT student Andrew Birkett found out when they folded their kevlar K2 shooting a weir in the closing stages of last weekend's race.

In addition the many long flat pools become energy sapping and demanding, particularly if there is little or no natural flow of the river to help the crews downriver.

The big field that has already entered the Breede includes a number of K3 craft, which will be tough going in moderate river levels and are better suited to fuller river conditions.

Fuller rivers pose a different set of challenges, particularly at the low level bridges that spans the river at regular intervals along the route.

The Breede River Canoe Marathon gets under way outside Robertson on Saturday 3 September and ends outside Swellendam on Sunday 4 September. Normal entries will be taken until midnight on Friday 26 August.


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