Underberg - After the successful KZN Mixed Doubles Champs on the weekend, the Drak Challenge has added a team event to its race options, allowing paddlers to enter as two K1 craft, and enjoy the popular two-day outing on the uMzimkhulu through Underberg on January 20 and 21.
Initiated in 2016, the Mixed Doubles Champs organised by Canyon Kayak Club allowed mixed crews to enter either in a K2 or as two K1s, adding a new dimension to the racing, particularly if low river conditions favour singles over doubles.
With the race entry almost doubling after the 2016 debut of the format, paddlers have given the new team option their support, driving the Drak Challenge organisers to add this as an option to the race entry.
"It was good fun and a very social way to race," said Clinton Cook, who partnered Kerry Segal to a third place in the Mixed Doubles contest, racing as two K1s.
"We could help each other and motivate one another, and you get the feeling that you have done the race, but you have done it together, which is unusual in paddling."
"The Drak is a popular race with everyday paddlers who enjoy sharing the clean river, the fun of the rapids and the scenery, so adding a team option seems like a good idea," said race committee head Andrew Barnett.
"It will not be a competitive category, but we will recognise the teams at the race prize giving. The fastest team will get two lemon meringue pies from Pucketty Farm!" he quipped.
The team format has already been picked up by the Berg River Canoe Marathon, but at a full blown competitive level for 2018, mirroring the norm at major mountain bike stage races.
Practically, Barnett said that two paddlers keen to enter as a team would need to enter as a K2 an then register their team as two K1s at registration the day before the race. The teams time would be taken by the slowest paddler's time on each stage.
"Team racing is a lot of fun because it adds that extra dimension to the race," said Barnett. "It means that you have the responsibility to look after your partner.
"If your partner takes a swim, you can stop and help them. If they run into some technical admin you can lend a hand.
"And while the first day is a short, sharp fun day, the second day is flatter and longer and everyone hits the wall at some stage, so it would be great to have a partner on hand to help you through those rough patches."
The Drak Challenge starts at Castleburn on Saturday, January 20 with a 24 kilometre stage to Sinister Pool, just above the Swartberg Road Bridge.
The second stage on Sunday, January 21 is 36 kilometres finishing at Early Mist Farm close to Coleford resort.
More information can be found at www.drak.co.za