Underberg - Two-time defending N3TC Drak Challenge champion Andy Birkett has
confirmed that he will be back to contest the 2016 edition of the two-day race
on January 23-24, saying that he will be ready for whatever conditions the
Southern Drakensberg weather throws at him.
"I am amped!" said Birkett.
"It seems to have crept up on me and
suddenly I am getting excited to be back on the Mzimkhulu again."
Birkett's summer season is focused on the 2016 Dusi Canoe Marathon in
February, where he will be paddling with his new partner, and former Dusi
K1 winner Lance Kime.
The middle of January however will see the Team Euro
Steel pair settle into their K1s as they prepare together for the Drak
"It's actually such good Dusi training," said Birkett.
a good few weeks training in Underberg because the river is such good fun and
the water is so clean, and when it comes to running you are spoilt for choice.
"It is a technically demanding paddle, no matter what the river level is
like. The first stage is not long but you are really tired at the end of it
because it is so demanding.
"It is tough, stop-start paddling as there are so many rapids and shelves,
and the racing is usually really aggressive because of that.
"That makes it excellent Dusi training as it really sharpens your boat
skills. There is nowhere to hide on the Drak, especially on the top
section," said Birkett.
Having won the K1 title for the last two years, Birkett will start as the clear
favourite to scoop a hat-trick of N3TC Drak Challenge wins and equal the record
of three consecutive K1 wins held by Hank McGregor.
His Dusi partner, Kime, will turn into a serious adversary on the Mzimkhulu in
January, as he also ranks the Drak Challenge as one of his favourite races of
Birkett is not fazed by the currently low level of the Upper Mzimkhulu given
the prevailing drought, and heaped praise on the organisers last year for their
decision to run the race over its full 62km distance, despite the low river
"Sure we all want full rivers all the time, but we have no choice with the
current drought, and the Mzimkhulu in particular is heavily dependent on
"At a low level it is still a fantastic paddle, and the fact that so many
people enjoyed last year’s race from the top (from Castleburn bridge) when the
river was low proved that it was the right decision by the race
committee," said Birkett.
Birkett and Kime will spend the first part of their FNB Dusi training phase in
Plettenberg Bay, one of his favoured training destinations, before they move to
the Southern Berg early in the new year to prepare for the Drak Challenge and
The N3TC Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday 23 and Sunday, January 24, 2016.
More information can be found at www.drak.co.za