With a record entry for the KZN Canoe Marathon Championships in Pietermaritzburg on the weekend, the preparations for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships from 4 to 10 September shifted up an important gear as the local organising committee started fine tuning logistics for the global showcase, now just 45 days away.
Over 280 local paddlers raced across the Junior, Under 23, Senior and the Masters age groups, contesting the K1 titles on the Saturday and the K2s on the Sunday, with the course and set-up getting widespread approval from the participants and spectators.
“The atmosphere at the KZN Champs was fantastic,” said Andy Birkett, silver medallist at last year’s World Championships. “Often the KZN Marathon Champs is boring and slow, but this weekend was unbelievable.
“For those that are waiting to race, the venue is so cool because you can almost see all the action on the course, which makes Camps Drift so unique as a marathon venue,” he added. “Especially that last ‘hot lap’ where you can see the last turn and the sprint for the line, it makes it so exciting for the spectators.
“The buzz around the club is really special. You can sense that the World Champs is just around the corner,” Birkett elaborated. “We got down to training the other day and it looked like a race was on because there were over sixty people on the water training.
“And that is what we are experiencing at all the clubs across South Africa,” he added.
“The feedback was very positive, and we feel that we are moving in the right direction,” said organising committee chairman Steve Botha.
“We made changes to some of the infrastructure, like the batching and check-in process, and this was a clear improvement. That is what we want from the KZN Champs and SA Champs – to learn how to keep doing things better, and to use these events as dress rehearsals for the World in September.
Botha confirmed that the next phase of the preparations had already started when the level of the water in the Drift was lowered and the dredging of the entire course was about to commence.
The municipality was cleaning up the banks and grass areas around the course, and the reconditioning of the road to the venue was also due to get under way.
Botha confirmed that the event would have a typically KwaZulu-Natal flavour, and was thrilled to confirm that the award-winning Kearsney College choir would be performing at the opening ceremony on Wednesday 6 September.