OK!!!! I am back.
A week in Underberg and 10 days in the Eastern Cape have fired up the batteries.
Looking at the provisional paddling calendar here, we are in for, yet another frenetic year of racing.
Last year rounded itself off well with a successful Cape Point Challenge. Now in its 30th year.
With the local Cape weather not being overly cooperative, the organisers were forced, yet again, to resort to a course within False Bay.
Uli Hart and Kira Bester proved to be the strongest of their respective classes, securing gold against an impressive array of current and previous champions.
The rains over the Christmas period provided ideal conditions for paddling in Underberg, with a full river for almost a fortnight. The last race of the year, the Fast Drak, was enjoyed by a larger field than expected, with local star Scott Little enjoying victory on a swollen river.
Into the new year, and the local river season in KZN has got off to a flying start.
The Midmar Canoe Club raised the bar with a superbly organised race on the Lions river last Sunday.
Hank proved that he had not joined the mince pie brigade over the festive season, pipping young Matthew Fenn by a mere 4 seconds, with Siseko Ntondini a minute further back. Three podium positions with 3 paddlers from different provinces. Some exceptionally encouraging result statistics with the vast majority of the top 25 finishers coming from the U23, senior and U18 age groups. In fact, Hank and Thulani were the only paddlers from a veteran class in the top 30.
In the women's race the win was decided on a short run up the bank, with Christie MacKenzie edging out the evergreen Bridgitte Hartley by a couple of seconds, with Jordan Peek less than a minute behind in third.
Besides the Drak Challenge, all of the river races over the next 3 weekends will focus on Dusi style formats, in preparation for the iconic trip from PMB to Durban on the 16 - 18 of next month.
This Sunday is the Lighthouse Design Ozzie Gladwin, starting on a very full Albert Falls Dam. Traditionally the largest one day race in the country, participants will have the added advantage of a pumping river. The flow out of the dam was 85 cumecs yesterday, and has dropped to 64 today. There is no rain forecast, so it should be down to a fantastic level by Sunday.
Next weekend will see a double header with the SMG 50-Miler being held on Saturday and the Inanda to Durban race being held on Sunday. From recent reports, it appears that the recent flooding has significantly changed some of the historical rapids on the stretch below the Inanda Dam, on the way to Durban. Many of the Dusi stalwarts, who know every rock in the valley may well find themselves on a completely different river, come race day, if they have not had an opportunity to trip. The rest will just close their eyes and pray, like we often do.
The next major event of the CSA calendar is the JCC 2 Day Klip on 21-22 January, the weekend before the N3TC Drak Challenge, taking place on the 28 - 29 of this month.
With the river levels having been as consistently high as they have over the past couple of months, the organisers are expecting a repeat of last year's superb conditions.
Irrespective of the water level, the Drak weekend never fails to be special, with such a variety of activities for the entire family.
Race organisers out of the top drawer and a superb vibe make this one of the most memorable trips of the year.
As usual, the premier "off river" contest takes place at the Underberg Country Club on Saturday afternoon during the annual Drak Golf Day, where bragging rights are determined over 9 holes of ferocious battle. The winners being presented with the largest trophy in golfing history "The Beast". Many talented individuals travel from all corners of the country to concentrate on their golf result, using the river race as a side show.
Out at sea, the Marine summer series starts on Friday with a new and exciting format incorporating a run and a malibu board race. The 7 race series will continue on almost every Friday evening until the middle of March, with a R1000 lucky draw at each event.
Some admin news is that CSA will be hosting its AGM on the 30th of this month. If you have any issues you wish to raise, please let your club and union representatives know.
That's all for this week.
And the joke:
I was at the bar the other night and overheard three very hefty women talking.
Their accent appeared to be Scottish, so I approached and said: "Hello, are you three lassies from Scotland?"
One of them angrily screeched: "It's Wales. Wales, you idiot!"
So I apologized and replied: "I am so sorry. Are you three whales from Scotland?"
And that's the last thing I remember…