CAPE TOWN – Sweeping changes have been made to the format of the iconic Berg River Canoe Marathon that will take place from Paarl to Velddrif from July 11-14 2018, modernising the race and adapting to suggestions from paddlers.
The biggest change is the conversion of the race, which has been a solo challenge since its inception in 1962, to a two-person team event, mirroring the trend the has become popular in mountain biking.
“The Berg is a tough challenge, and it really lends itself to a team format,” said race committee chairman Andre Collins.
“Every paddler goes through some tough patches on the 240 kilometres between Paarl and Velddrif, especially on the long 75km third stage. The team dynamic will make the event special, as the teammates will help each other through the tough times,” said Collins.
“It will introduce a whole new dynamic to the competitive race, which we believe will make the Berg an even more exciting spectacle to watch,” he said.
Collins said the race would accommodate the paddlers who still wanted to take on the challenge in a K1 as they have done in previous years, and said they would be started in batches behind the team paddlers.
He added that the relay option would also be available, allowing fewer fit paddlers and novices to take on the race in a team of three paddling portions of each stage.
Collins said that the competitive categories will all be decided in the team format, with the slower of the two paddlers determining the team’s time on each stage.
He added that they were looking to insist that the team stays together, and should never be more than 300 metres apart at any stage in the race.
“This is tricky to enforce, but the intention is clear,” he said.
The other big change is the scrapping of the pre-race time trial that was used in years gone by to determine the seeding on the front row of the elite A batch.
“The CSA Ladder is now so accurate that we can simply seed the batches according to the Canoeing South Africa Ladder,” said Collins.
“We also respect that athletes are involving themselves in more and different sporting codes, and that finding leave is getting tougher. By scrapping the time trial we have saved one day's leave needed for the race,” said Collins.
“There is a strong demand to do the Berg, as it is widely seen as the toughest canoeing marathon in the world. These changes should make this easier and more accessible,” he said.