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Sport
Virtual Ultra Paddle to replace the Berg this year

The cancellation of this year’s Berg River Canoe Marathon has prompted race organisers to arrange a ground-breaking virtual race.

The Ultra Paddle will allow canoeists around the world to take part in a show of solidarity and share in enthusiasm for the 59-year-old classic event and raise money to support Canoeing South Africa’s food relief programme.

The four-day, 240 km race from Paarl to Velddrif, which was scheduled to start on Wednesday 8 July, usually attracts a core of paddlers keen to test themselves against the river, weather and sheer distance in one of the toughest canoe races in the world.

The virtual race will be accessible to a far wider audience, and paddlers will have to cover the 240 km before the end of July.

“One of the realities of this lockdown is that the average paddler is far less fit than he or she would be at this time of the year and it would be irresponsible to ask them to cover distances such as 75 km in a day, as they do on the third stage of the Berg,” race organiser Brandon Macleod said.

“As an event and as a sport overall, we will be fully compliant with all the lockdown regulations, and while we know that the paddling community is desperate to get back on the water we have to be realistic about things. The Berg has always been about ultra-paddling and we want to keep that heritage alive in this abnormal year, particularly as we build to the 60th edition of the race next year.”

Participants will pay a R150 participation fee and on competition day receive a certificate from the Berg Marathon with a personal coupon entitling paddlers to special benefits at the 60th anniversary edition of the Berg next year.

Less fit paddlers and novices can complete a total distance of 50 km before 31 July to receive a bronze certificate.

Participants who cover 240 km before the end of the month will receive silver certificates and the serious paddlers who cover the full distance in four sessions will receive gold certificates.

Funds generated from the participation fee will go towards Canoeing South Africa’s ongoing relief programme, which sees food parcels delivered to canoe club members badly affected by the lockdown.

V Entries for the Ultra Paddle will open on the Berg Marathon website this week. More information can be found on www.berg.org.za.

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