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Canoe marathon cancelled

The annual Berg River Canoe Marathon is among the many highly anticipated sports events that have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisers of the Berg announced that the 59th edition of the four-day canoeing race from Paarl to Velddrif, scheduled to take place on Wednesday 8 July to Saturday 11 July, was cancelled.

They had consulted regional and national stakeholders and, with the support of Canoeing South Africa, it was decided it would be impossible to host the race this year.

“There was a good deal of excitement around the Berg this year, with a new organising team in charge with plans to add significant value to this iconic event, which makes it very frustrating to have to accept that we will not be allowed to host the race in July,” said race organiser Brandon Macleod.

“We looked at a variety of suggestions to try and stage the race in a way that observes all the lockdown regulations, but the seriousness of the projections for July makes it clear there is no way we could think about holding the event safely and responsibly.”

There were also many factors to consider, including support crews, safety personnel as well as all the requirements of the event safety plan.

“In almost every instance there was an insurmountable obstacle when viewed against the projected level of the lockdown and the seriousness of the pandemic at the time,” Macleod explained.

“The Berg relies on winter rainfall, which heavily limits its date flexibility and the possibility of postponing the race.”

This 240 km long race is regarded as one of the toughest ultra-paddling ones in the world, so canoeists will probably feel disappointed that months of training and preparing have come to nought during the lockdown.

According to Etienne Laubscher, head of the West Coast Canoe Club, his group comprised eight to 10 paddlers who had prepared to tackle this event.

“They were all supposed to do their qualifying races, which were scheduled between April and June,” he said.

“Local paddlers are now looking forward to next year, seeing it will be the 60th anniversary, and the organisers are planning to make it really special.”

“As South Africans we have all had to sacrifice a huge amount in the lockdown period,” said Macleod, “and this year as paddlers we need to accept that we will not be able to enjoy the Berg Marathon, unfortunately.

“Hopefully the 60th anniversary will motivate the core Berg supporters to train hard to be part of this milestone event.”

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