Paddlers from throughout KwaZulu-Natal and beyond the province’s borders are expected to flock to Albert Falls Dam and the upper uMngeni River on Sunday 27 November for the 2016 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar, an all-important 2017 FNB Dusi front row seeding race.
While the grip of the ongoing drought as eased slightly in parts of KZN in recent weeks, an element of unknown surrounding KZN’s river levels this summer remains.
With Albert Falls being a key supply dam for Nagle dam further downstream Umgeni Water provides a constant flow into Nagle that will assist the paddlers taking part in the Ozzie Gladwin.
The heavy recent rains have also had an impact on uMngeni River below Albert Falls Dam, pushing up the water level to the point that the organisers are confident that they will be able to race the full planned course to the finish at Thornevale Farm.
As such, paddlers are eager to take advantage of early season opportunities like the Ozzie Gladwin to spend invaluable time practicing their river skills while also earning themselves precious seeding points ahead of February’s iconic Pietermaritzburg to Durban encounter.
“The Ozzie Gladwin is the third front row seeding race of the season thus far and most certainly the biggest,” says host club, Natal Canoe Club’s (NCC) General Manager, Brett Austen Smith.
“We’re expecting a large field for this year’s race with a big Gauteng contingent expected to make the journey down to KZN for it as well,” he adds.
Dusi title and podium contenders Andy Birkett, Sbonelo Khwela, Thulani Mbanjwa, Banetse Nkhoesa and Siseko Ntondini have already secured strong early seedings from the recent Umpetha Challenge and Alan Gardiner Memorial Ibis Point to Dip Tank clashes as well as top ten hopefuls Lucas Mthalane, Jacques Theron, Mmeli Cele, Jakub Adam and Carl Folscher.
Absent from that list though are the likes of Hank McGregor, Owen Gandar, Andrew and Alan Houston and Murray Starr, many of whom are expected to feature strongly at the approaching Ozzie Gladwin clash.
While many paddling regulars are set to return to the 27km Albert Falls Dam to Thornevale Farm encounter, so too are some familiar brands for the 2016 edition of the popular clash.
“With the Events Act, races are becoming very expensive to run and to run an event properly is a huge task,” says Austen Smith.
“Without the support of sponsors such as Parklane Superspar, Hansa Pilsener and aQuellé none of what we do would be possible.
“Parklane Superspar has been synonymous with paddling, especially in and around Pietermaritzburg, for many years.
“They manage the bar at NCC’s clubhouse, run the water table during the Ozzie Gladwin and are involved in canoeing in general, all of which we are extremely grateful for.”
2017’s FNB Dusi will see Hansa Pilsener’s involvement with the event reach the staggering 30 years mark while aQuellé’s commitment to canoeing in KZN continues to grow annually.
“With Hansa set to celebrate their 30th year with the Dusi next year, the build up to the Dusi is set to be a big one, starting with this year’s Ozzie Gladwin.
“aQuellé, who are also involved with our Umpetha Challenge, are a proudly KZN brand and a keen contributor to sport in the province and we really appreciate the backing the give us too.”