The sound of hundreds of paddles splashing the water will again fill the air this Saturday when the NFB Kowie Challenge canoe race starts from the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club.
The annual race is organised by Border Canoe Club and race convener, Dave Puttergill, said he was delighted to once again have NFB on board as sponsors.
“Last year was their first year of sponsoring and they have really embraced the event,” Puttergill said. “We are also fortunate to enjoy the support of the Ski-boat Club, law enforcement officials and the local community, which together with the wonderful setting of the Kowie River, makes for a great day out.”
The race starts at 10am. Paddlers will race laps consisting of a route through the canals of the Royal Alfred Marina, and a turning buoy 3km upstream. Each lap will be 7km long, and with the race being three laps, the total distance is 21km. There is also an option to race a short course of 7km.
The canoeists race in singles, doubles and three-man surfskis.
Last year’s winner, Greg Louw, posted a winning time of one hour and 34 minutes, so the first paddlers are expected to finish in front of the Ski-boat Club from 11.30 onwards.
“An exciting aspect of the race is the Intercity Challenge trophy, putting Port Elizabeth and East London paddlers against each other,” Puttergill said.
All paddlers log points for their respective clubs, with age group category winners earning extra points, thus ensuring competitive racing right through the field.
In the last two years, a “Country Districts” team has also been added to the Challenge, and consists of Eastern Cape paddling clubs outside of the two main metros.
In recent years, the Intercity Trophy has resided primarily at Border Canoe Club in East London, but last year, a great effort from the Blue Water Canoe Club of Port Elizabeth saw the trophy travel to Port Elizabeth.
“This will undoubtedly add some excitement to Saturday’s racing as the East London crews try reclaim the trophy,” Puttergill said.
A curious sight among all the surfskis and canoes in last year’s race, Candice Murray from East London was the only prone board paddler competing. Murray did the 7km short course which still seemed like a Herculean task, but she kept pace with many of the canoeists.
Not technically in the NFB Kowie Challenge, she joined the canoeists for the social sport experience.