The start of the 2015 Berg River Canoe Marathon is less than a week away but organisers are preparing to make bold adjustments to the course in response to low water levels and a water hyacinth infestation in the upper reaches of the river.
The race committee released a statement on Tuesday advising paddlers who have entered the race that the start of the first stage might be moved downstream to Hermon unless there is significant rainfall over the next week, cutting out 45km of the river from Paarl.
As a result of the dry summer and largely rainless winter, masses of water hyacinth have taken root in the river between Wellington and Hermon, making it impossible to paddle.
The region is entering the second year of a three-year La Niña cycle, with low rainfall gripping South Africa in a severe drought.
The Berg River Dam’s level has dropped to 60 per cent, making recreational water release impossible.
Should organisers move the start, it will be at the Hermon bridge on Wednesday morning at 10am and finish at Bridgetown, which is the traditional finish of the second stage.
The first stage will still roughly cover the same 60km distance for either option.
Stage two will start at Zonquasdrift as normal, and the paddlers will race much of the same section river as on day one.
“This is the most logical change as the race doubles up over the most interesting section of the river without losing any of the overall distance,” said race committee head André Collins.
“The challenge and the achievement will remain the same,” he added.
“There is sufficient water below Hermon all the way down to the race finish at Velddrif.”
All registered paddlers will be sent an SMS and the website will be update once the final decision has been made.