With a record entry for the KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Marathon Championships at the weekend, the preparations for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships from September 4 to 10 shifted up a gear as the local organising committee started fine-tuning logistics for the global showcase, now just 45 days away.
More than 280 local paddlers raced across the junior, under-23, senior and masters age groups, contesting the K1 titles last Saturday and the K2s on Sunday, with the course and set-up getting widespread approval from the participants and spectators.
"The atmosphere at the KZN Champs was fantastic," said Andy Birkett, silver medallist at the 2016 World Championships.
"Often the KZN Marathon Champs is boring and slow, but this weekend was unbelievable.
"For those that are waiting to race, the venue is so cool because you can almost see all the action on the course, which makes Camps Drift so unique as a marathon venue. Especially that last ‘hot lap’ where you can see the last turn and the sprint for the line, it makes it so exciting for the spectators.
"The buzz around the club is really special. You can sense the World Champs is just around the corner," Birkett said. "We got down to training the other day and it looked like a race was on because there were over 60 people on the water training.
"And that is what we are experiencing at all the clubs across SA," he said.
"The feedback was very positive and we feel that we are moving in the right direction," said organising committee chairman Steve Botha. "We made changes to some of the infrastructure, like the batching and check-in process, and this was a clear improvement."
Botha confirmed the next phase of the preparations had started when the level of the water in the Drift was lowered. Dredging of the course was about to begin.