The Unlimited Non-stop Dusi returns to its roots
Durban – The fifteenth edition of the toughest one day canoeing race in the world looks set to return to its roots when The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi gets under way at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg at dawn on Friday 4 March.
Since it’s formal inception in 1997 the race has grown steadily in popularity as more and more paddlers are drawn to the extreme challenge of completing the traditional three day Dusi course in one day, in a format that is almost devoid of rules and compulsory paddle and portage sections.
The origins of the tough race extend back to an informal arrangement between serious endurance athletes to try and complete the Pietermaritzburg to Durban paddle and running adventure several weeks after the famous three day race, usually at a date hastily arranged when the rivers were full after rainstorms in the region.
Paddlers raced when they wanted to, and it was left to a referee to record their times. Steve Black and his brother Alastair Black were the early trailblazers, followed by Richard Starr and Kevin MacLellan.
From it’s underground roots, the sudden demand from paddlers wanting to test themselves against the one-day format race resulted in it’s formalisation, and the introduction of a few basic rules, sponsors and the inclusion of prizemoney for the overall winners.
As the race grew, so did its formalised structure, and when Hank McGregor won it in 2006 in a K1, the race was formally recognising separate singles and doubles classes. Debbie Germiquet soon joined the list of milestones by becoming the first woman to finish the race in a K1 as well.
This year, as the race celebrates it’s fifteenth anniversary, the organisers have decided that the event should focus on it’s founding principals, and seek to remain critically different to the traditional format used in The Unlimited Dusi. The race has shed its K1 class winners awards and looks to reward the overall men’s and women’s winners instead.
The decision has been backed by the winner of the first every Non-Stop Dusi John Edmonds, who feels the race should retain as many of it’s original values as possible.
“Keep the purity of the race,” said Edmonds, who won two of the first four editions of The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi. “The first boat home is all that matters. Get to Durban however you want. Let’s keep it Old School,” says Edmonds.
“The race is special for so many different reasons,” he added. “There is a truly unique camaraderie, even amongst the crews racing for title. It’s a survival mentality throughout the race, and its the same for every single boat, so it is quite chilled. There is no pushing and shoving, and all the seconds help every paddler in the race.”
Edmonds also likes the fact that the race is run within a bare minimum of rules.
“In the old days of the three day Dusi there was such an aura around Graeme Pope-Ellis, and secrets paths and sneak channels that added such an intrigue to the race, combined with the fact that you never knew what the water levels were going to be like.”
“Almost all of that has changed, and rules are tighter so that the Dusi is run pretty much on the same format each year. I love the “no-rules” character of the Non-Stop because it encourages paddlers to think differently and brings back that special intrigue,” Edmonds added.
“One year my brother (Andrew Edmonds) and I actually planned to run all the way out of Pietermaritzburg, down Polly Shorts on the Comrades route, past the Lion Park and down to the river for the first time at Mission rapid,” recalls Edmonds. “That would have been a 30 kilometer run but when we weighed up the times it just wasn’t worth it.”
John and Andrew Edmonds set a new race record in 2000, a record that stood for seven years before the current race record was set by Martin Dreyer and Michael Mbanjwa, coincidentally shaving seven seconds of the 2000 mark.