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PAARI, SOUTH AFRICA, The severe drought currently experienced in South Africa's Western Cape Province has had a profound influence on this year's Berg River Ultra Canoe Marathon which begins here Wednesday, with the route having to be changed and some paddlers rather reluctant to attempt the gruelling race under the current conditions.

Three top international paddlers have entered the race and there will be a new name on the trophy as the defending champion, Hank Mcgregor, is competing abroad. The drought has hit Western Cape Province hard and the Berg River has not been spared with its water levels extremely low, which will make the four-day, 240-kilometre race tougher than normal.

In addition, the growth of water hyacinth clogging the river will make it even tougher for competitors.

Berg River Marathon spokesperson Dave Macleod said Tuesday: This race is directly connected to South Africa's weather patterns. It's the worst drought that the Western Cape has seen in almost 100 years. The river is running very low and this has impacted badly on the race.

"We have even had to introduce new routes because of the dry patches. What I can say is the 2017 race will be more challenging than previous events. The conditions of the river have also changed. So, paddlers will also need to be very vigilant.

Macleod said a full-flowing river makes things a lot easier for paddlers.

Former World Canoe champion Adrian Boros from Hungary will be the favourite followed by Czech star Petr Mojzisek and Britain's Keith Moule. The Berg River Canoe Marathon starts in Paarl on Wednesday and ends at the fishing town of Veldriff on Saturday.


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