New Zealand’s Wild Descent kayak race on the Clutha River has been postponed this weekend and re-scheduled for April because of water safety concerns.
High river levels and the promise of more rain in the forecast before the start of the event has necessitated the four-day race from Albert Town, near Wanaka, to Molyneux Bay, near Kaka Point, be moved to the autumn.
Race director Warren Bates said the decision had been a difficult one.
“With competitors coming from throughout New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, we left a call on the race as late as possible.
The knock on effect for racers, volunteers and local communities involved in the event was considerable but the overwhelming response from all those involved has been sympathetic to our safety call.”
Mr Bates says the conditions on the Clutha River where the event is held over some 261-kilometers forced the postponement.
" The current levels of the river were above what we were prepared to run in terms of safety, above our threshold, and whilst the river flows were actually dropping slowly, the rain that we were going to get whilst not huge amounts, was going to elevate the river to levels where it just wasn't going to drop off enough to ensure the safety of competitors.
The Clutha River is one of the highest volume rivers in the world and the flows coming through at the moment are significantly above the norm."
Feedback from competitors has generally been supportive of the decision to postpone until April and and Mr Bates says most competitors understand the need for the precaution.
"The last thing you want to do is sit down at the end of a race and say 'that was reckless', or we didn't take peoples' safety into consideration. We have safety thresholds which we must attain but regardless of that, any decision to run the event in these types of conditions is taken by our independent and highly qualified Event Safety Manager. They evaluate the river, the weather and discuss the situation with Contact Energy before coming to a decision. We go along with that and then dish out the bad news."
The Wild Descent race will resume from April 24 to 27, 2014 which is considered an optimum time on the Clutha because the autumn colours, that characterise Otago, are at their very best. The event was also postponed last year because of high river levels and the April dates worked well with teams enjoying fast river times and great scenery.