Underberg – As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strike communities and families across South Africa, the organisers of the popular annual FNB Drak Adventure Weekend have agreed to cancel the three sporting events and the music concert that made up the popular family weekend in Underberg.
The N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon, the Euro Steel Drak Descent mountain bike race and the Euro Steel Run the Rivers trail run, together with the FNB Drak Music Experience concert have all been called off as the respective organisers agree that hosting several thousand athletes and their families cannot be justified under the prevailing pandemic.
“We appreciate the efforts of Canoeing SA and the KZN Canoe Union in doing everything possible to keep the major events alive, but on overall assessment we all agreed that the risks heavily outweighed the benefits, and we need to be responsible and safeguard everyone’s health,” said Drak Challenge race committee head Mark Willment.
“We had flexible plans in place to ensure social distancing and full compliance at the race, but the reality is that almost everyone travels a long way to Underberg for the weekend and books into local accommodation, and the risk of creating a new super-spreader event was real,” he said.
“We are gravely concerned that the overburdened hospitals compromise the ability to offer professional medical care should a serious injury occur.
“We have top class medics on duty, but they are hours away from the nearest hospital and the reality is that there are no beds available at many of these hospitals and patients needing care are being turned away and sent to find alternate hospitals. We can’t responsibly stage an adventure sport with that risk,” he added.
“It is really disappointing and sad that we had to make the call to cancel the Euro Steel Drak Descent and Run The Rivers for 2021,” said Derek Christie of the Sani Spoors organising committee.
“We had prepared some exciting new trails for the riders and the runners were looking forward to sharing these.
“We looked seriously at all the options, including postponing, but in consultation with our sponsor Euro Steel, we feel it would be irresponsible and morally incorrect under the current conditions to stage an event that could potentially lead to a further spread of infection.
“We do not want, directly or indirectly, to be the cause of any of our participants, helpers or the community being infected due to us hosting an event that brings a couple of thousand visitors to the area,” he added.
“It is sad that the charities and the community organisations that benefit from our events will suffer, but we are looking at ways to keep supporting them before we come back with a bigger and better event next year,” said Christie.
Athletes who have already entered the events will be given the option to either carry their entry over to the 2022 events, to donate their entry to the charities that normally benefit from the event, or to apply for a refund.
The now well-established Saturday evening, FNB Drak Music Experience concert has also been cancelled.
“The health and safety of everyone is our top priority and therefore the decision is considered to be responsible and supported,” said Asheen Magjee, FNB KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Head.
“The FNB Drak Adventure Weekend has grown into a superb opportunity to share in the many attractions of Underberg and its surroundings. It makes an important contribution by supporting the community organisations that are integral to all four events.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has made it necessary for all of us to reconsider our priorities, and while we will all miss the atmosphere of this memorable weekend in Underberg, our priority for now should be to protect the health of every single person as the nation struggles to deal with this pandemic,” said Magjee.
He said that FNB remained committed to its long term involvement in the sporting and social weekend, and would look at ways to assist the community, organisations and charities that have come to rely on earning an income at the events.