Safety concerns delay Wild Descent race

Organisers of the Wild Descent kayak race on the Clutha River have had to postpone the event until April because of safety concerns.

High river levels and the promise of more rain to come later this week will see the 261-kilometre, four-day race from Albert Town, near Wanaka, to Molyneux Bay, near Kaka Point, moved to April.

Race director Warren Bates said the decision had been a difficult one.

With competitors coming from throughout New Zealand, Australia and the United States, a call on the race, which was to have started tomorrow, had been left as late as possible, he said.

"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 [yesterday and today], whilst not huge amounts, was going to elevate the river to levels where it just wasn't going to drop off."

Bates said feedback from competitors had generally been supportive of the decision.

The event also had to be postponed last year because of high river levels.

"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 enough. We take those decisions out of our hands and put them with a qualified safety manager, who discusses things with Contact Energy about the character of the river and what it's going to be like for four days. We go along with that and then dish out the bad news."

Bates said that while temperatures would probably be lower, the Clutha River would still be a beautiful experience when the race resumes from April 24 to 27.

The Southland Times