Spectators will line the Gregory River in northwest Queensland on May 1 to cheer on an array of canoes and kayaks in Australia’s largest and most isolated canoe race.
The annual Gregory Down River Canoe Race in the Gulf Savannah regularly attracts more than 100 paddlers on the May Day weekend as they battle rapids and overhanging branches on the scenic 43km course.
North West Canoe Club President Larry Wilson said experienced competitors were vying for a pool of more than $6000 in cash prizes with the bonus of $2000 for anyone who could break the race record of 2 hours, 43 minutes and 23 seconds set by Matt Flower and Chad Meek in 2001.
“The race is also for novices with the shorter 17km course much easier to navigate, and we cater for an assortment of vessels from plastic kayaks to Canadian canoes,” he said.
“Both the 43km and 17km courses are open to single competitors and teams allowing anyone who wants to join in to have a go and we have some boats and equipment available for hire.
“The spectators get just as much enjoyment as the competitors by gathering at the known spill areas to be entertained by experienced paddlers manoeuvring through tight bends, rapids and pandanus.
“They cheer with great delight when others come down the rapids backwards, get knocked out of their canoe by overhanging branches or just fall out with the twisting fast flow of the river.
“The rapids have caused a few entrants to come unstuck with the Playtime Team destroying their boat in the very first rapid, less than a minute into the race in 1991.
“Last year marked the 40th anniversary since four members of the North West Canoe Club paddled the Gregory River from Knobbies to the Gregory River Hotel and had such a great time that it became an annual race.”