Gregory Down River
Race is No.41 -
Sunday, May 1, 2016
NOTE: It is now mandatory
to wear Type 2 or 3 PFD's and canoeing helmets (bicycle helmets are not
Few sporting events manage to attract more than their most loyal followers to travel
out of town. Fewer still manage to coax people to travel hundreds of kilometres to
participate in a sport that ordinarily, they would never consider trying. The Gregory
River Canoe Marathon does just that.
The major TC2
event will be the Canadian
Challenge, which has replaced the Corporate
Cup. Companies, Sporting, Social or
otherwise associated groups of people are encouraged to enter this team event. Craft used
must comply with Canadian Canoe Specifications and the rules for teams will apply ie a
maximum of 8 paddlers and team changes at any point along the river.
While the majority of paddlers are novices who are entering the race
purely for fun, the serious competitors are also catered for with the opportunity to win
The overall race record stands at 2 hours 43 minutes and
23 seconds set by Matt Flower and Chad Meek in 2001. $2000
is offered to anyone who can beat this time.
Other prize money includes:
First boat across the line, regardless of category $500
K1 - male/female - $400; $200; $100
TK1 - male/female - $400; $200; $100
TK2 - $400; $200; $100
Plastic long - $400; $200; $100
TC2 Challenge - $800; $400; $200
Short race $200.00
FACT # 1
The 3 hour barrier for the race was first broken in 1991, by Jeff Wilkinson and
John Van Ryt in a K2, in a time of 2 Hours, 51 Minutes, and 23 Seconds!
The Royal Flying Doctor Service helps make this weekend as enjoyable as possible and in
return, receives part of the entry fee. Not only will competitors be enjoying a great
race, they will also be helping a very worthwhile cause.
So at 8am on the Sunday of the May Day weekend the starter's gun will
fire again, and over two hundred paddlers will be pitting themselves against the Gregory River and
each other, in some of the most picturesque scenery you will see anywhere in Australia.
The North West Canoe Club
welcomes you and hopes you have a memorable weekend.
The North West Canoe Club was formed by a handful of
enthusiasts on January 14, 1975. In early 1976, four club members paddled the Gregory
River from the Knobbies to the pub. The trip was such a success that it was decided to
organise it into a canoe race.
The inaugural Gregory River Canoe Race took
place on June 6, 1976. Eighteen paddlers started the race. Dave Ferguson was first across
the line in a time of 4 hours and 9 minutes. He was closely followed by the legendary Ron
Snow, two minutes behind.
The race has since gone from
strength to strength, and has grown to be one of the largest and most isolated
canoe races in Australia, regularly attracting over 150 competitors.
RACE FACT # 2
The smallest field to ever contest the Gregory Canoe Race was 18 paddlers in the
inaugural race in 1976 . The largest number of competitors was in 1991 when 250 paddlers
On May day weekend of each year thousands of people from all over Australia are
attracted to the idyllic tropical setting of the banks of the Gregory River to enjoy a weekend of canoeing, swimming, camping, fishing and partying.
The beauty of the river itself is
the main attraction. It is a popular getaway for Mount Isans most of the year thanks to
good fishing, swimming, camping and canoeing. The Gregory is fed by underground springs
which are situated close to the Northern Territory border, and are part of the Georgina
basin. The crystal clear water is fringed with pandanus palms, Livingstona palms,
paperbark trees, fig trees, and a variety of other flora. The river consists of both
shallow and deep waterholes which are linked by small rapids. Some snags, logs and
overhanging pandanus palms are encountered when paddling downstream.
Below checkpoint 3
Due to the pre race congestion at the start of the race it is advised that
competitors allow at least an hours travelling time from the hotel to the start of the
race . A pre race briefing will be held at the start at 7.30 am . The race will commence
at 8 am SHARP.
To successfully complete the marathon, paddlers are
required to complete 43 kilometres in one day, starting at the Knobbies and finishing at
the bridge. There are many classes which take account of the type of
craft eg. Canoe, Kayak, touring or racing class, plus male, female and mixed categories
and Teams events. Crew members of teams may change at any point between start and finish,
although this is usually limited by access to the 4 checkpoints along the river plus
Mellish Park (Wipeout Bend). If a competitor withdraws from the race he or she must notify
an official at the nearest checkpoint.
The Gregory River Marathon is a great
spectator race with up to 2,000 people lining the river. Spectators cram for a top
vantage point at all the good spill areas, where they are entertained by the good
manoeuvres of the experienced paddlers who can get through the tight bends, rapids and
overhanging pandanus branches .
They cheer with great delight when others come down rapids backwards, get
knocked out of their canoe by overhanging branches or just fall out due to the twisting
fast flow of the river.
RACE FACT # 3
The most paddlers to NOT finish the race was in 1987 when, out of 154
starters, only 134 finished the race.
The section of the Gregory river on which the marathon is held consists predominantly
of long deep water holes separated by sets of rapids and fast flowing bends
Pre-Gregory practice races are held at Lake Moondarra in the weeks
leading up to the race.
For best results on race day, it is advisable to paddle the course
THE START is in
a wide, shallow waterhole, which narrows to single file width within 100 metres, followed
by this tricky section. (Really gets the adrenalin pumping
quickly!) The next few hundred metres is a winding tight flow which then opens into
what is possibly the deepest waterhole in the race.
RACE FACT # 4
The shortest time anyone has lasted in the race was in 1991, when the Playtime Team
destroyed their boat at the first rapid, within a minute of starting the race .
CHECKPOINT ONE is about twenty to thirty minutes paddling time
downstream from the start (about 4 kilometres). Between checkpoint one and Kamarga is
another long, deep waterhole, about 3 kilometres long.
KAMARGA FALLS are situated 7 kilometres from
the start, and consist of two drops separated by a 100m pool of quieter water. They
are the biggest set of rapids on the course, and can cause problems even for
experienced paddlers. Some large rocks have to be negotiated here so make sure you have
your wits about you.
Unfortunately for spectators the
falls are not readily
accessible by road.
(Top section shown
section shown below)
Kamarga 2 has a long left hand sweep ending in a steep chute with a large
rock at the bottom. You can portage both top and bottom sections of Kamarga and this is
done on the left hand side of the river. It is best to leave the river bank by
approximately 10 metres so you can run (walk?) along the sand and not over the rocks close
to the bank.
RACE FACT # 5
1991 was the first year that a K4 (four man racing Kayak) successfully
completed the race. This was despite the fact that it was once thought that a K2(two man
racing Kayak) would be too long to manoeuvre down the river.
WIPEOUT, about a half hour paddle from
Kamarga, is another tricky spot on the river. This rapid looks deceptively simple,
but always manages to claim numerous victims. The river narrows, therefore the velocity of
the water increases . The bend has straightened out quite a bit over the
years, but still pushes you into the the far bank and still provides
plenty of upsets.
This spot is easily accessible by road and is a great vantage point for
spectators watching the spills and applauding everyone who stays in their canoe.
CHECKPOINT TWO is an easy twenty minute paddle from
long, shallow waterhole separates checkpoint 2 from checkpoint 3.
FACT # 6
The youngest person to paddle the 43
kilometre course was Adrian Taylor , aged 10 . He competed in the 1993 Open Mens TC2
paddling with his father . Their time was 5 hours 41 minutes 40 seconds
CHECKPOINT THREE, about one hours paddle from
checkpoint 2, marks
the beginning of an interesting one kilometre section that depending on your skill, can
take anywhere between five to twenty minutes to negotiate. This is followed by another
long, deep waterhole.
RACE FACT # 7
The oldest paddler to compete in the Gregory River Canoe Race
Jenje , who was 75 when he completed the full race distance
in 2005, and 79 when he completed the short race in
Age is no barrier .
CHECKPOINT FOUR consists of half an hour of narrow, winding river.
This is probably the most interesting stretch of the river to paddle. After this,
there is a long interesting rocky chute (known as either Galloping Jacks or
Deliverance) then one long waterhole is between you and the finish line, which is about
another thirty minutes away.