Preparations for the Gregory River Canoe Race are underway, with organisers finalising a date for the event scheduled in May.
Run by the North West Canoe Club, the 46th Annual Gregory River Canoe Marathon will be held on Sunday May 2, with paddlers taking part in the 43km long course or 18 kilometre short course.
Event spokesperson Alison Whitehead said they were hoping to encourage paddlers back to the Gregory, following the disappointing cancellation of last year's event due to COVID-19.
"This event is open to paddlers from all over Australia. We often get paddlers travel from Victoria, South Australia, Sunshine Coast and Atherton Tablelands coming to the most remote paddling event in Australia," Ms Whitehead said.
"It is not just for experienced paddlers, we tend to have a lot of novice paddlers who enter in teams of up to eight people. They can paddle down the river, have a great time and be in he running for some great prizes."
The Gregory River Canoe Marathon has only been cancelled twice in the event's history, including 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Last year we had to cancel the race due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and there was some monetary loss because of the restrictions that came into effect during late planning of the Gregory. We had already ordered all the merchandise and prizes, however we were able to use them in our inaugural virtual event.
"We had 90 participants take place in the Virtual Gregory River Canoe Marathon from all over Australia and even the United States. We managed to win Queensland Paddle Event of the Year, which we have not won since 2017 and also made back some money through the virtual race nominations."
Ms Whitehead said the committee were excited to welcome everyone back to the river in 2021, with some slight changes due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"We are considering not having our big presentation as we would normally due to the crowd numbers and doing prize money direct deposits.
"We also usually have food at the finish line put on by the Gregory committee, but we are also considering not having that this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"For those looking at coming to the event to spectate, we can't restrict people from camping down the river but we will recommend social distancing and for people to follow government requirements. Spectators will also be required to free register online, so we have names and contact details of those in attendance."
Ms Whitehead said registrations would be opening soon, with some slight changes.
"We have been a bit hesitant to do too much planning with COVID-19 around but we will be advertising for registrations soon and hopefully get a few people attend and support the event," she said.
"Registrations will be a little bit different this year, no one will be able to register in person on the weekend, it will have to be online registration. This has been in effect for six years now, so most people are fully aware of our registration process.
"As for gaining experience, we will be having four lead up events at Lake Moondarra which will start later in February where people can hire boats and practice."
The canoe marathon is also held in conjunction with the Saddles and Paddles race meeting at the Gregory Downs Turf Club on May 1.
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