Challenge Wanaka competitors Simone Maier (left) and
Melissa Newell contemplate a training swim in a choppy,
swollen Lake Wanaka yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Challenge Wanaka race director Victoria Murray-Orr says
high lake levels and a partly submerged run course are no cause
for concern - yet. The long-distance triathlon is scheduled for
Saturday, January 19, and organisers have been keeping a close
eye on the weather forecast and rising lake and river levels
after several days of heavy rainfall.
The Outlet Track - on the bank of the swollen Clutha River -
which forms part of the 42.2km run leg of the race, was
underwater yesterday, and though the flooding was ''not ideal
preparation'' for the event, the water was likely to recede
well before race day, Ms Murray-Orr said.
''The river levels go down very quickly once the rain
Event organisers had ''really solid contingency plans'' in
place, including an alternative running course which would
avoid the Outlet Track, if necessary.
''It's a shame because it misses out the most scenic part of
the course ... but if we've got to use it, we've got to use
Similarly, the 3.8km swim course - which would have its
length affected by high lake levels - would be adjusted
accordingly. The recommended minimum temperature for
open-water swimming was 14degC, Ms Murray-Orr said. Lake
Wanaka was just under 16degC at present, and she expected it
to remain between 15degC and 16degC for the event.
While further bad weather was forecast for next week, reports
were changeable on its intensity.
''We just have to wait and see what the gods deliver next
week and make a call after that.
''We're in constant liaison with [Queenstown Lakes
harbourmaster] Marty Black and Doc, as well.''
In the six years the event has been running, the course has
never had to be altered, despite some close calls.
''Three years ago there were some flooding issues, but the
river dropped the day before the event,'' Ms Murray-Orr said.
In the worst-case scenario, organisers would do everything
necessary to make the transition to an alternative course
''as easy as possible'' for the athletes.
''The race will continue, definitely.''