The 57th edition of the four day, 240 kilometre, Berg River Ultra Canoe Marathon got underway in sunny conditions on a free flowing river in Paarl on Wednesday.

Out and out favourites Graeme Solomon and Adrian Boros won the first stage – a 62 kilometre paddle from Paarl to Zonquasdrift.

Above average winter rains meant the paddlers started the race in ideal conditions with the water level the highest it’s been in several years.

The new race format which sees paddlers rowing in pairs saw former winners Solomon and Boros leading from the front with Englishman Keith Moule and Joep van Bakkel from the Netherlands in close pursuit.

In another new race initiative with a mixed pairs category, three time Berg women’s winner Bianca Beavitt and her partner Crispin Thompson were well placed and far ahead in their category.

Solomon, a winner in 2001 and the Hungarian, Boros, the 2017 champion, eventually won the stage with Moule and van Bakkel 90 seconds behind.

Former Berg River Canoe Marathon champion, Graeme Solomon says: “It was the same as last year except we are on the same side. So I think it’s a good format I think it’s going to add a lot of spice to the race and happy to be with Arian and take it into tomorrow.”

Beavitt and Thompson finished way ahead in the mixed pairs category and will be difficult to beat after dominating on day one.

It’s been ideal conditions on the Berg on Wednesday. Rain is predicted for Thursday.

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