(Another) Change of Location for South Island Champs 2024

Published Fri 01 Mar 2024

In mid January, we told our Dragon Boat community about the changes we have had to make to the location of our last event of the year. ICYMI, Aoraki initially pushed hard to run South Islands at Ruataniwha ... but School Rowers had first option. So we decided on Lake Hood ... but it has algal bloom (and will probably not be back to normal in time). So we locked in Lake Ruger, which worked for us very well at the Aoraki Open on 18 February ... but ...

But going back to the lake a week later, we find that the water level has dropped drastically, due to it's use as an irrigation pond. Last week we could use the house jetty for loading the chase boat. Now the lake edge doesn't even reach the jetty.

So, Aoraki Events team swiftly started the search for a new venue. We have considered the various bays in Lyttelton Harbour, from Purau to Cass/Magazine Bay. But they are difficult to access, and we have issues around works in the marina around Naval Point, and with SailGP at the end of the March.

We visited Lake Hood, to find that the water level is also lower than we have ever seen it. And it is still not "all clear" of testing for algal bloom. Lake Pegasus is now getting very close to having the all clear from Ecan, the Christchurch DHB, Waimakariri District Council etc, but the earliest we would hear is Tuesday 5th, leaving just 3 days to prepare.

We have looked at numerous other lakes on the Canterbury Plains, and almost all of them are at similar low levels, and dropping by about 100mm a day. Many of them are polythene-lined, so having boats on them is a major risk of very costly damage. All of these are "unknown" in terms of how we can access, what the setup would be like, how we would do parking, tents etc. So at this stage, they are a major risk (but options we want to explore in the coming season/s).

Likewise we looked at some of our natural lakes such as Lake Lyndon, Lake Colleridge etc. Again they are unknown, further away, difficult to access (for Aoraki setup, and for crews) with colder water, difficult lane setting and so on.

Eventually, we have found a lake that ticks the most boxes. It is handy (about 40 minutes from Christchurch), great viewing and tent areas, shelter-belt trees, ample parking, easy to set up, accurate start and finish lines and lane lines, easy banks for boat loading. 

In fact it is a venue that is well known to our older paddlers. We will run the 2024 Aoraki South Island Championships at Lake Crichton on Saturday 9th March 2024.

Lake Crichton now consists of two nearly identical lakes, and we will use the new one that runs North-South. While it is not the full 3 metre depth that is IDBF standard, it will still give us very even racing over the full 500 metres, with ample room (75 metres wide lake) to run good 2,000 metre Turns racing.

Lake Crichton is about 40 minutes from central Christchurch, just south of SH1 past Rolleston/Burnham. See Google Maps.

This change of venue is the best compromise that we could find at short notice that did not involve shifting the date, which would not suit many of you. It is still relatively central, providing a low carbon footprint, and is low risk in terms of the set up arrangement and the guarantee of giving a fair and even geometry for all teams.

Perhaps our only downside is the reduced depth of about 1.5 metres, however this is similar to what many many of the Canterbury Lakes are at this time of a long hot summer. But the farmer at Lake Crichton is working to raise the level in the lake as high as possible for another week.