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Iconic canoe race revamped

The iconic Murray Marathon canoe race has a different name to go with the event’s new scheduled date.

JARED LOUGHNAN June 17, 2014 4:21pm

Race organisers YMCA have revamped and re-launched the event as the YMCA Massive Murray Paddle.

­YMCA Victoria General Manager, Stephen Bendle told the Yarrawonga Chronicle last week that revamping the name and changing the date was aimed at attracting more participation in the YMCA Massive Murray Paddle.

“In order to make this event sustainable we need to bring some fresh faces to the river,” Mr Bendle said.

“It’s not a marathon or fun run. The new name aims to help attract a new audience and better describes exactly what the event is.

“There are a lot of passionate supporters of this event and YMCA Victoria and the event management committee share this passion. That’s why a strategic review of the event was undertaken in 2012/13 which provided a number of recommendations to ensure the events sustainability into the future,” he said.

Mr Bendle said the review indicated a steady decline in participants due to several factors including the cost and time of year.

Between Christmas and New Year, accommodation and businesses in the Murray region are at capacity even without the event.

More recently, with stricter insurance requirements and emphasis on health and safety, the prevalence of high risk fire days at this time of year had a detrimental effect on the event.

Mr Bendle said that having competition days abandoned which resulted in the disappointment of paddlers affects their willingness to return.

“We have had to accept that the event in its current format was no longer sustainable.  However, as a not for profit community organisation, our focus is on building a much loved and treasured event to one that has an even greater social impact.”

The Massive Murray Paddle has an estimated $1.5 million economic impact on the communities it passes through annually

“It is YMCA Victoria’s goal to conduct a financially sustainable, iconic and innovative paddling event in the Murray River region this year and in years to come,” Mr Bendle said.

“We recognise the success of the event relies on the commitment of local communities, businesses and councils and the support of our partners and sponsors.

“We have made this decision in order to keep the event as the iconic regional event it has been for over 45 years. We hope that everyone can get behind it. It is up to the region and the paddlers to determine if they want the event to continue,” he said.

This year’s event will now take place from Monday 24 November to Friday 28 November rather than the traditional Christmas/New Year period.

Mr Bendle said the new dates may initially make it harder for some schools and past participants, but once established, organisers hope schools who have participated in the past can once again be a big part of the event.

“We aim to ensure changes to the event timing are capitalised on to attract new participants while inconvenience to current participants is minimised.

“The decision to change the timing has not been taken lightly and we acknowledge it may not suit everyone.

“There is a lot of evidence that a very large number of people were unable to enjoy the event in the traditional timeframe and we are reaching out to them to make the event bigger and better.

“We are optimistic that the new timeframe will work, it is in a window of time where other similar events have had continued and sustained success and has opened up options for a whole new group of participants, and even sponsors, who previously found the Christmas/New Year time too difficult,” Mr Bendle said.

The event will still maintain the five, three and one day options, with a change to the one day option where paddlers will be able to nominate any day over the five days on which to undertake the one day challenge.

Organisers will also be giving the website a full make-over soon to match the new look of the event.

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