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RFID Navigates South African Rivers in Kayak Marathon
The event's organizers could identify where participants were located throughout the 120-kilometer course, based on RFID technology that read the tags of kayaks passing checkpoints, thereby allowing friends and family to meet paddlers along the river and provide food and water.
Mar 11, 2015—
The organizers of South Africa's 120-kilometer (75-mile) Dusi Canoe Marathon were able to assess the safety and speed of racers during a rigorous race by using RFID tags affixed to their watercraft (either kayaks or stand-up paddle boards), as well as readers positioned along the course. The system not only ensured that the organizers, the Natal Canoe Club, would know when someone fell behind and might require assistance, but also provided information to each participant's friends and family members so that they could plan to meet him or her along the course, in order to bring much-needed food and water. Finally, the solution monitored the exact time at which each racer crossed the finish line.
Carrying sufficient water to stay hydrated for the duration of the entire race, however, can prove difficult for a racer who must also lug a kayak or paddle board as many as 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) over mountainous terrain. In addition, with temperatures in some areas reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), running out of water prematurely can be lethal. Therefore, most participants receive water and other supplies along the route, distributed by friends. Even with the proper supplies, however, the marathon can be treacherous. Thus, says Craig Eldridge, Finish Time's technical director, the event is not advertised on a worldwide scale, in large part because the club only wants very serious paddlers who have familiarity with the area to attempt the journey. One individual drowned during this year's race, he says, and accidents have been fairly commonplace.
While tens of thousands of spectators arrive for the event, only approximately 1,500 participate in a total of 1,000 boats—some using doubles, others singles. The first day, they are required to complete 45 kilometers (28 miles) of the course, and a third of that distance involves portaging (carrying the kayak or board on land). Day two covers about the same distance, ending in the flat waters of the Inanda Dam. Day three is the shortest, at 35 kilometers (21.8 miles), and involves several very large sections of rapid water. If anyone fails to complete each day's leg, he or she is disqualified from the competition.
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