COMPETITORS could see Avon River levels at their lowest in 35 years in next weekend’s 40th anniversary Avon Descent.
Water levels are so low in the river that the course of the famous race is almost certain to be changed, race director Jim Smith said.
The river level is only 0.5m at Northam Weir – as low as it was in 2010 when the Avon Descent was forced to start at Katrine, about 17km downstream.
The 2010 race featured some of the lowest water levels in history, wreaking havoc on competitors.
The prestigious white-water event was reduced to a foot race at times as foaming rapids were replaced by exposed rocks along much of the course.
In the testing conditions, nearly half the 51 power boats withdraw, while several vessels suffered damage after smashing into exposed or barely submerged rocks.
Competitiors in the race this year are preparing for a shortened, gruelling race.
Average river discharge at the Northam Weir this year is the lowest in 35 years, according to Department of Water river monitoring stations.
Mr Smith confirmed the 40th anniversary Avon Descent would most likely follow the same course as the 2010 race.
A final decision will not be made until Monday.
Mr Smith said scrutineering of all craft taking part in the race was already complete.
“We are ready to go, ready to race,” he said.
Despite a likely race start in Katrine, competitors would still need to register at Northam pool on Friday, where they would be given any last-minute instructions, Mr Smith said.
The Avon Descent was first held in 1973 with just 49 competitors, no rules, no officials, no checkpoints and few spectators.
In the years since, more than 25,000 people have competed – from novices and families, to world and Olympic champions.
Normally a 124km, two-day, white-water classic, the descent is one of few events in the world where power craft race kayaks and surf skis.
Last year’s event attracted more than 700 solo and team competitors in paddle and powercraft sections
The top class in the powerboats is the 10hp super class.
These boats have hydraulic jacks that enable the motor to be jacked up and run a surface piercing propeller, and can reach speeds of up to 70km/h.