The paddler who masters the low river levels over the four stages is likely to be crowned the Berg River Canoe Marathon champion on Saturday.
The event — in its 56th year — is going to be difficult to navigate for the brave souls who have entered the 240km race from Paarl to Velddrif.
Wednesday’s opening stage is from Paarl to Hermon.
A year-long drought has caused all manner of headaches for the Cape region, with dam levels extremely low.
So there will be no usual pre-Berg water release to swell the route, which spells hard times for the entrants — most of whom are male. There is just a handful of women participating and only two paddled the mandatory 4km time trial on Tuesday.
It was a different story for the men and no real surprises to see three of the four internationals striking a pose.
Line honours went to Czech star Petr Mojzisek, who was eight seconds clear of Hungarian Adrián Boros, while local Tom Lovemore closed out the podium. Race favourite and former champion Graeme Solomon of Cape Town came fourth and British debutant Keith Moule finished fifth.
Double defending women’s champion Bianca Beavitt clocked a winning time of 16 minutes and 56 seconds to beat Kirsten Penderis by more than two minutes.
Beavitt will have little difficulty in notching up a hat-trick and may yet claim the record for the highest-placed female finisher in open company.
Solomon was losing no sleep after his short stint on the river.
"I’m no fan of the time trial — never was, never will be," he said. "[It is] a pointless exercise in my book to determine who wears the yellow jersey and has pole position for the batch start on Wednesday.
"But full marks to the front three for their efforts on a cold day and I’ll see them in the main event," he said.
No paddler from outside SA has won the Berg. With defending champion Hank McGregor not in the field, the 2017 race could well see a foreigner taking the honours, with Mojzisek and Boros the leading contenders.