The Pearce pulse still beats for the Dusi
Pietermaritzburg – Despite never managing to complete the first ever Dusi Canoe Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, Dusi legend Ernie Pearce’s influence on the race has been such that it is argued that if it was not for him the race would not be as successful as it is today.
His four wins pale into insignificance compared to the job that he did for decades behind the scenes making sure that the race ran smoothly and that it grew from strength to strength.
Pearce’s record on the Dusi is an impressive one after his inability to finish the first installment of the race in 1951. He then managed a second place finish in the second edition in 1953 with partner Fred Baker and then when he exchanged Baker for Bob Templeton, he and Templeton dominated the race for four years winning the epic challenge from 1954 to 1957. He followed that period of dominance with two second place finishes in 1959 and 1960.
Pearce’s involvement in the race was more than just an administrative one. He played a fairly large part in changing the way the race was paddled, as he was at the forefront of changing the boats from the old, heavy canvas and wood boats to the more sleek, fibreglass boats that we see today.
More important than his paddling career was his involvement in setting up the Natal Canoe Club in the early 1950’s where he took on the role as secretary and as the ‘Dusi Boss’. His role was invaluable as he guided the race through its infant years into maturity.
Pearce and his wife Sheila were seen as the cornerstones of the race for a long time and they kept the race afloat during their marathon stretch of running the event. Pearce was fully involved in the race for at least three decades and it seems fitting that after such a momentous contribution the first obstacle on the race – the Ernie Pearce Weir – should be named after the great Ernie Pearce.
The Dusi Canoe Marathon, which takes place from 13 to 15 February 2014, is focussing on the pioneering feats of the characters who started the race 63 years ago, profiling the contributions that icons like Ernie Pearce, Graeme Pope-Ellis, Robert Lembethe and Gordy Rowe played in getting the famous race to where it is today.