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Contrary to rumours being released by IRF detractors, the IRF is still actively pursuing our WRC, ERC, ECs and WCs this year along with our GTE activities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the worldwide international sporting calendar, and the IRF calendar is no exception. Our immediate concern is for events coming up in the next 8 weeks as government and health authorities react in various ways to contain or mitigate the spread of the virus with protective measures. The situation is changing daily so we urge all competitors to stay in touch with their National Federation and to keep watch for updates to this post and to our published calendar.
Balkan White Water Safety Summit in Bosnia and Herzegovina – still proceeding according to plans.
WRC 2020 in Guilin, Ziyuan China – China (population 1.4 billion) is typically reporting less than 20 new COVID-19 cases a day (all in Hubei province or travelers from abroad). Chinese authorities are now more concerned about infected foreigners entering the country than community spread cases within China. Guilin prefecture, site of the IRF World Rafting Championship (WRC) event, reports zero infections and no new cases in over 3 weeks, making it one of the safest rafting event locations in the world. The WRC is still several months away, and local officials in Ziyuan report that they are moving forward at full speed to prepare for the competition as planned!
ERC 2020 in Czech Republic – is scheduled for June, when the peak number of COVID-19 cases in Europe are expected to be past. We will be monitoring the situation carefully, in concert with event organisers and local health authorities.
EC and WC events – will proceed as appropriate according to decisions made by local organisers and their respective government and health authorities. The immediate concern is the few EC events coming up in the next 5 weeks, which will likely coincide with the peak number of COVID-19 cases appearing in Europe. The new IRF EC event in Italy, and our traditional EC Wildalpen Austrian event were cancelled as per organiser/IRF joint decisions and government mandates. The Italian government has imposed a total lockdown on all nonessential movement, events and social contact. The Austrian government has halted all outdoor events of more than 500 people, and enacted a border closure with Italy. We extend our warmest thanks and appreciation to our Italian and Austrian friends and the many IRF teams that have been hard at work training and preparing for these events.
UPDATE – 18 March 15:00 GMT:
1. Our IRF member British Canoe has decided to cancel all upcoming scheduled events due to the spreading of COVID-19 in Great Britain and in anticipation of government restrictions on sport activities. This cancellation will include the IRF 2020 National Selection (NS) event for Great Britain. The IRF will be working closely with the NS event organisers to determine dates for a rescheduled event as soon as possible.
2. The IRF GTE Committee have decided to postpone the annual IRF GTE Instructor’s Conference scheduled for 27th to 29th April 2020 in Châteauroux-les-Alpes, France . The postponement is due to the uncertainty surrounding recent decisions made by many countries to close their borders and restrict travel, and the recent decision by the European Union to seal its borders to most outsiders. This is obviously an extremely unfortunate situation and we are saddened that our instructors will not be able to attend our annual gathering, but we wanted to announce this decision at the earliest opportunity to enable plans to be adapted accordingly for all concerned. The GTE Committee will begin to look at alternative dates and/or locations in anticipation that a 2020 Conference can be held at a future date.
UPDATE – 14 March 08:00 GMT:
Organisers for the Latvian Water Tourism Championship have informed us that the Latvian government has issued a state of emergency until April 14 due to COVID-19. All events larger than 200 persons are banned during this time. The IRF supports the organisers in their decision to postpone the event indefinitely.
UPDATE – 13 March 13:30 GMT:
Organisers for our Bulgarian Struma EC have informed us that the Bulgarian government has issued a state of emergency until 13 April due to COVID-19. The emergency does NOT effect outdoor events, however the government can cancel any event at any moment if they believe it is necessary. Due to this uncertainty, IRF and the organisers have jointly decided to postpone the event until the situation becomes more clear. All registered teams will be contacted directly and informed of this decision.
As always, the health and safety of the IRF family remains our first priority. The IRF will continue to follow the information and guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the United Nations agency that is leading the world on this issue. The WHO has declared a COVID-19 pandemic, not a ‘panic-demic’. Pandemics are declared to raise awareness, anytime a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations. Panic can defeat the purpose of raising awareness.
The IRF will act according to the science-based evidence gathered by WHO. We will not issue blanket proclamations or unilaterally suspend all IRF events. We support all our event organisers and teams across the globe, and will continue to respond to the pandemic with appropriate measures – without misrepresentation, over-hype, or panic. Government restrictions placed on event gatherings, which may or may not be based on WHO recommendations, will be followed in accordance to law.
WHO asks all countries to “strike a balance between protecting health, preventing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.” WHO advises that the vast majority of healthy individuals with a strong immune system will experience only mild symptoms if infected, and the risk of infection associated with outdoor public gathering (greater ventilation) is relatively low compared to indoor gatherings. Rafting is outdoors, safer than the gym!!!! So we urge paddlers to keep healthy, keep paddling, get plenty of clean, fresh air, and closely follow the WHO COVID-19 advice for the public. Let’s remain positive while we focus on our health and safety – the world needs positivity to get us through this difficult time.
The latter half of the year is starting to fill up with events – but in the meantime, watch our website for the most up-to-date race and GTE event details across the globe. Always check with us for what is real when rumours are flying around!
Coronavirus is a hot topic at the moment and rightly so, after all, at the time of writing this piece we have seen a huge impact to stock markets and global supply chains. These effects will ripple across the market and especially impact the tourism and hospitality sector. Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the USA senate labor committee said “We think the tourism sector will bear the brunt of our government’s travel ban due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The government should spur domestic tourism to assuage the impact of decline in foreign tourists,”
The senator’s statements show an interesting shift in the mentality of tourism during periods of economic uncertainty. Fears about pandemics and recessions create a situation where average spends on travel and tourism decrease dramatically due to financial uncertainty. Fears about a Coronavirus pandemic though are not just about the actual virus affecting people though. Coronavirus has silently begun to cause supply chain disruptions and investment income which have ripple effects on how much people can spend on non-essential activities like outdoor recreation.
Historical effects of financial uncertainty in tourism
To understand what happens during times of financial uncertainty the US Bureau of Labor produced several statistics on US average annual spend on travel during the last economic downturn. When we compare the year over year percentage change we can see a serious contraction in annual spending bottoming out in 2009
This trend is also mirrored in a Boston and Cambridge look at the average occupancy of hotel rooms during the last financial crisis.
All of this combined shows a major contraction across the tourism sector with leisure travel being the hardest hit. The bottom line is that during times of economic uncertainty more people are staying home.
Domestic tourism during financial uncertainty
One of the most reliable measures of demand in tourism is numbers of travelers. So clearly financial uncertainty has a negative relationship on the demand for tourism, but this approach only looks at the big picture of trends in the US using the above data. When we look at the rafting industry during times of uncertainty we actually see a counter intuitive pattern emerge. Here is the use data compiled by America outdoors on East Coast Rivers:
The mighty Karnali, Nepal’s longest, largest, and least known river system is in peril. Of the three major river basins emerging from the Nepal Himalaya—the Koshi, Kali Gandaki, and Karnali—the Karnali is the only river that remains free-flowing. All others have been dammed for hydropower generation reflecting an increasingly intensive pattern of hydropower development across Nepal. There are currently three mega hydropower dams planned for the Karnali River with 28 more sites being surveyed. Construction of any one of these dams will forever change the essence and flow of the Karnali River. The construction of all three will devastate the river system and the cultures, endangered species and economies that depend on it. A dedicated group of people are working to protect the free-flowing Karnali. In spring 2018, a group of scientists, river adventurists and a film crew undertook a 44-day expedition along its entire length. Together, they documented the river’s values and used what they learned to educate the public and decision-makers about the importance of protecting the Karnali – Nepal’s last and most pristine free-flowing river.
The Karnali River starts near Holy Mt. Kailash on the Tibetan Plateau as do three other great Holy Rivers of Asia, the Indus (Sutlej) into Pakistan, the Ganges through India and the Brahmaputra to Bangledesh. Hundreds of thousands of worshipers travel to Holy Mt. Kailash each year for a spiritual renewal.
Having the race rules translated into multiple languages allows us all to share the love of raft racing even further. You can view all current and recent versions of the race rules on our website here.
It would be great if we can get Czech, Russian, Spanish and Romanian versions this year. If you are able to assist in translating the current (2020) race rules into your language, get in touch and let Sean or Sue know if you are able to help: [email protected]
This article is a reprint from our friends at ‘RAFTING MAGAZINE’
Kayaking has taken an interesting trend over the years by classifying boats. Given the crossover of many paddlers between these sports it is surprising that rafting hasn’t picked up the stratification of boat classes into broad categories. As we get more experienced with a topic we require greater degrees of specificity to describe similar yet functionally different concepts. So, we thought we would take a crack at some boat classification for rafts.
How does classifying rafts help?
We get a ton of questions about what boat to take out in which river. Different boats have very different performance characteristics. Everyone has their preference for style of boat and different regions will see greater popularity from different designs due to local conditions.
One of the more particular parts of our industry is that boat design and popularity varies regionally since rivers in different geological zones are slightly different despite the fact that water tends to create similarly predictable features in general. A good thing to pay particular attention to is how the locals boat and customize their boats.
It’s important to note that not every raft fits perfectly in each category. While you can certainly get down a big water section of river in a play boat, it may not be the most enjoyable experience as something like that can leave you pretty exposed. Here are our thoughts on how to categorize rafts generally. You can click the links below to take you to the gear shed to see more about what’s out there on the market.
Big water boats
Outside of these categories there are a few specialty categories that we haven’t covered like J-rigs and sweep boats as they tend to be less common, especially for the average boater. Also we are not covering catarafts in this piece as we would like to cover those crafts in a separate article.
Recognising that we are stronger together, the Ukrainian Rafting Federation (URF), founded in 2009, are the most recent member to join the IRF rafting family. The URF joins the All Ukraine Rafting Federation (AURF) as our second provisional member federation from Ukraine. The IRF will be working with the two rafting federations to help unify rafting in Ukraine as we continue to unify rafting worldwide. We wholeheartedly welcome URF to the IRF Family!
The URF now conducts National Championships each year in the categories of Juniors, Open and Masters and have been competing in international competitions for a number of years. In preparation for meeting IRF membership requirements, the URF has added clauses to its organisation statutes, which among other additions, states that the URF recognises, “the International Rafting Federation (“IRF”) as the world governing body of rafting”.
Ukraine has a great range of rivers and rafting locations along with a fast developing tourism industry. Internationally recognised and respected IRF GTE Workshops have been run in Ukraine since 2016, increasing the standard of river safety for all.
However, the forefront and leading work URF are best known for is their pioneering work in para-rafting. They started developing para-rafting in 2017 and in 2018 and 2019 they organised an international Para-Rafting competition in Kiev, Ukraine. Among the IRF’s core objectives enshrined in our Bylaws, is to promote rafting as a Paralympic sport. For the past two years the IRF has been working closely with para-athletes and other international sport federations involved in para-sports, to create a well designed and carefully crafted management plan for whitewater para-rafting competitions. Our objective is to roll out a safe para-rafting structure that incorporates a wide range of disabilities, conforms to International Paralympic Commitee (IPC) guidelines, and stays true to rafting’s origins and history as a thrilling sport conducted on whitewater. We are delighted to include the URF among our body of experts working on this ambitious project, and welcome their experience and advice as these plans continue to develop.
Ukraine team racing at IRF Kashmir Cup, India in 2008
Oleksandr Bakanychev, President of the federation, tells us the development priorities of the URF are:
Strong preparation for the IRF World and European Championships;
The reform of rafting;
Providing a qualitative and clear system of sporting equipment purchase;
Building modern sporting infrastructures for conducting international competitions and involving rafting athletes;
Building new sporting facilities in the places that are suitable for conducting rafting competitions;
Creation and implementation of the competition system of school children’s and student’s leagues;
Realisation of the pilot project “Money walks after a child” at children’s and youthful sporting school in Scole, Lviv region, Ukraine;
Digitisation of sporting sphere: creation of unified electronic registers of competitions, coaches, athletes and sporting facilities;
Development of tourist rafting in Ukraine;
Training for guides and instructors
Training for coaches and judges
We will report more soon about their recent project of developing rafting amongst children aged 10 to 15 years old.
We look forward to meeting all the Ukrainian teams at our upcoming European Champs, World Champs, as well as Euro Cups and World Cups.
To: IRF National Federation Members From: Joseph Willis Jones – IRF President
For Immediate Release
Dear Member Federation,
The IRF is continuing to closely monitor the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. It remains too early to tell what, if any, effect it will have on the 2020 IRF international rafting competition schedule, and in particular on our 2020 World Rafting Championship (WRC). As always, the health and safety of our rafting family will be our number one priority.
IRF Administration and Media representatives are receiving many requests for information from teams and athletes about the effect the outbreak will have on the WRC. We are redirecting team and athlete information requests to their National Federation. It appears that misinformation has been spread claiming that our 2020 WRC has been cancelled. This claim is entirely false and we are asking our National Federations to please redistribute this notice to their athletes and anyone else concerned about our 2020 WRC. This notice will also be published on our website and social media outlets.
Since our last notice one month ago, the COVID-19 situation has changed tremendously. Some changes have been positive, while others have not. More is known about the virus, in particular that it has thus far resulted in mild symptoms for the vast majority of cases, and had its most serious effects on elderly persons and those with serious pre-existing health issues. Medical experts now believe that normally healthy individuals (like IRF athletes) will likely not experience serious effects if they become infected, however they caution that there are unknown factors yet to be learned.
The virus has thus far wreaked havoc on the worldwide international sporting calendar and numerous events, including Olympic qualifiers, have been cancelled, postponed or relocated. However, today, 3 March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reiterated its commitment to holding this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan as scheduled.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently released statements that the risk of the epidemic spreading is now very high at a global level. They report that in the last 24 hours there were almost 9 times more cases reported outside China than inside China, but there is evidence that containment is still possible. We are receiving hourly updates from WHO and other medical authorities.
Taking a snapshot of today, 3 March 2020, the number of cases globally now exceeds 92,861 across 77 countries and territories, with at least 3,162 deaths reported. Today only 125 new cases were reported in China, a sharp drop from only a few days ago. The epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are currently the WHO’s greatest concern with more than 600 new cases today in South Korea, 542 in Iran and 523 in Italy.
Guangxi Province, China, site of the IRF 2020 WRC, has reported no new cases in more than 12 days; and of the 252 people who have been infected, 210 people have completely recovered and only 40 remain infected. Guangxi is roughly the size of Italy in landmass and population and located approximately 850km from the virus epicenter in Wuhan.
We encourage our athletes to continue to prepare for the IRF 2020 WRC, but be ready for any changes as the situation continues to develop. What is true today may no longer be true the day after tomorrow. We also ask everyone to be aware that constantly changing travel restrictions may impact some of our events. We suggest that teams DO NOT purchase air tickets for the WRC at this time.
The IRF will continue to follow the advice of WHO, as the leading United Nations agency on this topic. We urge all members to stay up to date on the latest WHO advisories. It is vital that athletes adhere to the advice of the WHO which includes avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections; engage in frequent hand washing; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; practice respiratory hygiene; and if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
To our members who live in countries or areas currently affected by the virus, we take this opportunity to express our heartfelt sympathy and support to those who have experienced suffering or loss. We wish you all the best during this difficult time.
Joseph Willis Jones International Rafting Federation – President
The IRF Sport & Competition Committee have concluded the annual updating of the Race Rules. The new rules come into effect from the 1 March.
The majority of the changes are under the H2H section, which is not surprising as this new format is still getting a few crinkles ironed out. The changes can be seen in the following document which shows where the changes have been made – IRF Race Rules – March 2020 with track changes. The key changes are listed below:
Definitions of “Inside the raft” and “Sportsmanship” have been added.
The Team with the faster time in the Sprint is awarded the choice of Start Lane. So times in H2H races no longer dictate choice of start lane.
Under H2H safety – competitors are not allowed to intentionally exit their rafts at any time during the H2H race except under the following situations:
Their raft is firmly grounded on a rock or other obstacle and cannot be ungrounded by other means.
Exiting their raft is necessary because of a clear and obvious safety hazard.
There is now a 50 second penalty instead of disqualification for disregarding the H2H safety rules.
Teams will be disqualified if they take longer than 15 mins to do the entire course. This time can be shortened by the Jury if needs be.
Rules around sustainability have been added as well. The inappropriate discard of rubbish during an IRF Event is considered unsportsmanlike behaviour bringing the sport of rafting into disrepute and so can be penalised.
Karnali, the longest river in Nepal, is recognized as world class for whitewater rafting and is still the last free flowing river in Nepal. It originates from the base of mount Kailash, flowing across the beautiful landscape of Nepal before dispersing into the Ganges River.
The Great Karnali Quest- sacred downriver raft race (probably the longest downriver raft race in the world) will be an incredible experience of a lifetime. It would be 242 km of raft racing in the most pristine Himalayan river. This event aims to promote the Karnali Region as a wonderful destination for Eco-adventure tourism. The Great Karnali Quest is not only about the rafting challenge, it’s a campaign to raise awareness amongst the global community to conserve the natural rivers before they are destroyed.
Hosted in the French alps, over three action packed days, delegates to the 2020 IRF GTE Instructor Conference will discuss and share ideas on the latest developments in raft guiding and safety. Registration is now open and delegates are encouraged to register early to avoid disappointment when tickets sell out.
Location: Camping Les Eygas; Fontmoline, 05380 Châteauroux-les-Alpes, France +33 4 92 43 63 80 Date: 27th to 29th April 2020 Host:www.wildwaterschool.nl Rivers: Durance, Guil and Ubaye rivers Cost: €300 Per person. This includes 3 nights camping & 3 meals per day along with all river shuttles & equipment hire. Language of the Conference: English Pre-requisite: IRF Instructor Certificate Registration:Complete the registration form here to register Enquiries:[email protected]