28th Augusta Southern Nationals canceled over safety concerns

The upcoming Augusta Southern Nationals dragboat races were canceled Wednesday over safety concerns associated with rising floodwaters along the Savannah River.

“Unfortunately, the Augusta area has been experiencing excessive rainfall over the last several months,” said race chairman Dayton Sherrouse, noting that this is the first cancellation in the event’s 28-year history.

“This has caused all the reservoirs located on the Savannah River upstream from the race site to exceed their full pool level and the flows in the Savannah River are too high and swift to enable us to safely conduct the 28th Augusta Southern Nationals next week.”

The races, scheduled for July 19-21, are typically held when the river’s flow is about 7,000 cubic feet per second and relatively free of debris. Current flows, Sherrouse said, are 40,000 cubic feet per second.

“The Corps of Engineers has advised us that these conditions will persist for the next several weeks,” he said, noting that conditions could possibly become worse because of Tropical Storm Chantal that could impact the area next week.

Halting the event so close to its scheduled dates is a disappointment to hundreds of volunteers who have worked all year to organize the races, he said.

“We’ve got all the souvenirs ordered, volunteer shirts made, billboards are up, and there are all those food orders that have to be canceled,” he said. “And on top of that, tickets have been sold and drivers need to be notified. It goes on and on.”

Board members plan to meet soon to determine the best path forward to resolve all those issues, he said.

“We’ll have to figure all that out soon, and when we do, we’ll let everyone know.”

Augusta officials contacted the Lucas Oil Dragboat Racing Series organizers to see if an alternate date could be arranged to re-schedule the event but there was nothing available.

“We appreciate the support we have always received from the race teams and patrons that come to Augusta for the past 27 years and ask you to put July 18-20 on your calendar for next year’s race,” he said.

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