Epic journey for charity

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Rowing for four charities off the Mid Canterbury coastline are (from left) Ross Ferguson, Alanna Ross, Cath Sutherland, Ian Hamilton and Matt Spittle. PHOTO SUPPLIED
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Bobbing around in the Pacific ocean off the Mid Canterbury coast, rower Kevin Duggan talks about the journey he and his fellow rowers are taking part in.

They are undertaking a Lions New Zealand fundraiser, called Rowing For Life Aotearoa NZ.

It involves them rowing the entire east coast of New Zealand – a 3000km journey that will take about five months.

‘‘The sea is a bit choppy today,’’ Duggan said when talking to The Ashburton Courier by phone last week as they rowed 10km from the Rangitata River mouth.

‘‘We have been very fortunate with the weather, someone is smiling on us,’’ he said.

He said the aim was to raise $5million.

‘‘We listened to former Prime Minister Jacinda and she talked about the team of 5 million so we thought that was a great target. If everyone gives a dollar we will raise the $5m,’’ Duggan said.

As of early last week they had raised $9410.

‘‘Even if we don’t reach our ambitious goal, every single dollar means so much, and we deeply appreciate any support given.’’

ROWING FOR A CAUSE: Choppy seas didn’t deter rowers, from left, Matt Spittle, Ian Hamilton, Cath Sutherland, Alanna Ross and Ross Ferguson as they ventured along the Mid Canterbury coast. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Lions District governor Garth Bateup said all six Mid Canterbury Lions Clubs were supporting the project.

‘‘One club has already given $2000 and has challenged the others to meet that amount or better it,’’ Bateup said.

‘‘As this project is going on for several months we might look to organise a fundraiser so the public can support this project,’’ he said.

The Lions will split the money equally between four charities – Child Cancer Foundation, Lions Club Cancer Trust, Starship Foundation and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

Duggan said crews were rowing in a coxed quad coastal rowing boat, averaging 40km per day, weather and sea permitting.

‘‘Lions Clubs NZ are arranging meet and greets at beach landings, food and accommodation where possible, and fundraising activities along the journey.’’

Ian Hamilton from Invercargill Rowing Club plans to row the whole journey. He has been involved in rowing for more than 30 years.

‘‘Ian has so far managed to avoid any blisters on his behind,’’ Duggan said.

Rowers are invited to participate in each area as the boat traverses the east coast. The crew will swapped in and out of the coastal boat with the inflatable rescue boat, and support boats.

Travelling from Timaru to Banks Peninsula last week the crew had about three nights at sea where they tethered the boat to a trawler where they slept.

Along with the row boat there are two support boats – the 48-foot fishing trawler Aorere which is supporting the rowers from Oamaru up the Canterbury coast and the 20-foot stabicraft the Aura-Lee which will accompany the whole row.

THUMBS UP: Smiles and a thumbs up from the rowers, left to right, Matt Spittle, Ian Hamilton, Cath Sutherland, Alanna Ross and Ross Ferguson. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Before Christmas they rowed 138km from the tip of Bluff as bit of soft opening.

‘‘The leg up the South Island was due to start in Bluff on February 10, but due to weather we had to move the start date and location to Curio Bay on February 13,’’ Duggan said.

While they are working to a schedule, they are also very dependent on water conditions and the weather.

‘‘The smallest distance we have covered in a day is 23km, and the longest was in the North Otago area when we did 72km in a day,’’ Duggan said.

The crew aren’t members of Lions clubs, rather they are dedicated and passionate rowers, mostly aged in their 50s to 60s.

As they continue north they are welcoming anyone who would like to join the team can contact them.

In some of the areas south of Ashburton they were joined by young rowers, preparing for the Maadi Cup.

They have also been joined in their journey by Hector dolphins, seals and sea birds including albatross.

– Rowing for Life Aotearoa NZ – donations can be made online at givealittle.co.nz/donate/cause/rowing-for-lifeaotearoa-nz.

If you would like to join the crew as rower, contact Kevin Loney at [email protected]