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Friday 18 November 2011 | Published in Regional


The United Nations crew has never trained together they havent even met.

Theyve been matched up by event organiser Victoria Dearlove, who joked she felt like a dating agency coordinating the transcontinental crew.

The crew comprises three Canadians, two paddlers from Samoa and two Kiwis. They were orphaned by their home crews, paddler Mike Sullivan said with a smile Canadian club Jericho Outrigger elected to put in a womens team only, a Samoan crew pulled out and a Christchurch-based crew had to cancel its Vaka Eiva plans after the earthquakes.

The paddlers in those crews who were still keen to race emailed Dearlove registering their interest.

We were left orphans and Victora took pity on us and said, okay, all orphans who want to race but have no team Ill blast you an email, Sullivan said.

Dearlove copied them all in on an email, and armed with those contacts Sullivan assumed organising responsibilities. He asked all recipients of the email to send him a mini-bio and a photo, and set to work finalising the first-ever United Nations crew.

The crew comprises Sullivan and fellow Canadians Jim Smith and Phil Gorsuch and Kiwis Nick Jessop, Jason Tau, Andrew Wallace and Kraig Cornwall. Joining them are Anthony Talouli and Cameron Darragh of Samoa.

Dearlove says the crew ranges in age from 33 to about 54 years old and will be paddling in the open mens Round Raro, the iron races and sprints.

Weve never even met, Sullivan said of the United Nations crew. Hes carrying printed emails bearing the photos of the members of his crew, who will start to trickle in over this week.

While their Kiwi and Samoan counterparts are acclimated to the Rarotonga heat, the Canadian contingent of the United Nations crew has been training in freezing conditions. Naturally they welcome the change of climate.

The last time we paddled it was about three degrees and dark, Smith said. Sullivan says that at this time of year he wears three layers and gloves in the vaka, and waits until the last possible moment to shed his heavy jacket.

After our first paddle today we jumped overboard its been a couple months since weve done that, Smith said. We dont stop for long we have a saying, If you get cold youre not paddling hard enough.