Organisers of the annual Vaka Eiva paddling event in Rarotonga are expecting a record number of overseas entries this year, despite the ongoing challenges of a slow economy.
About 700 paddlers will converge on the Muri Lagoon for the week-long event, including an expected 520 offshore competitors.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
That's slightly more than the 500 that made the trip two years ago and the event co-ordinator, Victoria Dearlove, says it's especially pleasing in what are still tough economic times. She says a lot of people say they've been saving harder and doing more fundraising to ensure they can still travel to the Cook Islands to compete. However some crews from Christchurch in New Zealand have pulled out following the earthquakes there earlier this year. The traditional blessing of the canoes will take place this afternoon with the first sprint races to get underway tomorrow morning. The Vaka Eiva competition is now in its eighth year. The event is expected to contribute more than one-point-five million dollars to the local Cook Islands economy.