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By ERIN SOMERVILLE

WILD weather hasn’t dampened the spirits of dozens of participants in this year’s Murray Charity Meander who were caught out by high winds and rain on Monday afternoon.
Rescue services were called to Lake Hume after around a dozen boats were caught in choppy conditions.
Four boats had been left on shore overnight as the storm passed.
The event, which sees teams take on the full length of the Murray in stages in their tinnies over three weeks to raise funds for cancer, was still full-steam ahead yesterday afternoon despite the weather that forced the teams to pull in to Albury for a pitstop.
Event co-ordinator Dick Phillips said he was grateful the event’s 100-plus participants were safe following Monday’s unexpected storm, which saw waves reach over one metre.
“Probably the highlight so far is the fact everyone got home safe,” he said.
Mr Phillips said safety was a main priority of this exciting fund-raiser.
“Everybody has to carry safety gear and we scrutinise all of that before they leave.”
This includes carrying UHF radios, wearing life jackets, being supported by a sweep boat which has a satellite phone, and ‘tagging’ each boat to keep track of them.
Weather dramas aside, the field has enjoyed its time cruising in the Upper Murray region, and even caught some unusual sights.
“Someone took a photo of an echidna swimming, we didn’t even know they could swim,” Mr Phillips said.
Participants have come from as far as the Hunter Valley, Hay, South Australia, and Melbourne to explore and relax on the Murray, and raise funds for breast and prostate cancer.
The Meander started in 2006 when Mr Phillips came up with the fund-raising idea four years earlier over a few drinks with some mates.
Since then, the event has raised over $1million for charities, including establishing seven oncology nursing scholarships in the Albury Wodonga region.
This year’s event will see contestants travel Leg One of the 2500km journey along the Murray. Their journey was launched at Bringenbrong Bridge on Friday and will finish in Echuca this Saturday.
Leg Two will see participants journey from Echuca to Mildura, while Leg Three will pass from Mildura to Goolwa.
Both Legs Two and Three will be carried out at separate times.
Donations can be made at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/ and search for Murray Meander.

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