Splish splashing away

The Flowers Sea Swim on 18 June is one of the sporting highlights of the year for athletes and non athletes alike. Now already in its 19th year, the event has grown in leaps and bounds to a point where organisers are in the enviable position of having to cap entries in order to ensure the best possible experience for all participants.

Even though swimming a mile in open water can be a pretty tough challenge, no other venue in the world can offer conditions as perfect as those in Cayman. On top of the warm water and perfectly calm conditions, the clarity of the water and the presence of tropical fish creates and atmosphere that is not only unique in the world of open water swimming, but has been described by visiting swimmers as bordering on distracting (in a good way, of course!).

For those who think a mile a bit much, in the lead up to the event, marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey will attempt a swim from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman, a distance of some 68 miles which will see Penny spend some two days non stop in the water. The Bridging the Islands event, which will take place through the rough open ocean, is certain to put a one mile swim in the tranquil waters off Seven Mile Beach into perspective.

Fortunately, the Flowers Sea Swim is a much more readily achievable goal, and the event draws all types, from the occasional swimmers who only take their swim suits out of the drawer once a year for this event, to Olympians and world record holders who line up not only to experience what has been rated as one of the best open water events in the world, but also with an eye to the first prize, or maybe even the considerable bonus on offer for anyone who can set a new world record for a one mile open water swim. US$10,000 will be awarded to the swimmer who breaks the record for the world’s fastest recorded ocean mile. US$5,000 is awarded for setting a new event record. The time to beat for a men’s world record is 16:00 minutes; the women’s world record stands at 17:21, while the men’s event record stands at 17:18 and the women’s event record at 17:47.

Both event records were set at the 2010 edition of the swim, with Alex Meyer setting a new mark for the men, and Eva Fabian setting the new women’s mark.

Fortunately it’s not just the top swimmers who have a shot at winning some great prizes. In fact, the event offers swimmers a one in five chance of winning a random prize at the post race prize giving. This year, giveaways include round trip tickets on Cayman Airways, Digicel phones, Red Sail Sports activities restaurant vouchers and much more.

As is the case every year, the event will benefit a charity organisation, with Meals on Wheels being selected as the beneficiary for the 2011 event.

Entries for the event are available through caymanboxoffice.com for $25, with entries closing on 15 June, or before if the upper limit of 800 entrants is reached.

Even those with no swimming talent whatsoever can be a part of the event through the popular ‘walk and watch’ event. There will be many random draw prizes on offer for the walkers as well. The first 150 walkers to check in on race day will also receive a t-shirt and a US$20 voucher for Cayman Airways, for an entry fee of $15.

The event is sponsored by the Flowers Group, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways, the Ministry of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports & Culture, Digicel, CUC, Cayman National, Caymanian Compass, BMW, DART, the Reef and Red Sail Sports.

TOP NAMES: 

Women:
Eva Fabian:

Defending women’s champion and event record holder Eva Fabian will be returning to defend her take another shot at not only the win and the course record, but maybe the world record as well. At the 2010 Open Water World Championships Fabian won a gold medal in the 5km. She also claimed silver in the 10km at the 2010 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.Not bad for an athlete barely old enough to drive.

Kaitlin Sadeno:
A four-time Olympic medal and member of the 2000 and 2004 US Olympic team, Kaitlin Sadeno is also a former world record holder.

Kristy Kowal
A two time world champion and Olympic silver medallist in 2000, Kristy Kowal specialised in breaststroke during her competitive career.

Maritza Correia
A three time world champion, Maritza Correia took a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, and is the first African American female swimmer to make a US Olympic team and win a medal.

Men:
Gary Hall Jr:

Having competed in three Olympics (1996, 2000, 2004) and taking a haul of 10 medals (5 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze), Gary Hall Jr is a legend of the sport. One of the characters of world swimming, he would frequently strut onto the pool deck in boxing shorts and robe, shadow boxing and flexing for the audience.

Ian Crocker
A five time Olympic medallist (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) over a span of three Olympic Games, Ian Crocker is a former world record holder in seven events including the 100m butterfly from 2003 to 2009.

Chip Peterson
Specialising in open water swimming, Chip Peterson won gold in the 10km event at the 2005 world championships as well as claiming silver in the 5km event. In 2010 he was the winner of the highly competitive Tiburon Mile in San Francisco.

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