Swimming in the Cayman Islands is the most successful and popular sport and that is evident by the size of the annual Flowers Sea Swim. In fact, it has become so popular that it is now restricted to 800 entrants. Ron Shillingford reports.
When Olympic champion and world record holder Ryan Lochte started the race for the annual Flowers Sea Swim last year that simple act resonated around the global swimming community.
Lochte is one of the most respected swimmers out there and for him to take time out to attend the one mile swim along Seven Mile Beach was significant.
That is why the next, on Saturday 19 June, will easily attract its biggest ever field. Nearly 800 entered last time and over 700 actually swam.
Early indications were that many more than 800 will go for this year’s so organisers, the Flowers Group, headed by Frank Flowers and his daughter Dara Flowers-Burke and assisted by Kate Alexander, have set the limit to 800.
Lochte may compete this time depending on his summer schedule, but even if he doesn’t there are plenty of Olympians and top pros confirmed and seeking to grab some of the $100,000-plus prize money and random prizes.
Anthony Nesty, 1988 Olympic champion, is the best known of the big names, along with Rada Owen and Cayman’s own Olympians Shaune and Brett Fraser and Andrew Mackay. Open water specialist Alex Meyer, the world No.3, will give the pool specialists a close race.
Newcomers will be Eva Fabian, the 15-year-old open water sensation as well as BJ Bedford, Kristy Kowal and Rada Owen.
New to the race this year is Maritza Correia, the first African-American woman to make the US Olympic swim team, and also the first Puerto Rican native. She won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics and is a former US national champion numerous times.
The prize money is the best ever with US$25,000 on offer awarded to anyone who breaks the record for the world’s fastest recorded ocean mile.
There is $5,000 allocated for setting a new event record. Across the men’s and women’s divisions that is a potential total of $60,000.
Alexander said: “Again this year we have fabulous prizes from all of our sponsors. We will be giving away airline tickets to Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Brazil, Dublin, and Australia plus a Caribbean cruise,“We also have over 60 Cayman Airways vouchers, restaurant, water sports, and boutique vouchers, cell phones and the Flowers special prizes, which are a secret until race day.
“We have improved a lot of the administrative and technical procedures this year. Firstly we’d like people to know that there is a lot of helpful information that’s been added to our website.
“Swimmers, especially those who have not done the swim before, can read all about the race day procedures on our website.
“Also, we have made the on-line registration process really easy and fast this year. And we will be adding information boards to the start area to help people navigate the check-in and start
“Many swimmers have been asking us to return to age group results, so we’ve added those back to the race this year.
“We are also really pleased that Total Immersion (a swim training company) will be offering an open water swim clinic during race week.
“This clinic is a great way for people to improve their sea swimming skills. Another added feature this year is a Friday night pasta dinner at the Brasserie.
“It’s only $10 per person and it’s a great way to meet other swimmers and enjoy the excitement of the event.
“We’re also going to add more buoys to the course this year, so it’s easier for swimmers to mark their progress. And we’ve put together a really strong safety plan, including that we are adding lifeguards to the course.
“All the other favourite features from years past are still in place – the amazing goody bags, great refreshments at the finish, finisher’s medal for all finishers, personal belongings shuttle, and, of course, the random prizes.
“We also want people to know that all proceeds from the swim go to charity. This year, we are choosing the Sunrise Adult Training Centre as the beneficiary for the second year in a row.
“They are such a worthy organization. And every dollar from the entry fees goes to them. In addition, the Brasserie will be donating a portion of the pasta dinner proceeds to Sunrise.”
For more information, go to: www.flowersseaswim.com.