The annual Flowers One Mile Sea Swim will be the biggest and best ever. Ron Shillingford reports
Cayman’s open water swimmers are primed for the biggest sports event on the calendar.
The excitement has been building since last year’s record breaking Flowers Sea Swim and it reaches a crescendo on 19 June at Public Beach.
Nearly 800 participated last year and with the tide of promotion and publicity, along with $100,000 worth of prizes and cash on offer, it is no wonder that this event is world renowned and its reputation is growing with each staging.
This will be the 18th running of the Flowers Sea Swim and for many reasons organisers Frank Flowers and his daughter Dara Flowers-Burke expect another momentous day.
Race director Kate Alexander says: “We’ve had a great response for a while now. Many people registered online just as soon as we opened it on 1 March.
“We’re really pleased that people registered early. Clearly there is a lot of excitement out there about this year’s race. The response, as always, is quite positive
“I think people see the Flowers Sea Swim as one of Cayman’s signature annual happenings. And people respond so positively when they know that this is a charity event.
“Every single dollar of the swim and the Walk & Watch fees goes directly to the Sunrise Adult Training Centre. So swimmers and walkers are not only enjoying the race and all the great prizes, they are also helping the community.
“Sunrise does really amazing work, and everyone who swims or walks can be proud that they are contributing to such a worthy cause.
“Many of the participants who have registered have given additional contributions to Sunrise. I think that really says a lot about how people view the Flowers Sea Swim and the event’s unique opportunity to help the community.
The Olympic swimmers, Shaun and Brett Fraser, are swimming again bringing a big group. How important is this for the swim’s credibility and profile?
“Brett and Shaune have been so good to us, to make the effort to return to Cayman to participate in the swim,” says Alexander.
“Their participation helps our event in a couple of ways. Since they are such accomplished swimmers who get a lot of media attention in the US, they lend a lot of cachet to our event.
“It’s really a remarkable thing that the Flowers Sea Swim can boast about having so many Olympians participating – Shaune and Brett, as well as the other Olympic swimmers and medallists who have joined us over the years.
“Also, swimmers of Brett and Shaune’s calibre make this a serious race. The Flowers Sea Swim has a distinguished profile of being a competitive race with top notch swimmers, while at the same time being user-friendly to recreational and casual swimmers.
“The Frasers are coming down for the swim along with their coach, Anthony Nesty, himself an Olympic gold medallist, and at least six of their University of Florida teammates.
“Most of the Florida team are Olympians and world record holders. The Flowers Sea Swim was recently recognized in SWIMMER magazine as one of the top 13 open water events in the world in part because it is moving up in the swim world as a serious race.”
Alexander feels that Cayman’s growing reputation for putting on magnificent open water swims – in Brac as well as Grand Cayman – has no limits.
“Open water events can get a lot bigger in Cayman. The channel swim from the Brac to Little Cayman could be an annual event, for example. A group of swimmers organized by Alex Harling crossed the North Sound in March.
“That is a very challenging and difficult swim, but is now being done more often than in years past. Some local swimmers are also talking of organising some other long-distance races at various locations around the island.
“Mr. Flowers is taking charge of the Pirates Week 5k this year to turn it into an international event. The 5k and 10k have huge potential for becoming large internationally recognized swims.
“The topic of the phenomenal growth in open water swimming is being addressed at the Global Open Water Swimming Symposium being held in Long Beach, California this month.
“Mr. Flowers and Bill McFarland (president of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association) have been invited to speak at this conference.
“It is the first ever international conference on open water swimming and has been organized in response to the very rapid growth of the sport in recent years.
“Open water swimming will continue to grow according to people in this industry and Cayman is perfectly poised to leverage off the increased popularity.
“Cayman has been organising sea swims for over 30 years. So we not only have the perfect swimming conditions, we also have the knowledge and expertise to expand our local open water scene along with the trend internationally.
“Several other open water events have popped up in the Caribbean recently, testament to the popularity of the sport. There is interest among some regional race directors in developing a Caribbean circuit and championship title.
“There are so many ways Cayman open water could expand – and good health and sportsmanship, community giving such as with the Flowers swim, and increased tourism are just some of the benefits.”
The swimming association is also organising an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest bikini parade.
It is on 17 June and CIASA hopes to unite the community by getting as many people as possible to participate in order to raise awareness for the association and to support its various swim initiatives in Cayman.
For more information on both events, go to www.flowersseaswim.com