A score of swimmers took to the waters of Seven Mile Beach early Saturday, 25 February, in a quest for support in their journey to represent Cayman at the CARIFTA Swim Champs in April in Barbados.
A 10K sponsored swim to raise funds to help send a team, saw the youngsters enter the water at 7.30am at Pageant Beach.
Two and a half hours later, they emerged from the water at the West Bay Public Beach, full of smiles and chatter.
Along the way they saw barracuda and a nurse shark, encountered jellyfish and sea itch, yet kept going. At one point a fleet of stingrays approached, then dove under them.
The conditions of Cayman water and beach were nothing short of astonishingly beautiful that morning.
A gentle (and favourable) current, sparkling water and iridescent sand combined with soft morning light to make Cayman’s Open Water very possibly the best on the planet. The parallel beach being walk-able the entire distance, many of the support crew got their exercise that way, having to move fast to keep up.
Coach Dominic Ross instructed them to swim in packs and that it was not a race, although one competitive little soul could not resist sprinting to the finish, after swimming nearly six miles.
Senior swimmers swam the entire distance; younger swimmers swam one of four legs in a relay format. Primarily for the Carifta eligible, the ages of the athletes mostly reflected Carifta eligibility, ages 11-17, with one strong 10 year old Geoffrey Butler.
The senior swimmers went out quite deep; to cut the angle, shorten the distance a bit, while the younger ones stayed closer to the shore.
One pod of girls out past the wall, just inside of the fishing boats, thought it was cool when they could see just deep blue when looking down, not the bottom any more.
Swimming the entire distance were: Summer Flowers, Jodie Foster, Brett Fraser, Michael Lockwood, Lexi Robertson, Joel Rombough, Lisa Rombough, Peter Stasiuk, Brigitte Tomascik, and Caroline Watler
Lara Butler and Sai Eccles swam the first leg of the four part relay. The second leg was swum by Madalena Alves, Arianna Bain, Janelle Foster and Joe Roberts. They tagged Geoffrey Butler, Alex McCallum and Amanda Shum for the third leg. Final leg swimmers Seijji Groome and Andrew Smiley encountered quite a bit of chop between West Bay Cemetery and the West Bay Public Beach.
The relay change-over locations were also water, snack and aid stops. Some of full distance swimmers got out for medical treatment after the itching and stinging started, others opted to just keep going until the finish, where they were liberally dosed with topical agents.
Still the swimmers found the distance swim enjoyable.
“Swimming in the sea was a nice change from swimming in the pool. Instead of following a black line at the bottom of the pool we saw a nurse shark, turtles and stingrays. It was also fun swimming in a group in the sea instead of racing like we do in the usual sea swims. If it wasn’t for the sea itch it would have been a perfect day.” explained Lisa Rombough.
Coach Dom thought it was great to see the swimmers help to earn their way, the public support for their hard work and effort tremendous.
Coach Alex Webb walked the beach in support of the younger swimmers, until he had to leave for the Lions Pool to teach.
Retired swimmer Kaitlyn Elphinstone, home on break from the University of Toronto, showed up in support. Elphinstone commented, ‘It was nice to see the whole CARIFTA team working together as a ‘team’ to raise money for the upcoming trip. It was a good group effort and team building activity. The swim was a great opportunity for the swimmers to get out there and take advantage of Caymans great open water conditions. I don’t think many people can say that they have swum the whole of Seven Mile Beach. It was also nice to see the parental support, which is very important for any athlete.’
Red Sail Sports donation of four jet skis and two kayaks helped the safety aspect.
Although the swimmers might enjoy the variation in their training that open water brings, any open water event is much more support labour intensive than pool swimming. An inspection of the entire course was done less than 24 hours prior to the swim.
The event was organized by CIASA’s Dr Sook Yin and Tom McCallum, who were both off-island, so Melinda Robertson was key to operations on the day. Dr Yin donated an I-pod to inspire the swimmers to get sponsors. The hungry crew was provided with brunch afterwards.
There was one mishap. Entering the water, Carifta veteran Zack Myrie ripped a toenail off on the ironshore. So he spent his morning at the hospital rather than swimming the distance, taking him out of the water for two weeks.
The goal was for each swimmer to raise $250 in sponsorship. Some exceeded that by more than $1,000. Almost $8,000.was raised, which will help the team on their way.
Next up for Carifta fund raising is a raffle. Tickets are being finalized and will soon go on sale.
Each junior national team member is asked to sell $250 worth of tickets, while continuing to train hard for Carifta competition. Please support them.