Marathon weekend for Masters Swimmers

Six Masters swimmers celebrated the opening of the Pirates’ Week with a long-weekend of long-distance swimming. Cayman-based athletes Mark Cummings, Bill McFarland, Sally Rubner, Victor Thompson, Tony Watts, and visiting Master Diane Korn of New York, started their Pirates’ Week swim-fest by competing in Saturday’s 27th edition of the Pirates’ Week 5 kilometre sea swim, and followed up on Monday with a 10 kilometre marathon swim, for a total of 15 kilometres over the three day long-weekend.

The Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association added a 10 kilometre marathon swim to their Open Water swim calendar last year, reflecting the addition of the 10 kilometre marathon swim to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, as well as the growing popularity of long-distance open water competitions in the International swimming community. The Swim Association is hopeful that the experiences gained in organizing 10 kilometre swims will help them win their bid for an Open Water World Championship on behalf of the Cayman Islands in the near future. While last year the 5k and 10k events were held on the same day, this year swimmers had the choice of competing in one or both swims over a three day period.

Organizers were concerned with the weather as a brisk Northeasterly wind dominated the Cayman area in advance of the swim. However, 7-mile Beach provided a nice-lee for the water close to the beach, and as the sun rose over the eastern horizon, it was clear that the event was going to be a go. Prior to the race, each swimmer was assigned a kayaker who was tasked with providing nourishment, safety as well as morale support to their swimmer over the gruelling time that it would take to complete the race.

The swimmers were off on their four lap course of 2.5 kilometres at 8:15am, with Mark Cummings setting a quick pace reflecting his swimming experience. 10k veterans Bill McFarland, Sally Rubner and Victor Thompson formed a three person pack in the early stages of the race, while 10k newbies Diane Korn and local triathlete Tony Watts maintained a slower pace, content with completing the race as opposed competing. As the hours crept by, a southerly current slowly set-in, forcing the swimmers to dig deep within themselves and find that inner-strength to overcome the increasing fatigue that is always associated with marathon events.

In the end, all of the swimmers who started completed the race. Cayman Masters swimmer Mark Cummings held the lead throughout the swim and and crossed the line after 2 hrs 54 minutes, followed by Bill McFarland, Sally Rubner and Victor Thompson, who all earned personal best times as compared to last year’s 10k event. Diane Korn finished in an impressive 3 hrs and 55 minutes, while Tony Watts’ determination brought him across the line after 5 hrs 11 minutes in the water. It should be noted that none of the Masters swimmers exhibited early signs of arthritis, as noted by Seiji ‘Cheeky’ Groome in a previous Caymanian Compass interview.

At the awards ceremony, Open Water Chairperson Dagmar Wojciki thanked each volunteer for supporting the race throughout the 5 hr period that it took for completion, as well as sponsors Kirk Freeport, Arabus Boutique and Carmen Martinez from Cayman Rehab Services for their generous support of both the 5k and 10k Pirates’ Week Open Water swims.

The 10k marathon swim marked the end of another successful open water swim season for the Cayman Islands Amateur Swim Association. The season will begin next year with the 21st Annual Cable & Wireless 800m sea swim, which will be held in April, 2008. For more information on Open Water swimming in the Cayman Islands, please contact the CIASA Open Water Committee at [email protected].

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