A huge crowd came out for the annual Foster’s Sea Swim which was as keenly contested as ever.
Some 122 swimmers were out at Governor’s Beach on West Bay Road last Saturday for the 24th annual event.
A relaxed and optimistic mob of sea-goers could be seen gathering as much as 20 minutes before race time. The crowd would get a pleasant surprise with good swim conditions.
The heavy amounts of rain seen days and hours before were gone, leaving clear blue skies in their wake.
Organizers breathed a huge sigh of relief as the water was calm and did not present the race-changing choppy water they feared.
Participants would soon make their way into the sea for a brief warm-up. Among the eager swimmers looking for a good showing was triathlon star Marius Acker.
Other notable attendees included former Cable & Wireless CEO Tim Adam, television personality James Bebarfeld and Cayman Islands Olympic Committee member Victor Thompson.
Soon all swimmers would gather at the race’s start point just behind the Governor’s residence. As is tradition the participants made a long line as organizers did their head-count.
Also steps were made to ensure the swim was not only enjoyable but safe.
A race official was stationed in a kayak just in front of the pack. In addition the Cayman Protector police and customs boat would loom large in the background.
Soon chief race marshal Peter Mackay, father of local swimming legend Andrew Mackay, would brandish his trusty air-horn and signal the start of the race at exactly 4pm.
The once gentle and uncluttered Seven Mile beach waters would soon see an torrent of speeding swimmers churning up the surface and bursting out of the starting blocks.
Among the leaders was Seiji Groome. Last year’s champion was reportedly eager for a showdown with Cayman’s most cherished athletes in Olympians Shaune and Brett Fraser at the sea swim. The closest Groome would get to any Fraser on the day though would be father Jim who was a race marshal on the day. Jim quipped that when they heard Seiji wanted to race them they hurriedly got off the island!
Nevertheless, Groome swam with purpose and with powerful strokes. By the quarter mark he was well in front, a length or two ahead of other young swimmers.
A mob of supporters, volunteers and local media would try their best to keep up with Groome and the rest of the field. A mass exodus of people were walking up along the Seven Mile Beach.
They weren’t the only ones watching the action intently. Among the volunteers for the race were Red Cross staff. Armed with stretchers and first aid kits, all made sure they were ready in case of trouble.
Beach goers in the area had mixed reactions to the sea swim: some gave inquisitive looks as the caravan of swimmers and supporters pushed onwards while others looked on in silent admiration.
With the race lasting only about 30 minutes in total it wouldn’t be long before Groome, 15, and other front runners would hit the three-quarter mark of the 800m race.
The finish line could be clearly seen and it was a busy one. Race officials and time keepers stood patiently at the foot of the Seven Mile Public Beach, prepared to take everyone’s times.
Behind them a curious crowd of onlookers had gathered, some to see who would be the first to finish and others to find out why a whole cabana had been take up with pizza and refreshments.
Other race officials were wading in the water just beyond the finish line to give numbers to all the finishers.
Soon all sprung into action. To no one’s surprise Seiji Groome was first to cross the line only 10 minutes and 31 seconds after the race began.
A smiling and relaxed Groome made his way onto shore to a nice ovation from onlookers.
Close on his heels was Joshua Bain in a time of 10 minutes and 49 seconds.
Matthew Courtis would barely finish third in a time of 10 minutes and 56 seconds. Courtis had to dig deep to hold off a furious final sprint from accomplished local swimmer Lara Butler who finished just a second behind. She was first female home.
Youth and young muscles had an advantage in the race as nine of the top 10 finishers were 19 and under.
From there the rest of the racers came in bunches. Each minute a group of some five swimmers would barrel into the finishing area, separated by mere seconds.
Thereafter participants made their way onto the beach and by a nearby a cabana where they gave their name and enjoyed a slice of well-earned pizza and energy drinks.
The Fosters family, who were the chief sponsors for the race, had a solid presence at the swim. Shane Foster competed and actually did pretty well, finishing 43rd and third in the 40-44 category.
Woody Foster meanwhile stayed dry on land and presented trophies to the top age group finishers. Woody did say though he relaxed this year that he plans to dive into the field for next year’s swim.
The next big race on the local swim calendar will be the third annual Zulu 2-mile sea swim. That will be the first long-distance race of the year on Saturday 4 October.
Organizers, like Open Water Committee member Bill McFarland, say the event went smoothly and saw a satisfying amount of participants.
‘I thought the swim went very well. It is always nice to see a large turnout of swimmers; whenever we get more than 100 swim-enthusiasts in the water at one time we consider the event a great success!’