The recent Foster’s sea swim was a huge success and much of that had to do with the efforts of one man.
Cayman Amateur Swim Association member William McFarland was one of the chief organizers behind the 800 metre race.
McFarland helped ensure marshals were there in addition to extensive safety measures being in place from medical personnel to a rescue boat.
In addition McFarland and company would choose a great day for the race.
Swim conditions were favourable and saw a south-easterly current that assisted swimmers who headed north along Seven Mile Beach towards the finish.
True to his passion McFarland found himself in the water as well, often swimming against competitors a fraction of his age.
McFarland actually finished strongly in a time of 13 minutes and two seconds, good enough for 23rd place. The mark also netted him the win in the male 45-49 age division.
Granted he was way behind event winner Seiji Groome and his mark of 10 minutes and 31 seconds.
Yet for McFarland the big thrill of the swim was going stroke for stroke with random swimmers.
‘What stood out most in my mind is the breadth of participants that we see coming out swim after swim.
‘Unlike other sports on the island, our open water swims include boys, girls, men and women from all ages and walks of life.’
In fact the race was spilt into roughly 12 age divisions. The youngest grouping saw swimmers eight years and under while the oldest saw people 60-69 years.
For McFarland the swim goes beyond age and centres on camaraderie.
‘Our youngest swimmers were six-year-olds Will Roberts and Sophia Bacon and our oldest swimmers are in their 60s and all performed very well.
‘It is fun to see kids swimming with their parents and see everybody enjoying a chance to socialize after the event in such beautiful surroundings.
‘I am pleased to be involved in helping to put together such a positive, community event and be so well supported by a great organization like Foster’s Food Fair.’
The Foster’s event has been a hugely popular swim on the local schedule.
Since its inception in 1984, every year has drawn ever-increasing crowds. This year was no different and saw 122 swimmers.
The swim was first supported by patriarch David Foster and in time the swim would soon bear the family name.
Usually one of the members of the Fosters clan competes in the race. This year Shane Foster carried on that legacy.
Shane posted a respectable time of 15 minutes and 23 seconds, good enough for third in the men’s 40-44 age division.
Though David’s son Woody Foster did not compete, he is expected to swim in next year’s race.
McFarland feels one of the big reasons why the swim has flourished is because it is well-organized.
‘I believe open water swimming continues to grow in popularity in part because of how well organized our events are, as well as how healthy and enjoyable the sport of swimming is when you have such excellent swimming conditions here in the Cayman Islands.
‘As well, the swim community here in Cayman is filled with positive, uplifting people so it is great to hang out with them before and after our events and get a chance to catch up with fellow swimmers that you may not necessarily see on a day to day basis.’
Ultimately McFarland is quick to point out the importance of volunteers at the race as without them the race would not be where it is today.
‘There is no doubt that the role of volunteers is critical to the success of our swims.
‘From a safety perspective, having volunteer medical doctors such as Dr. Yin and Dr. Addleson on hand, as well as a very dedicated, professional team of Red Cross volunteers out for each swim is essential.
‘Sgt. Brad Ebanks and his team of fellow RCIP officers from the Marine Police Unit are always eager to assist by controlling water traffic to ensure the safety of our swimmers in the water.
‘And we have a team of solid members from the community who come out time and time again to help set up the course, register swimmers, act as race directors, marshals, timers and assist at the finish.
‘Without this entire group of individuals, the Open Water Committee would be hard-pressed to pull everything together as well as we do.’