Cayman’s largest sea swim now has a reason to get even bigger, with prizes totalling over $100,000.
Some of the world’s fastest swimmers will be here next month to compete in the Flowers Sea Swim, which offers a US$25,000 prize for a world record and a $5,000 prize for a course record.
The event on 20 June also offers $70,000 of other prizes, including random-draw prizes like Cayman Airways airline tickets, trips to Australia, Las Vegas, the UK, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto, and more.
The half-mile swim is from the Gecko Beach Bar to the Ritz-Carlton north beach.
With the calibre of swimmers competing, the course record is definitely expected to fall and possibly the world record. Last year’s race was won by Cayman teenager Joel Rombough.
Other participants include Cayman’s Olympic swimming brothers, Shaune and Brett Fraser, who will compete alongside the likes of Ryan Lochte, Anthony Nesty and Rada Owen.
These elite swimmers get their airfares and accommodation paid but no appearance money.
Mr. Lochte is one of the fastest swimmers in the world behind Michael Phelps. Mr. Lochte is a multiple world record holder and 2004 Olympic gold medallist.
Mr. Nesty won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics and is now a coach to the elite swimmers at the University of Florida, where the Fraser brothers are students. Ms Owen competed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Flowers Sea Swim organiser Dara Flowers-Burke said: ‘We have an awesome amount of Olympic swimmers coming over and even Dave Kelsheimer is coming from Australia with around 20 swimmers. He’s bringing some world renowned long distance swimmers.’
Mrs. Flowers-Burke said
Jim Fraser, Shaune and Brett’s father, was instrumental in getting these top swimmers to commit to the event.
‘We’ve also got some master swimmers, people who were world class in the past and are still good,’ she said. ‘Rada Owen is bringing 20 swimmers again from California. Last year around 650 registered and over 700 are expected this time.
‘We’ve started such a following with people coming regularly and booking their holidays around it. People in January were calling me to find out the date.’
The charity benefiting from this swim is the Sunrise Adult Training Centre, which helps adults with learning disabilities. Last year more than $23,000 was raised for the designated charity Big Brothers Big Sisters.
This sea swim is organised in conjunction with the Department of Tourism. Last year, there were around 70 overseas swimmers, but because of the extra prize money organisers expect well over 100 this time.
Many bring their partners and offspring so the numbers are significantly swelled.
Few top swimmers came last year because all their training was geared towards competing in the Beijing Olympics. This time around they are preparing for the world championships in Rome in July.
‘My father, Frank, is the driving force behind this,’ added Mrs. Flowers-Burke. ‘This is such a special project for him and he’s the type of person who is super enthused. This is the 17th year of the swim and it started off really small, about 60 people.
‘He merged two existing swims into one and decided to give prizes away to attract more swimmers. That was the genesis of it. And every year he’s just grown it. Now a lot of athletes are actually contacting us.
‘I think once you come once, the island is so amazing, the people so friendly and there’s so much fun that people just keep coming back.’