They came in their hordes from all over the world which is why Frank Flowers believes it is the planet’s finest sea swim – and few can argue.
The 17th annual Flowers Sea Swim is one of the biggest and certainly few can match it for prize money and giveaways.
Over 800 registered and a record 748 turned out at the Royal Palms on Saturday for the one mile race to the Ritz-Carlton.
The added panache this year was that a raft of Olympians and world class swimmers were competing, including Cayman’s own Olympic aces Shaune and Brett Fraser. Cayman Olympians from the 2004 Athens Games Heather Roffey and Andrew Mackay flexed their muscles for the occasion.
Multiple Olympic champ and world record holder Ryan Lochte made the trip from Florida but did not compete because he is honing his training for the World Championships next month in Rome. At least he started the race.
Other Olympic swimmers included Neil Walker, Ian Crocker, Bradley Ally, Anthony Nesty, Rada Owen and Kristy Kowal.
Once again Owen brought over a big crowd from California as did former Cayman swim instructor Dave Kelsheimer, all the way from Australia, who brought his proteges. Cayman is Kelsheimer’s first stop of nine destinations around America in an exhausting three and a half week trip.
In such illustrious company a lot of pride was at stake besides the $100,000 in prize money and giveaways.
Inevitably, it was Shaune who finished first, just ahead of Brett with Australian Max Thom third. Fourth was American Max Halson.
Last year’s winner, Joel Rombough, came eighth.
First female home was Australian Bethany Robertson, 14, who was followed by team-mates Ruby McDougall, 15, and Cara Davidson, 16. Owen was fourth female to finish.
Robertson was 13th overall.
Frank Flowers was grateful to the many sponsors, volunteers and participants in the prize giving ceremony on a stage at the Ritz-Carlton after. Representatives from all the major sponsors gathered there to make speeches. Health and Sports Minister Mark Scotland also spoke briefly.
‘To the owners of the Ritz-Carlton, we thank you for allowing us to invade your beach,’ Flowers said. ‘We look forward to doing the same next year!’
He added: ‘Tomorrow is Father’s Day. I have a son and daughter and I was blessed to have them swimming today.’
Dara Flowers-Burke and Frank Flowers Jnr were amongst the proud finishers that included tiny children to more seasoned swimmers, many of whom have done this event from the start.
Flowers announced that next year’s swim will be on June 19 and preparation for that has already begun.
Besides CL Flowers and Sons sponsoring the event, other sponsors included the Department of Tourism, Cayman National, the Ritz-Carlton, Digicel, Dart, CUC, Red Sail Sports, Cayman Airways, dms Broadcasting, Westin Casuarina, Comfort Suites, International Trading Group, Fiderus, Butterfield, Flowers Bottled Water, Sunshine Suites, The Brasserie, Electrical Enterprises, the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association, Gecko Beach Bar, West Star, Funky Money, Flow, Turtle Sports, Fitness Connection, Coconut Car Rentals, Mega Systems, Island Towel Maps, Dolphin Discovery and Domino’s Pizza. A long, exhaustive list but they all deserve props for supporting such a worthy cause.
The charity benefiting this year is the Sunrise Adult Learning Centre. Last year over $22,000 was raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters and this time they hope to top that.
Roberta Gordon, the centre’s director, announced that she was very grateful and that seven centre members walked the course.
Andrew Smilley, who attends the centre, is an accomplished swimmer and he finished 38th.
All in all, it was a marvellous event which promises to make an even bigger splash in the future.