The goodwill and community spirit generated by the Flowers Sea Swim was huge, judging by the feedback the organisers are getting.
The one mile swim on Saturday had over 700 participants with racers coming from as far afield as Europe, America and Australia.
Over $100,000 in prizes were given out and thousands was raised for the Sunshine Adult Learning Centre.
The race was won by Shaune Fraser in 19 minutes and 12 seconds with his brother Brett coming in 22 seconds later.
Then it was Australian Max Thorn in 19:39 and fourth was American Cox in 19:53. Australian Max Halson was fifth and Barbadian Olympian Bradley Ally sixth. Lee Mun Hon of Australia was next and then Joel Rombough, last year’s champion, finished in eighth place in 20:33.
The first three females home were all coach Dave Kelsheimer’s pupils from Australia; Bethany Robertson (21:18), Ruby McDougall and Cara Davidson (both 21:20). Robertson was 13th overall.
Sydney Olympian Rada Owen was fourth female to finish in 21.32. Tori Flowers was the first Caymanian home. She was sixth fastest female and 30th overall.
Other Olympians who competed were Neil Walker, Ian Crocker and Kristy Kowal. Ryan Lochte, Olympic and world record holder, made the trip but did not swim because he is in strict training for the world championships next month in Italy. But he did say that he’ll be back next year and will definitely swim it.
Dara Flowers-Burke, the race coordinator, said: ‘We are so honoured by the support of the people of the Cayman Islands. This event is the culmination of many hours of hard work and dedication from our swimmers, volunteers and sponsors. The Flowers Sea Swim would not be possible without the unwavering support of each and every individual who assists in making this event a success.’
Dara said her brother Frankie Flowers Jr. brought a group of friends from Los Angeles, most of whom literally could not even swim a full pool length in front crawl four weeks ago. Yet all of them trained and finished in under the cut off time of 75 minutes.
‘They felt this event was a personal milestone,’ she said. ‘My brother said coming out of the water was overwhelming, however when he saw all of the beautiful medal girls, photographers and people, even though he was completely exhausted, it was such an exhilarating moment.’
Dara’s father, Frank Flowers, the race founder, said: ‘Even though we’ve done this for 17 years, with some 100-plus volunteers, it’s so much work and every year presents new challenges and new milestones, but we’re always reminded on race day of how much it’s worth all the effort.
‘As I stood on the stage at the finish and looked out at all the hundreds of swimmers, volunteers and spectators, I was humbled by the magnitude of this event. I was so motivated and inspired and realized with this type of response the Flowers Sea Swim will continue to grow and evoke a sense of pride in everyone involved.’
Kelshemier coaches at the Surrey Park Australian Club in Box Hill, Victoria. He said: ‘Frankie Flowers has a dogged determination that overcomes any obstacle or doubt before him.
‘I was blessed to have Mr Frankie as a mentor for each of my nearly 10 years in Cayman through his involvement as a CIASA board member as well as his efforts to create the best race in the world.
‘Do not underestimate the Flowers family’s involvement in putting Cayman on the world swimming scene via this great event. From my first Flowers Swim in 1996, Mr Frankie saw the value in exposing Cayman’s kids and greater swimming community to the best in our sport having brought down Olympians literally from every corner of the globe.
‘The young Fraser boys, Heather Roffey, and Andrew Mackay were able to first race Olympic swimmers because of the Flowers event and just a few years later they themselves qualified for the right to be called an Olympian.’
American Kristy Kowal, an Olympic silver medallist, sent an email to Dara saying: ‘I just wanted to thank you again for having me down for the Flowers Sea Swim. This trip was honestly one of the most fun things I have ever done.
‘I have been calling everyone telling them how much fun I had. I miss the Caymans already! I can’t wait to come back next year!’
Anthony Nesty, Olympic gold medallist and coach of the Fraser brothers and Lochte, echoed these sentiments. He said that he had such a fantastic time, and will bring an even bigger group next year.