Brackers really made a splash

Open water swimming really took
centre stage in Cayman Brac two weeks ago with two events that deserve
highlighting.

The Cayman National Bank Brac 800
metres swim on the Saturday was not long but a tough one to do because the
elements were against the 40 or so who did it.

Bill McFarland, president of the
swimming association, said: “The weather was challenging. It poured throughout
the entire event; having said that, the rain did not stop the Brackers from
coming out to participate.

“I believe we had 54 swimmers in
the water, including His Excellency the Governor Duncan Taylor who flew over
for the day, and MLA Moses Kirkconnell.

“Alex Harling had a great start and
was a good 15 metres in front of the pack for the majority of the race.

“I was in the hunt behind Alex and
spent the entire race trying to catch him. CARIFTA representative swimmer and
native Bracker Martha Rivers and Mr. Taylor were neck and neck through to the
finish.

“In the end, both Alex and the governor,
who have never swam in the Brac 800m swim before, made rookie mistakes by
getting caught by the strong current near the finish, which allowed me to sneak
past Alex for first place, and Martha to pip the governor for third, right at
the finish. A very exciting race.”

Prize giving was held under a tent,
in pouring rain. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each age group.

 The Flowers Group donated round trip airfare
from the Brac to Grand Cayman to the first male and female finishers from the
Brac to the Flowers Sea Swim in June.

The winners were Martha Rivers; and
Felix Ebanks. All participants enjoyed pizza and sports drinks afterwards. The
Sister Island Swim Club presented the governor with a lovely watercolour painting.

Prizes were raffled off at the end,
including a BlackBerry donated by LIME and a cell phone donated by Digicel and
other items donated by swim-sponsors;

Names were pulled out of a hat by district
commissioner Ernie Scott; Mr. Taylor, and Moses Kirkconnell. Deputy district commissioner
Mark Tibbetts was also there to witness the finish.

The next day seven intrepid
swimmers took on a bigger challenge, the West End, Cayman Brac to Point of
Sand, Little Cayman swim of five miles.

The group were: Felix Ebanks,
Matthew McKinley, Alex Harling, Andrea Roach, Kate Alexander, Bill McFarland
and Joy Yeatman.

“We started at 7:20am under
beautiful, blue skies, with light winds out of the south; seas were a lazy two
to three feet,” said McFarland.

“All seven of us were excited and
somewhat nervous as it was clear that the swim was going to be okay as
conditions were favourable.

“We fought our way through small
surf over a coral stone bottom just near the airport runway at West End, Cayman
Brac, and soon we were all underway towards Little Cayman.

“A strong current took the crew
south at first, and as we left the wall behind us and swam into the deep blue
sea, appeared to die down. We swam as a group, stopping every hour to replenish
ourselves with sports drinks.

“The water was so blue that when a
dark blue Gatorade was thrown to me and landed in the water I couldn’t see it!

“Swimming in the open sea was an
experience I have never had before. The water was so deeply blue and we could
see the sun’s rays descending into the depths, it was mesmerizingly beautiful.
Very little sea life was seen on the way over, until we hit the wall again off
Little Cayman.

“With 1.3 miles to go, the team was
feeling confident about finishing the swim in 2.5 hours. However, the current
turned against us, and it took an hour and 15 minutes to make that last mile.

“It was reassuring to cross over
the Little Cayman wall and start seeing the bottom again, so that we could
track our distance over the bottom and visibly see that we were making
progress.

“Once we got ashore at Point of
Sand, Little Cayman, I collapsed in a heap exhausted. Matthew and Felix did two
celebratory back flips while I was trying not to throw up.

“They were very proud of their
achievement and justifiably so; I believe Matthew and Felix are the first
Caymanians (and Brackers) to do the swim.

Local sports historian Michael Hundt
crewed the first known crossing in 1987 when Jeff Miller completed the swim.
Ebanks, 19, and McKinley, 20, are the first Caymanians known to have completed
the distance.

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