Flowers creates more ripples

It gets bigger and better every
time as its world renowned status increases.

This year the annual Flowers Sea
Swim got an even greater boost because celebrated open-water journalist Steven
Munatones attended for the first time and loved it so much that he wants to
return. He rates it as one of the best open-water swimming events in the world.
Endorsements don’t come any better.

Granted, the extraordinary prize
money and fabulous giveaways totalling over $100,000 are a big inducement, but
when the elite competitors experience this unique event for the first time they
are well and truly hooked.

The organisers made a special
effort to attract professional open-water swimmers along with Olympians like
Cayman’s Shaune and Brett Fraser, Rada Owen, Kristy Kowal, Gemma Spofforth
(world record holder) and BJ Bedford (Olympic gold medallist), and the strategy
worked.

Both the men’s and women’s records
fell in the one-mile race and both recipients of the US$5,000 winnings have
every intention of coming back, successfully defending their titles and
breaking their marks.

New Yorker Alex Meyer beat the
existing record by a mere second, finishing in 17 minutes and 18 seconds,
whereas Eva Fabian smashed the existing women’s mark by 26 seconds to finish
second in 17:47. She is only 16 and like Meyer, who is a Harvard
University student, hopes to compete
for the US
at the 2012 London Olympics.

Fabian enjoyed the swim from Tiki Beach
to the Ritz-Carlton so much that when she returns next year, co-organiser Dara
Flowers-Burke hopes that she will break the women’s world record. Fabian could
not personally accept her prize because of her amateur status and will donate
it to a US
charity.

“We achieved what we wanted to do
and have a really fast-paced race,” Dara says. “Two course records were broken
and Eva annihilated the women’s record. She’s one to watch in the future. Her
dad Jack came too. He’s her coach and they think that this beautiful course
makes the world record possible next year. Eva is used to the cold water in New Hampshire so this is
much nicer for her. She trained so hard. Came off the plane and went straight
into training.

“This year we asked for commentary
from competitors and have received many positive messages. One guy said he is a
really just a runner and thought he couldn’t do open water swims. But having
done this one and enjoyed it so much he is looking forward to more.

“Steven Munatones is the foremost
journalist on open-water swims. He writes for the Wall St Journal and is a
consultant for the Olympics. He said this is by far the best open-water swim he
has attended. He did some great blogs on it and even said it is the world’s
richest open water swim. For Cayman this is really exciting. I must thank all
our 200 volunteers who helped make it so wonderful. Our organisation was
textbook. We really shone. ”

Over 800 registered and 777
competed, a record turnout. Despite the recession, Dara expects to raise more
than last year’s figure of US$28,000 for the Sunrise Adult Learning Centre this
time.  “Sunrise is a great organisation and we’re
happy to support them. All our sponsors are happy too because it’s like a well
oiled, efficient machine. Many are already committed to next year.”

Kate Alexander used her vast
experience in organising open water swims to help make this event successful
and, of course, Dara’s dad Frank ensured things went smoothly, and his beloved
event went with hitches. Sadly, the death of Wendy Buckner from natural causes
cast a shadow over the event, but it was overall another wonderful staging of
what has become an institution in the Cayman sporting calendar. It was another
crucial boost for sports tourism and once again raised positively raised
Cayman’s profile.

Dara swam as usual, along with dad
Frank and brother Frankie. “It was my favourite part of the day,” she says.
“You forget how great it is and you remember how beautiful it all is. I don’t
train for it, I just get in like a lot of others.”

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