Pirates 5k on crest of a wave

Open water swimming is one of the
toughest sports pursuits out there yet Cayman is blessed with the perfect
conditions for it which is why it is so popular – and many do it to an
exceptionally high standard.

The annual Flowers One Mile Sea
Swim in June attracts over 800 entrants, making it Cayman’s biggest sports
event by far. Frank Flowers and daughter Dara Flowers-Burke are helping build
up the Pirates Week 5K swim, Cayman’s oldest swimming tradition which is
celebrating its 30th year on 13 November during the week of the Pirates Week

In combination with Pirates Week,
Cayman’s National Festival, Flowers hopes to grow the 5K and this year’s race
will include random prizes for race finishers, medals, exciting goody bags and
T-shirts as well as a post race breakfast at Tiki Beach Bar. Top four male and
female finishers, will also receive Pirate’s Week plaques. There will also be a
special prize for the event record. Registration is limited to the first 100
registrants. Minimum age is 12 and there is no race day registration.

Event sponsors include the Pirates
Week, Cayman’s National Festival, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, The
Flowers Group and the local open water governing body, Cayman Islands Amateur
Swimming Association, which will be setting up the event course. This year’s
race will be a loop course starting at the Tiki Beach Bar on Seven Mile Beach,
at 8am (subject to weather conditions).

Alex Harling is one of the intrepid
5k swimmers. No stranger to the rigours of open water swimming, he has already
swam – with girlfriend Andrea Roach and others – across the North Sound and
from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman. So the Pirates 5k should be not much challenging
than a dip for Harling.

“I hope to do it, although I get
shoulder injuries, so it will depend on how I feel,” he said. “I would have
done the 10k swim (which has been cancelled) too, but that is the day before
the triathlon. I’ve never done the Pirates 5k before but I did a 5k when some
Aussie hotshots came over to Cayman about two years ago.”

Harling is pleased that the Flowers
duo are helping promote this one. Eventually they hope to get it approved as an
Olympic or world championship qualifier. “I think Frank and Dara should go for
it. Cayman is perfect for such an event. The Flowers Swim is in a straight
line, with no turns, or buoys to go around, so although you inevitably get
kicked and elbowed a bit, there’s no outright biting, attempted drowning, or
costume tugging as you go around buoys.”

Harling is a triathlete who has
tended to specialise in long swims recently. “I train all year around. However,
I am getting slower each year, so maybe I’m doing something wrong.”

An Englishman who has lived here
for a while, his main frustration is similar to all swimmers here: “Why on
earth hasn’t Cayman got a 50 metre pool? It is such a loss. It’s like Jamaica
not having a single running track!”

Dara said: “People are excited but
the registration has been slow, but this year, unlike others, has a cut off, so
we are encouraging people to register as early as possible as there are only a
limited number of spaces available. We have some amazing top open water
swimmers coming. Eva Fabian, Emily Brunemann, Chip Peterson and Alex Meyer have
so far confirmed. We are super excited to have the four Americans who are some
of the best open swimmers in the world. We also have some swimmers from the UK
coming over.”

Registration opportunities are
available online at www.flowersseaswim.com and at the Flowers Block offices in
Industrial Park during regular office hours. Inquiries can be directed to
[email protected] or phone (345) 949-5299 or toll free at 1 888 667 3469.


Harling swims vast distances with ease.
Photo: Ron Shillingford