Intrepid Brac swim is on again

Long distance swimming is catching on in the Cayman Islands so it comes as no surprise that a year on a larger group is going again to brave the 5.4 mile distance between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

It is this Sunday with three or four boats supporting, involving 11 people. The intrepid swimmers are Kate Alexander, Alex Harling, Andrea Roach, Kerry Kanuga, Lizzie Berns, Felix Ebanks, Barbara Hampson (who has mentioned wanting to only swim part), Anne Jackson from the Brac, Christina Horocheck, Lexie Kelly from the USA and possibly Mr Swimming himself, Frankie Flowers. Last year it took between around two and a half to three hours.

Harling is the chief organiser. He said: “Others have asked and we have had to turn them down, for safety reasons. We did it last year because we were inspired by love of swimming and we also had such an amazingly good swim. Also, I don’t want to stop challenging myself and get old.

“We could have trained more for this. I trained just at the pool until about six weeks out, then started doing a two mile and a longer, two and a half to four mile swim a week – so two a week. Some have been more consistent, but some have done less, like Christina I think.

“It’s not a race and is definitely just a collective swim, partly for the safety of all, partly because no-one likes to be left behind and partly because if that pod of killer whales that was spotted off Brac a month after we did the swim last year comes to have a look at us, I want to increase the odds of someone else being eaten and not me!

“We had just intended to have four of five people swim, but the numbers swelled at around ten, with four or five more asking if they could do it.

“It therefore looks like it could become an annual swim, as long as there is someone around who kick starts it each year. Frankie Flowers is hoping to swim with us this year, so he might want to make it a bigger, properly recognised event in future.”

Harling raise about $3,000 for Cancer Research UK last year when he did the North Sound swim. He hopes to get donations again for this one.

Harling added that they are reliant on the goodwill of Brac boat owners and operators, the Department of Environment boat and marine police, all of whom are supporting them and so far have not asked for any compensation.

“Many people kindly sponsored me last year, for which I am thankful. If you feel your good deeds aura needs a quick top-up, please feel free to log on to to make a donation.

“For those of you unlucky enough to live in tax-paying austerity Britain, your donation counts as a tax deduction and the government also adds ‘gift aid’ to your donation, so now is you time to get your own back on the government.

“For anyone who has been affected in any way by cancer, I’m sure I don’t need to set out the importance of the cause I have chosen.”

His final request seems perfectly reasonable. “If you could also all please chum the waters near you starting on Friday to draw all sharks away from the five mile stretch of water we’ll be swimming in, that would also be appreciated.”


  1. The Bogue between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is a 5.4 mile stretch of sometimes obstreperous and ornery waters. Sharks, orcas, have been sighted in that area in years past. Not wanting to rain on the parade of the 11 hardy souls who will be distance-swimming in the Brac Swim this Sunday, it would be wise for the Swim’s organisers to have doctors and oxygen on hand. this is not a silly suggestion. And Alex Harling’s remark (he’s the chief organisser of the event) about chumming the waters to keep sharks away was definitely not funny at all. Good luck to the swimmers. I remember 20 years ago when Jeff Miller – one courageous young swimmer/diver from Brac Aquatics – made the Bogue trip successfully to the plaudits and cheers of all!

  2. Dear Bracker,

    Thank you for your concerns. We had extensive safety procedures in place and were supported very kindly by the RCIP (who provided two boats and a jet ski), the DoE, Mick Maher, Jason Belport and Michael Hundt and others. I am very grateful for your time and the expense you went to in supporting us. We had six boats and a jet ski in support.

    I consider the event a huge success, in terms of supporting the local swimming scene and helping eleven others complete a very memorable long distance swim. I would also like to thank the organisers of the 800 metre sea swim on the Saturday, which as last year, was very well organised and enjoyable.

    However Bracker, I’m sorry that you cannot take a light-hearted comment in the spirit in which it was intended, but as I was swimming, not you, I fail to see how the light-hearted comment could have adversely affected you. Although I hope you never have, nor ever will be injured by sharks or other sea creatures I will continue to make light-hearted comments and do not apologise for that.

    It is also noteworthy that the DoE sent around a questionnaire a few months ago seeking comments from the public on allowing shark feeding to take place in Cayman, as a tourist attraction, as it used to at East End. In other words the government recently canvassed public opinion on whether chumming of the waters should be permitted in Cayman. I hope you registered your comments on that occasion. I did.

    I have heard a number of first hand and third party stories over the last couple of years, of shark ‘incidents’ involving bull sharks, tiger sharks and reef sharks in Cayman’s waters. None deters me, or my fellow swimmers, all of whom are very aware of the risks involved and who like me, have no doubt been very nervous at certain times, such as swimming above several thousand feet of water between Cayman Brac to Little Cayman, in fully open water, or when finding oneself swimming alone through opaque water in the middle of the North Sound just a few days after hearing about a first-hand account of a bull shark ‘interaction’ of a lobster fisherman in the North Sound.

    Additionally, we had planned extensively with how to deal with sharks, jellyfish, orcas, speeding boats and jetski’s or collision with any of these or other ocean debris,adverse weather, chaffing, bleeding, dehydration, severe sunburn (a real danger after over three hours in the water) and other dangerous situations. All swimmers were briefed on numerous occasions on how to deal with almost any eventuality that could occur. Some swimmers did see a nurse shark on the swim and I saw three the day before and swam with them without incident. They were beautiful.

    Unfortunately four local children also saw the sharks and proceeded to take bottles out of the garbage can on the dock at Carib Sands, fill them with water and throw them at the sharks and an Eagle Ray which took off at unbelievable speed. They persisted even after a young Brac couple and I confronted them. My girlfriend and I then jumped in amongst the (docile and non-threatening) nurse sharks and fished out all bottles (about seven in total). I sincerely hope and recommend that as a Bracker you spend your time and energy in educating your young people, policing your littering laws and cleaning up the sea around the island rather than finding time to patronise me about a joke.

    Alex Harling

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