Brave dozen crossed channel

Twelve swimmers from Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman crossed the five-mile long Bogue channel between the Sister Islands on Sunday.

Just by beginning the swim, they broke a record – becoming the largest group to attempt to make an inter-island channel crossing, according to Steve Munatones, who is the administrator of records for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

“It was a very successful swim. Everyone who started it finished it,” said Kate Alexander of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association, who was one of the dozen swimmers.

Last year, Alexander and six other completed the swim – the first time it had been attempted since 1987 when Jeff Miller swam it in a record two hours and 36 minutes. Six of those who did last year’s swim took part in Sunday’s crossing.

Last year, the first of the group to reach Little Cayman – Alex Harling – completed the swim in three hours and 15 minutes.

The first of the group this year to reach Point of Sand on Little Cayman was Governor Duncan Taylor, who made the crossing in two hours and 59 minutes, followed closely by Harling, Kerry Kanuga, who was the governor’s buddy on the swim and Andrea Roach.

Four people from Cayman Brac took part in the crossing – Anne Jackson, Cordell Gutierrez, Felix Ebanks and Matthew McKinley.

Kristina Horacek, Elizabeth Berns and Barbara Hampson made up the rest of the intrepid group.

Most of the swimmers who took part had also raced in the 800-metre swim on Cayman Brac the day before.

Despite two days of swimming, several still had the energy to do celebratory somersaults on the beach at Point of Sand after making landfall on Little Cayman.

Alexander said she anticipates the cross-channel swim becoming an annual event, as more and more people become interested in open water swimming, which is growing in popularity worldwide. Marathon swimming was added to the Olympics events in the Beijing Olympics, giving new impetus to the sport.

Alexander said Cayman is the ideal location of open water swimming, with its warm sea temperatures and easy access to the ocean.

They were supported on their record-setting crossing by several boats manned by marine police, Department of Environment, and district administration staff. Acting premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly was also aboard a boat that escorted the swimmers on their open water adventure.

“It was a good swim. I enjoyed it. I got into a rhythm and pace that I could keep up the whole way and stayed with that,” said Governor Taylor.

Throughout the swim, his daughter Alex, who is visiting Cayman, was supporting all of them and taking video of the event from one of the boats.

A few swimmers encountered some minor stings on the swim, but for most it was a smooth crossing, with calm sea conditions and little wind. A current towards the latter part of the swim challenged some of the swimmers, but all made it safely to the other side.

Before the swim, some said their families and friends had expressed concerns about sharks, but the swimmers said they spotted just one large shark, far below them on the reef.

The day before the dozen swimmers made their crossing, Munatones and Lexie Kelly set a new record of one hour and 53 minutes swimming from the Brac to Little Cayman.

The 12 swimmers set out from the western end of Cayman Brac and came to shore on Point of Sand, where they were met by several people from the island who welcomed them back to dry land.

The next swimmer expected to cross the channel is Penny Palfrey, an Australian marathon swimmer who will aim to break the record set by Munatones and Kelly before going on to swim to Grand Cayman in early June. It will be the first time a swimmer has attempted to swim between all three islands.

The day before the dozen swimmers made their crossing, Munatones and Lexie Kelly set a new record of one hour and 53 minutes swimming from the Brac to Little Cayman.