The first event in the Ogier Stroke and Stride series took place on Wednesday 10 August. More than 100 swimmers took to the water of Sunset House for the start of the 400 metre open water swim, which was to be followed by a two mile run.
This year saw the return of a couple of familiar faces, with Marius Acker and Pam Travers lining up as favourites. The swim saw the participation of a number of young swimmers and graduates from Cayman’s competitive swimming programme, with Matthew Courtis leading the way out of the water, neck and neck with Joel Rombough. They were closely tracked by Andrew Smiley and Christopher Courtis. Smiley handed over to his team runner Bill Edwards, while the other three set off to complete the event as individuals.
Shortly behind the pack of young swimmer came a group containing the race favourites, with Johan Heath and Marius Acker exiting the water practically together. Acker would have to chase hard though, for although most of the swimmers who were ahead of him on the course are recognised non-runners, the younger Courtis is known as a pretty fast runner.
On the road, Acker wasted no time chasing down the couple of athletes in front of him. However, it took him longer than he had hoped to catch up to Matthew Courtis, who once caught did not give up without a fight either. Coming up to the finish line, Acker took the win, with Courtis steaming in a mere 30 seconds behind him. This confirms that he could well be a very potent threat to Acker’s dominance of the series in the later events, which feature a longer swim.
Third place in the individual men’s competition went to Heath, who ran well to maintain the lead he built up during the swim.
“My swim start was great but I made a poor decision by slipping someone who was a little slow, which meant the lead bunch got away from me. Drafting is essential in multisport event and choosing who to draft is not always an easy option with lots of feet in your face,” said Acker.
“The next two events will be interesting, the fact that Matt barely trains running and almost managed to win this event shows he will be a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Among the individual women, it was expected that top triathlete Travers would be out of the water first. However, instead it was Jacqui Retief who hit the transition area first, some 20 seconds ahead of Travers. However, a fast transition put Travers in the lead on the run and it took Retief a while to make up the difference again.
In the sprint for the line, Retief managed to pull clear of Travers and hit the line in first, with Travers finishing second ahead of a charging Emily Davies in third.
“Jacqui caught me at the turnaround of the run and we ran shoulder to shoulder all the way back to sunset house. As soon as we turned in, she sprinted off and came across the line first. I just didn’t have it in me to sprint. My body hasn’t fully recovered after Switzerland and I’m not very good at the short distant sprint events,” said Travers.
It should be a close battle between Travers and Retief for the rest of the series, as both are very strong swimmers. However, it will be tough for Davies to challenge the other two going forward, as she is primarily a runner and the longer swims on the second and third legs of the series will not be to her advantage.
In the team competition, Edwards held onto the lead he was handed by swimmer Smiley to give Cajun Hounds the win, followed by team Lusher and Lowry (Lawrence Usher and Dan Lowry) in second and The tortoise & the hare (Isaac Espinoza and Russell Coleman) in third. The next event in the series takes place on Wednesday, with a 600 metre swim replacing the 400 metre swim of the first event, while the run remains at two miles. This could see the leader board be shuffled as the stronger swimmers drive home their advantage, while the runners will have to work much harder to close the gap.
The event starts at 5.45pm from Sunset House, with registration only available online. Entries for the event will close at 12pm on race day.Entrants are also cautioned to keep an eye on the weather, as any excessive wave action may cause the event to be postponed.
“I hope the weather plays along for the next two events so that it is not postponed. The Triathlon Association and Ogier did a sterling job with the organising of the event,” said Acker.