What was expected to be a decisive and climactic final event in the Ogier Stroke and Stride series ended up being just a little bit less climactic than predicted.
Participants arrived at the start at Sunset House on Wednesday 24 August to find the ocean exceedingly choppy. This meant that the Sunset Divers boat usually used as a turn buoy was not on its usual anchor point, which changed the swim course slightly, making it shorter than the anticipated 800 metres. This was expected to count against top swimmers like Matthew Courtis and Alex McCallum, who were both chasing podium position. Courtis in particular was looking forward to the longer swim, as he fell just five seconds short of beating Marius Acker in the second race of the series. If Courtis could take the win, Acker would have to finish in third or higher to claim the series, having crossed the line first in the first two events, with Courtis finishing second twice.
The choppy water was also an unknown factor, as it could possibly tilt matters in the favour of the top triathletes like Acker and Johan Heath, who do a lot of their swimming in open water.
In the women’s competition, it was a similar situation to the men’s race, with Pam Abbott hoping to finally get an edge over Jacqui Retief, who had taken the first two events just ahead of Abbott.
The water conditions definitely challenged the swimmers, who were led out by Courtis ahead of McCallum and team swimmer Andrew Smiley. However the surprise came just over a minute later when Acker exited the water. In the previous event Acker had lost 1:25 to Courtis in the swim and when his split time was called out to him he did a double take as he had only lost 1:10 to Courtis. This meant that the much anticipated win for Courtis, which would have amounted to a changing of the guard, would quite possibly have to wait another year. Acker was closely followed by Heath, who was looking to run down McCallum and retake third spot on the podium.
Among the women, Retief was first out of the water, some 45 seconds ahead of Abbott in second, thereby setting herself up for a possible series sweep.
On the run, Acker wasted no time running down the swimmers ahead of him and he steamed into the finish area well clear of the field to take his third win in the series and in so doing wrap up the series title. He was followed almost a minute later by Courtis who took his third runner up spot of the series, with Heath producing a much better run split than the previous week to claim third place ahead of McCallum.
In the women’s race, Retief never looked to be in any trouble as she took her third win of the series with her biggest gap yet over Abbott, who crossed the line more than 1:15 behind for second place, while Emily Davies finished third.
Among the teams there was not catching Cajun Hounds, with runner Bill Edwards defending the lead that was passed on to him by his swimmer Smiley. Second place went to Lawrence Usher and Dan Lowry, while third went to Amber Myrie and her substitute runner TJ Olivier.
“This third race was the best race of the series for me, I managed to slip the lead bunch this time but could only slip them halfway to the first buoy when the three of them eventually got away,” said Acker after his win.
“I think the choppy conditions suited me better as I am more of an open water swimmer than the lead swimmers,” he said.
He added that sighting is very important in open water swimming and that from his observations during the race it seemed that the lead group lost some time by not holding a straight line on the way to the finish.
Acker was full of praise for Courtis, who pushed him all the way in the series.
“Matt [Courtis] will win a race in the series very soon and he has a great future in this event if he chooses to continue with it in future,” he said.
He also thanked the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association for organising the event, as well as race sponsor Ogier.
“It’s my favourite event of the year,” he said.
In the men’s overall competition, this meant that Acker regained his series title, with Courtis in second and Heath in third.
In the ladies’ overall, Retief took the win, with Abbott in second place and Davies in third, while in the teams competition Cajun Hounds claimed the overall title.
The next major event on the triahtlon association’s calendar is the Cayman Islands Triathlon which is set to take place on Sunday 6 November. It will be preceded by a series of training races.