Frank Flowers is the first to admit that the Flowers Sea Swim would not have been as successful as it is without the dedication and help from some key people in the community. Alan and Barbara Jones, Rob Duty and Jim Fraser are just some of the volunteers who were involved from the very beginning. We asked them about their memories of those days, and why they feel the swim has become as popular as it has over the last 20 years.
How did you first get involved in the sea swim?
Alan and Barbara Jones: Before the event became known as the Flowers Sea Swim, Barbara took part as a competitor in the swimming events. Alan (not a swimmer) was seconded to assist with the races at the start. When Barbara stopped competing, she became involved in the race organisation. We have been involved in all of the 20 Flowers swims.
Jim Fraser: I was a friend of Frankie’s and I wanted to help him out. I’ve known him from when I first arrived on the island in 1983 and although I participated in the sea swim for the first two years, I ended up taking a role in organising the event including the design of the route. I’ve been involved ever since.
Rob Duty: My first involvement with the Flowers Sea Swim was setting up power for the start and finish [of the race]. Then about 10 years ago my daughter Megan asked me to swim with her in her first one mile sea swim. After competing I realised that swimming was not my sport, so I volunteered for a more active role in helping with the complete setup of the start and finish line. I am also now an active member of the committee.
Did you think it would continue for this many years, and if so, why?
ABJ: Yes. Frank Flowers had ideas on how to make it bigger and better, and he has a way of making his ideas become reality.
JF: Yes, because when Frankie puts his mind and passion behind anything, he always gives 100 per cent.
RD: I had a feeling that the competition would continue for a long time as I was involved each year and I would see the amount of competitors increase.
What have you enjoyed most about being involved?
ABJ: Being part of a great event. Seeing the pleasure of the participants – especially those who are casual swimmers succeeding in achieving their goal of completing the race. Families enjoying the sea and beach together…and qualifying to win a great prize. Being able to help in the raising of funds for the charity being supported and knowing that your efforts are appreciated by the Flowers family.
JF: The organisational meetings leading up to the sea swim. The laughs we have are better than what you can get at any comedy club. Seeing the growth of the event over the years has been amazing and the international participation. It is definitely on the map and it’s great knowing that I’ve been a part of it since the beginning. Whenever I am overseas at a swimming competition with my sons, Brett and Shaune, people come up to me and mention the Flowers Sea Swim.
RD: Watching over 800 swimmers start and compete all at one time is a sight to behold! I also know that I have helped to organise an event this size with no incidents and with all swimmers accounted for.
How do you think the sea swim has improved since the early years?
ABJ: It has been able to attract top class and more overseas swimmers, thanks to tremendous advertising and promotion of the event. Aspects of safety have become second-to-none as the number of swimmers has increased. The organisation of the start and finish areas on the beach has become a major logistical operation; much planning and work is done by a large number of people to try and better the swim each year. The increased number and quality of the prizes are a major attraction. Mr. Flowers and Dara seem to bring something different into the event each year, such as the Italian swimming a mile in hand and leg cuffs. Who thought of that one?!
JF: The prizes just keep getting more incredible every year. No other sporting event that I know guarantees a prize for every fourth participant. The safety measures have constantly improved and the assistance that the Flowers Group has provided has steadily increased. They use more and more of their company resources to ensure that it is a great event.
RD: The sea swim has continuously improved each and every year, starting with the committee. Each year the committee looks at where they can improve safety and organisation. It just keeps getting better.
Why do you think it is so popular?
ABJ: People come back year after year to participate because they know it is a great event and experience. It is a fantastic afternoon on one of the best beaches in the world. There are familiar overseas family names on the entry list each year. The format of the swim allows the casual swimmer to take part, providing them with an achievable challenge of swimming a mile in under 75 minutes. If they succeed in the goal, a major attraction of the event becomes the great possibility of winning a wonderful prize. The person who finishes in 825th place has the same odds of winning a big prize as the person in first place.
It is incredible value for money. Twenty-five dollars gets you entrance to the swim, a medal, a goodie bag with all sorts of items, a T-shirt, food, drinks and the chance to win incredible prizes. There is no better deal for $25 in Cayman, plus you can feel good about having completed a mile swim and supporting a local charity.
JF: Because it caters to everyone; both the competitor shooting for a time, and the person just wanting to enjoy the incredible views of Seven Mile Beach. The entrance fee gets people so much – you can’t lose! The T-shirts alone are worth more than the $25 they pay, with the chance to win prizes worth a significant amount of money.
RD: The amount of prizes given away, the fact that people know Olympic swimmers will be competing so they can say they competed against them, and the fact that the proceeds always go to a deserving charity. For some it is just so they can say they competed in the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim.
Would you encourage others to volunteer and why?
ABJ: We have recruited many volunteers over the years and they are always enthusiastic about returning the following year to help again. The volunteers get a lot of enjoyment from being part of the event because of the nature of the event and level of organisation. Even the volunteers are eligible for prizes! All the volunteer names are placed in a draw and prizes such as airline tickets are up for grabs.
JF: Every year the Flowers Group donates the full proceeds of the event to a most worthy cause. Why wouldn’t you want to help out? The volunteers have great fun and there is always a great camaraderie amongst them. On the day of the swim we have always been blessed with terrific weather – perfect days – which really adds to the atmosphere.
RD: I believe that everyone living in Cayman should be willing to give up some of their time to volunteer for the many organisations here. The Flowers Sea Swim is an organisation that relies on so many different types of volunteers. There is a position for anyone who wishes to help so they can play an active part in this large event. It is also an excellent opportunity for people who have a limited amount of time for volunteer work, as this is an annual event that occurs on one day. The committee recognises all volunteers who are able to give up any amount of time and not ask for anything in return.
The safety measures have constantly improved, and the assistance that the Flowers Group has provided has steadily increased.