Strokers took it in their stride

After a one week delay due to adverse weather conditions, the 2012 Ogier Stroke and Stride series got off to a splashing start on Wednesday 15 August.

The event, which is composed of an open water swim off Sunset House followed by a two mile run, has consistently proven to be one of the most popular multisport events on Island, with competitors taking up the challenge as individuals or as members of a team.

This year’s series promised to be a changing of the guard in the men’s division, with series champion Marius Acker set to be off Island for the duration of the series. However, last year’s runner up Matthew Courtis was widely expected to go one better this year whether Acker was competing or not. In the women’s division, 2011 champion Jacqui Retief returned to try and defend her title.

The event started with swimmers being counted into the water before a frenetic start as the swimmers churned the ocean into a white foam. Ahead of them was a triangular course around 400 metres long that would see them swimming parallel to the ironshore out to a buoy before heading back to the start with a little detour around the Sunset Divers dive boats anchored just off shore.

The stronger swimmers immediately asserted their dominance as they strung out the field, with Courtis taking the lead early and hitting the ladders first. Team swimmer Andrew Smiley exited the water in second place, some 21 seconds behind Courtis, but apparently he did not have a team runner to hand over to, thereby effectively ending his chances of retaining the team crown.

William Balderamos was next out of the water, followed by last year’s third place finisher Johan Heath, some 52 seconds behind Courtis.

Andrea Kilam-Higgo was first out of the water in the women’s division, followed by Michelle Bailey and defending champion Retief.

Out on the run course, it was a case of trying to hang on for dear life for the top swimmers. However, with both Courtis and Heath having shown themselves to be good runners, it was going to be a tough ask for Heath to close the close on one minute gap on Courtis. Not that it would stop him from trying. Heath slowly chipped away at Courtis’ lead throughout the run, but ran out of tarmac as Courtis crossed the finish line with a clear lead to claim the win in 19:22 and in so doing secure the series lead.

Heath crossed the line some 16 seconds later having clawed back more than half a minute on Courtis in the run. Third place went to Greg Meaker.

Among the women, Retief managed to hunt down Kilam-Higgo on the run, erasing her swim deficit and coming home in 22.33 to get her title defence off to a great start. Kilam-Higgo managed to hang on for second place, while Emily Davies made full use of her blazing running speed to mow down the faster swimmers and claim third place.

In the team division David Mackintosh and Andrew Keast crossed the line first in 19.58, followed by Michael O’Connor and Nathan Stubing in second and Laren Gillespie and Steven Lill in third.

The second race in the series is set to take place on Wednesday 22 August, starting from Sunset House at 5.45pm. With a longer swim than the first event but the same two mile run, the second event should see the stronger swimmers carry more of an advantage onto the run that during the first event. Although this should have very little impact on the results of the men’s division, with Courtis having held the lead from start to finish, the women’s division could see a shuffling of podium positions.