Olympic champs, world record holders, weekend warriors and casual swimmers alike enter the world’s richest sea swim this weekend for what promises to be another great Cayman Islands sporting event.
They are all in the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim for its milestone 21st anniversary and a total of 900 will join in for another magical experience organised by Frank Flowers, his daughter Dara Flowers-Burke and a raft of volunteers.
It is not only the world’s richest event of its kind, it is one of the most respected .
On Saturday 15 June Cayman’s most celebrated sporting event makes another splash from the beach front at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
Depending on the ocean currents, it finishes either at Royal Palms or Surfside Beach and Restaurant. All registration proceeds are donated to the Feed Our Future charity, which provides healthy meals to needy schoolchildren in the Cayman Islands. Registration closed on Wednesday.
Bill “Tarzan” McFarland is one of the keenest open water swimmers in the Cayman Islands. A past president of Cayman’s open water association, McFarland looks forward to this swim more than any other.
“I completed my first Flowers Sea Swim in 2001 and have participated every year since then,” he said.
“I think my first finishing time was around 35 minutes. I expect to finish in around 25 minutes this year and just over three hours in the 10k on Monday.
“The Flowers Sea Swim was the gateway event that introduced me to open water swimming – a sport that I am now very passionate about.
“What I enjoy most about the Flowers swim is the camaraderie that comes with being an open water swim-enthusiast and meeting like minded people from around the world to partake in a world-class event in our own backyard.
“I also enjoy supporting the Flowers family by helping set-up the course. Frank and Dara Flowers-Burke are two of the most energetic and generous individuals that I have met on the Island.
“They deserve a lot of thanks from all the participants for doing what they do to put this event together on an annual basis.
“Looking at it from behind the scenes, it takes a tremendous amount of money, time and resources to pull off such a successful swim.
“My best moment ever with this event actually happened out of the water, when Frank asked me to travel to Long Beach, California to give a presentation on the Flowers Sea Swim as part of the first World Open Water Swim Conference.
“It was all part of Frank’s plan of ensuring that the entire open water swimming world is aware of his swim.
“The conference attendees there, including athletes participating in the North American Open Water swim championships in Long Beach at the time, were blown away by the pictures of the swim conditions in the Cayman Islands.”
Winning a prize is a bonus for McFarland. “Back in the early days, my family and I won a bunch of prizes.
“I think we won round trip airline tickets on Cayman Airways two years in a row. These days with the popularity of the swim, it is harder to win one of the choice prizes like the flights to Brazil or London, but I did win an Apple Shuffle two years ago which I was really pleased to receive.”
The whole is event is faultless as far as McFarland is concerned. As to tweaking to improve: “There is only one way to improve the event – have more people come out and swim!”
There are a host of elite swimmers here, including Cayman’s own multiple Olympian Shaune Fraser, arriving from Florida. Other local Olympians entering include Heather Roffey and Andrew MacKay.
The odds to win a random prize are 1-in-5 and previous giveaways include BlackBerrys, iPads, hotel stays, and dozens of airline tickets to premier destinations such as Miami, New York, Panama, Rome, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Dublin, Rio de Janerio and Toronto.
All finishers receive a T-shirt and goody bag filled with prizes and surprises.