The Flowers One Mile Sea Swim got another huge thumbs up from local residents.
Another fantastic staging – its 21st – and deserved applause all round for organisers Frank Flowers and a pregnant daughter Dara Flowers-Burke, who went to Miami the following day to prepare to give birth.
Filmmaker Frank Flowers Jr. did his bit too and, like his father and sister, swam the event from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman to Royal Palms on Saturday.
The Flowers barely had time to draw a breath as they both swam the Flowers 5K from the Grand Cayman Beach Suites on Monday, as well as juggled all the organising, prize giving and demands of the entrants.
There was a host of visiting Olympic and world champion swimmers there for the long weekend and without exception they had a marvellous time, as usual.
Even Penny Palfrey, the ultra-distance world record now makes a point of coming here every year all the way from Australia.
Sara MacKay is always heavily involved in Flowers swims. She is a marshal at the finish, hubby Peter is a race director and son Andrew was an Olympic rep in 2004 and always swims the event.
Shaune Fraser and Heather Roffey were the other Caymanian Olympic reps in the one miler.
Of the elite swimmers over Joey Pedraza confirmed expectations by winning the mile swim in a course record time of 16 minute 52.45 seconds and the 10k in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 28 seconds.
American ace Jordan Wilimovsky was second in both, pushing his compatriot both times to a sprint finish and only a fraction of a second behind.
Pedraza was trying to avenge his second-place finish in last year’s Flowers miler and the Florida resident judged it perfectly against Team Santa Monica, led by Wilimovsky, Brendan Casey and Scott Simmer.
Casey was third in the mile and fifth in the 10K. Simmer was third in the mile.
The women were equally as impressive in both swims. In the miler Zsofi Balazs was the winner in 17:49 and fifth overall. She was three seconds ahead of Haley Anderson in sixth place who was only two seconds ahead of seventh-placed Brooke Bennett.
Balazs also won the women’s 10K, fourth overall, in 2:05.38, followed by Nadine Williams in sixth place and Bennett again.
Team Santa Monica was here with their coach Dave Kelsheimer who ignited the swimming programme here in the 90s and left a lasting legacy.
The MacKays had Milimovsky staying with them. Sara said: “Jordan is such a nice guy, you wouldn’t think he’s that competitive or fast. Not that ripped or anything, just kind of a skinny, young guy.
“Joey and Jordan raced recently and Jordan took that one, which got him the trip to World Champs in Barcelona in July.
“The whole 5k and 10k event went great. The weather sure co-operated in the end. Being overcast was perfect and the water was calm.
The Governor Duncan Taylor swam the 5k well. He was glad he did not go for the double loop.
All proceeds of the Flowers swims go to charity and this year Feed Our Future were the recipients. Over $34,000 was collected from the mile swim. The final figure will be higher.
The Caymanian Compass was the media sponsor and marketing executive Anne Guerrero received a plaque from the organisers in appreciation of helping to promote it.
The paper had at least two reps in the mile swim, James Clark and James “Da Killa” Whittaker who both finished in near world record times. For being the slowest.
Frank Flowers Snr did the 5k too and should be applauded for that alone besides being a great organiser.
In the 10k two notable performances from locals were made by teenager Sabrina Weber (3:13:48) and Andrea Roach who improved her best time by around 10 minutes in 3:21:47.
Celine Macken is a true weekend warrior. An accountant by profession, she is obviously itching for activity come home time as she is one of Cayman’s top female triathletes.
Over the weekend when most Cayman residents were enjoying all the guilty pleasures it offers, Macken swam the Flowers mile and 5k and sandwiched a 50 mile cycle ride between them on Sunday.
“For me the mile swim was just okay as I haven’t been doing enough speed work and one only races as fast as they train,” Macken said.
“I’m not a competitive swimmer, just a get out and do it type swimmer because I enjoy it. We all would like to think we can go faster
She came in No.333 in 34 minutes 28 seconds.
“I have lost count of how many times I have done the swim since it started so I have had ups and downs. My worst was last year, so this year was good enough relative to the training I did.
The Flowers Mile is the world’s richest sea swim with over $100,000 on offer in prize money and giveaways. The goody bags are almost red carpet Hollywood standard too.
“No prizes for me, just the pleasure of a great have to be there event,” said Macken.
Although over 950 registered and 880 finished, the logistics of handling such a huge number efficiently and safely are not a problem and Macken cannot seriously fault it.
“I think its me that needs to improve and then the event will be better for me!”
“The joke is I registered for the 5k, but possibly did 10k with my ziz-zag route on the first 1.5 mile. I must have had the company of all the kayakers at some stage, I went off course so often, I had to rush out of the way of the elites coming towards me.
“It was a major mind over matter event for me despite having done a few 5k swims recently. I would have liked to get out at Public beach but didn’t have a plausible excuse!
“So I had a stern talk with myself to just get on and do it, no reason I couldn’t finish. Negativity is like a brake, focus and positivity is the answer.”
Macken jokes that a swim orientating course is her next project. She is in training for the Cayman Islands triathlon at the end of the year.
Marius Acker is Cayman’s undisputed king of triathlon who always makes a point of doing the Flowers Mile.
“It was a great swim, well organised and we had better conditions than last year,” Acker said. “Frankie keeps on improving on the organisation of the race.”
Acker came 49th overall and was the third master swimmer from Cayman, and improved his Flowers personal best by about 15 seconds.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to do all seven Flowers mile swims since my arrival on Island and this one was the best as far as organizing and conditions was concerned.
“The current was also in favour of swimmers for a small part of the course due to the wind direction. In general I think most swimmers improved on their times.
“It is a great race and well organised but the start needs some attention. The swimmers have no idea when the start horn will sound. The helicopter overhead drowns out the sound of the siren so I and swimmers lining up next to me could not hear the siren.
“I suggest a countdown clock to the start to avoid confusion and allow for a fair start for all lined up.
“Swimmers lining up closer to shore had no problem hearing. Swimmers lining up further away are definitely disadvantaged as far as the start is concerned as they cannot hear the start or any countdown if there was any.
“The T-shirt is one I only wear once. The bright colours do not allow you to wear it with other gear. A one colour shirt with smaller logos would be worn more by all but I’m not a fashion guru and I do appreciate all the sponsors.
“The prize giving is also much, much too long. I was sitting next to tourists from Colorado who came for the swim and they could not believe that all sponsors were allowed to speak.”
Acker is training for the Chicago Marathon in October. “I might do one or two of the stroke and stride events, I won’t be able to contend for the
title as I will be off island for one of the three.
Kerri Kanuga is another triathlete who always enters the Flowers swims. She came 153rd in 27:52:2 in the mile
“As always the Flowers swims did not disappoint,” she said. “It was a world class event. I’m very happy with my finish and ecstatic with any time being less than 30 minutes. It is one of my faster times, definitely faster than last year.”
Kanuga was thrilled to win a Cayman Airlines ticket and for the event she would not change a thing.
“The 10 km was an amazing event. It was my first 10k race, I’ve completed longer swims previously, but this was my first official race.
“I’m grateful for the event, the weather and especially the volunteers. They did a great job of keeping me swimming in a straight line and all participants safe. I will definitely do it again.”
Kanuga has a few things on her radar for her next adventure including a seven mile swim across a Canadian lake, the Alcatraz swim and possibly a double North Sound crossing.
Penny McDowall is a teacher at the Lighthouse School for special needs kids and also a swimming coach.
“This Flowers was the best yet,” she said. “The sea was gorgeous, no current and I got three-quarters of the way through and just thought: ‘This is the finish already?’” She came in extremely satisfied with her No.438th in 37:32:7/.
Special Olympics star Andrew Smilley who she has coached for years, finished 31st in 21:01.
“When he came in, Andrew said that the start was confusing as the horn didn’t blow and then blew just a little. I noticed this as well.
“The speeches from sponsors were very short and the thank yous. I talked to several friends who were officials and they too were pleased with the fluidity of the whole thing this year.
McDowall has won prizes in the past before but came away empty handed this time with not even a Red Sails voucher. Her husband Rod is the Red Sails boss in Cayman.
“It was all pretty good. We could maybe have had more or bigger tents at the start as there were of course a lot of people and not much shade and it was very hot this year.
“I didn’t do the 5k, but Andrew said it was okay which is high praise from him. Again, great conditions and cloudy to assist.”
Smilley is off to two swim meets in Florida on 28 June with the team. One is in Sarasota and the other in St. Petersburg.
“I think Andrew and I are going to the Bahamas for the swim portion of a big triathlon in November,” McDowall said. “We’ve both been invited to swim a leg.”
If Mike “Big Kahuna” Powell did not swim the Flowers Mile he would be greatly missed – in more ways than one. Easily the physically biggest of the entrants, he nevertheless always finishes, this year 810th in 54:16:4, which was 60 ahead of the last timed.
“The Flowers swim was great,” Kahuna said. “I like just being a part of it. Frank Flowers has always been so friendly and nice to me. He makes me feel like I’m part of his family.
“I’ve done better in the past. In earlier swims I really pushed to be sure I made it by the deadline but this time the wind was with us and I just cruised along.
“It actually seemed easier this time than any other time I have done it. I didn’t win a prize but I have won prizes before and I’m happy for the other people that won.
“I have my youth and good looks to lean back on so that’s my real prize. We all got treated like royal athletes and given pizza, fruits and subs and some amazingly good and healthy coconut and aloe health drinks, along with the best drink in the world Flowers Bottled Water.
“The Flowers swim is so well run and staffed with the nicest people, it really couldn’t be improved in my opinion.
“If the governments of the world were as organised ,efficient and caring as the Flowers group staff and volunteers were there would be world peace and happiness from pole to pole.
“I’ve been so inspired by the Flowers swim I think I’ve found my true calling as a hereto unknown sport, Olympic heavyweight swimming.
“I’m at this moment negotiating with sponsors and officially throwing down the gauntlet to all Hawaiians, football players, sumos, Louie Anderson and all calorically challenged people around the world.
“I will beat any person in the world in the mile sea swim that weighs 350 pounds or greater!”
“I plan on selling advertising space on my body and will soon announce the date of the first Cayman heavyweight sea swim.”