Fraser nipped ahead of posse

The 25th Annual Caribbean Utilities Company Sea Swim took place in amazing open water conditions – sea as calm as glass, a favorable current and world-class competition to challenge the local favorites.

For the second year in a row, CUC brought Cayman’s Olympic swimmer Brett Fraser home to compete last week.

Brother Shaune was unable to make the trip, but Brett was accompanied by two friends who are also world class swimmers – Rex Tullus and Mike Vernoia – and the addition of the three internationals made for an exciting push to the finish line.

Fraser narrowly finished ahead of Tullus, and the two were closely followed by local open water favorites Iain McCallum and Cole Morgan. The difference between first and fourth places was four seconds.

Fraser said: “Rex has become very familiar with the island and our sea swims and was thrilled to be a part of the race.

“It was Mike’s first visit to Cayman and his first open water race. He underestimated the water conditions, quickly realizing that it is a lot different than swimming in a pool, but he has already vowed to be back stronger than ever next time.”

Richard Hew, CEO of CUC, swam, too, and although it was not in the cards for him to beat daughter Lauren (10 minutes, 50 seconds) – a CARIFTA medalist – he was glad to have taken part.

“We were pleased with the turnout for the 25th annual CUC sea swim,” Hew said. “It was great to have Brett and his colleagues join us. [They] especially provided inspiration for the younger swimmers.”

With Cayman’s competitive age group swimmers accustomed to leading the pack in the open water swims, this event saw six of the top 12 finishers over the age of 20, with Andrew Smilley, Chris Dart and Marius Acker coming in fifth, sixth and 10th, respectively.

The top-20 finishers included 13 swimmers under the age of 20. The youngest, Alison Jackson (11:18), turned 11 in July, finishing in 19th place; while the oldest top-20 finisher was Acker (10:36), who swam in the 40-45 age group.

Technical director Bailey Weathers, watching his second sea swim here, said: “One of the things that I find both unique and exciting about the shorter seas swims the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association runs is that all of the athletes race at the same time, men and women of all ages.

“For younger athletes, this gives them a chance to race and build their confidence against older athletes, and I think this is an important step in the development of young swimmers who may go on to represent the Cayman Islands in international competition.

“This weekend I felt this was the case for a number of our athletes who showed they have a bright future, like Iain McCallum, who finished fourth overall.”

Stingray’s head coach Andy Copley was pleased with his swimmers’ performance. “Swims of note were turned in by Iain McCallum (9:41), who at 15 is becoming hard to beat in Cayman swimming; Catriona MacRae (10:24), who is swimming her way back from a broken leg; Katie Klein (10:44), whose penchant for longer distance open water swims appears to be growing with each swim; and Alison Jackson, who finished in the top 20 for the first time.”

Camana Bay Aquatic Club’s new head coach, Brad Hutton, said: “Danielle Boothe (10:15) – seventh overall and first woman finisher – had a great race, holding her own over the entire 800 meter distance.

“Many of our swimmers posted best times for the 800 meter sea swim, recording big drops in time from where they were at a month ago. I know sea swims have a few extra factors every race but the drops were significant.”

This was coach Hutton’s second sea swim. “I am very impressed at how organized and well run the swims are,” he said. “They are very efficient and I just can’t say enough about the volunteers.

“It is always great to have swimmers of all ages and experiences racing together. It displays how much swimming is a life-long sport and really shows the incredible community surrounding the sport.”

For CUC it was a family affair – starting with the Hews, with mom Sandy volunteering at the finish line, and Richard and Lauren swimming and then handing out the trophies.

Other CUC staff members swimming included Lauren Bush, Dwight Jefferson, Chad Bush, Ethan Hydes, son of an employee, and David and Monica Watler, with daughters Isabelle and Sophia.

Swimmers were treated to post-race refreshments, courtesy of Subway, and to celebrate 25 years sponsoring the Sea Swim, CUC also had a cake on hand for the celebration. Peter MacKay, Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association president and race director, encouraged all those in attendance to consider signing up for the FINA Open Water clinic in Grand Cayman between Nov. 5-9.