Cayman may host big swims

A 5K open-water swim and a coaching clinic in the days leading up to it are the exciting events for swimming enthusiasts next month.

The 2013 Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association open water season draws to a close with the 31st annual Pirates Week 5K on Nov. 9.

There is the opportunity to participate in a FINA open water officiating clinic, which runs Nov. 5-9, before putting newly learned skills into practice during the 5K.

Open water swimming is a significant part of Cayman’s sporting history. For more than 30 years, the swimming association has staged them off Seven Mile Beach, with support from a number of long-standing sponsors – Fosters Food Fair (29 years), LIME (26 years), CUC (25 years), and Butterfield Bank (11 years).

Complementing CIASA’s sea swims are the Flowers Mile, which is in its 21st year, and Camana Bay Aquatic Club’s Lollipop Dash Swims, which have been held over the past three years and which introduces younger swimmers to the joy of the open water.

Jim Fraser, director of CIASA’s open water committee, along with past boards, has a reputation for producing well-organized, safe events that are recognized throughout the Caribbean as being some of the best events in which to participate.

This long tradition and success of open water swimming led FINA to choose Cayman to host the clinics, which will be conducted by UANA (Union Americana de Natacion) official Dennis Ryther.

The clinics are open to other countries and the swimming association needs its members to take part as well because, while it is true that Cayman hosts more open water events every year than many other places, the swimming association needs to increase its expertise to match the superb local conditions.

With Cayman’s natural conditions and an increasing number of qualified officials, the local sports tourism product will benefit from hosting the open water events.

The course is called The Role of Open Water Officials and the Planning and Practical Aspects of Setting Up Open Water Events. For more information on this course and to request registration information, contact Olive Balderamos at [email protected] or call 326-1750.

Cayman’s technical director Bailey Weathers and his wife Sue will be taking part in the clinics.

“This is an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about open water officiating,” said Weathers. “I have enjoyed the CIASA open water swims since I arrived in Cayman and this opportunity to learn more, and to be a part of growing Cayman’s sports tourism and hosting international swims here is an exciting one.”

The benefits of open water swimming are multiple. Swimmers are a cross-section of the community from young competitive ones to the elite and also triathletes, recreational swimmers and those who just want to stay fit.

The sport builds a foundation of fitness and strength. For older athletes, it is gentle on the joints, and for others it combines cross-training and conditioning. There’s also the fun and challenge. Like running on a track, some swimmers view pool activity as routine, they love the challenge of the ever-changing open water.

Add to this the healthy lifestyle swimmers live and the social atmosphere with friends and family that events represent and it is no wonder that sea swims are such an important part of Cayman’s sporting community.

Ryther, chairman of UANA open water technical committee for this hemisphere, has vast refereeing and organizing expertise.

Here in June for the Flowers Sea Swim, Ryther observed and critiqued the 1 mile, 5K and 10K events on the Monday after the Flowers Mile.

Ryther is encouraging the Cayman Islands to bid on hosting big international open water events and build a stronger base of officials. Attending the upcoming training will enhance the strength of a bid.

Additionally, the Special Olympics International is coming back to Cayman n May 2014 for the third time i for its open water training clinic.

This clinic is the only one in the world, helping to prepare Caribbean Special Olympic swimmers for their 2015 World Games in Los Angeles and is a complementary nod of recognition of Andrew Smilley’s success and coach Penny McDowall’s expertise.