Ryan cruises ahead of locals

The Pirates Week 5K is Cayman’s oldest swimming tradition and although the numbers are relatively small, the enthusiasm is always immense.  

The 34rd Annual Pirates Week 5k Sea Swim started and finished at the Grand Cayman Beach Suites on Saturday and was predictably won by Olympic hopeful Sean Ryan in 58 minutes 21 seconds. 

He was well ahead of second placed Iain McCallum who had to sprint to stay in front of third placed Eddie Weber. Sixty-one entered in total.  

American Ryan thoroughly enjoyed his introduction to Cayman having come down from the chilly climes of Ann Arbor in Michigan. 

“This swim was awesome,” he said. “The water here is beautiful. You guys are so lucky to be able to live in a place like this. It’s also really nice to get out of the freezing cold of Michigan.” 

Ryan thanked the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association for bringing him down and main sponsors KPMG. 

He stayed with Bailey Weathers, CIASA’s technical director of swimming, and got a good insight into the sport’s set up here.  

“It sounds like you guys are doing some really good work with swimming,” Ryan said. “The local kids are getting a lot of international experience, which is really important.” 

He added that to be able to travel for meets and learn about different cultures is a great part of any swimmer’s development.  

Ryan has just finished his four-year stint at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is now a post-graduate swimmer.  

He receives his degree in mechanical engineering in December and has already been accepted into a engineering masters program, starting in January.  

“In Ann Arbor we have a great training facility and I get to train with world-class swimmers and coaches,” he said. “It is also a world-class university so I get a great education too.”  

Ryan, 22, said that he would love to visit again, maybe for the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim in June.  

He is focusing on preparing for the U.S. national open water championships in April, a qualifier for the world championships.  

He has been to the past two world championship 10ks and feels he has a good chance of making it again. “I think I have a decent shot but there are a lot of guys I have to compete against.”  

McCallum was pleased to be the fastest local. He said that the conditions were good – calm waters and blazing sunshine – and the course was well set out.  

“It was a good race between me and Eddie,” he said. “I had to speed up coming into the finish. 

“It was not just a distance race, it’s a mix of things, as we saw with a sprint at the end, which is good.” 

The 17-year-old Cayman Prep A-Levels pupil in math, physics and economics is inspired by older brother Alex who was Cayman’s top swimmer until he went to the U.K. last year to study at Loughborough University.  

Iain said that he has no big meets imminent but is looking forward to CARIFTA next Easter where he would like to medal as it is his last year.  

“If I don’t qualify before then, I also want to qualify for the Island Games in Jersey next summer.” 

Sandy Hew meshed it all together as chief organizer. “We had a fantastic day, we had a lot of great volunteers helping out and the sea conditions were perfect,” she said, adding that Ryan conducted a clinic to inspire kids to pursue their swimming ambitions on Friday night which went well.  

“It was nice having him here in the water but unfortunately he didn’t have much competition,” Hew said. She added her thanks to KPMG and also the Pirates Week committee and Red Sail Sports.  

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Sean Ryan, Iain McCallum, Catriona MacRae, Andrew Smilley and Eddie Weber were the first five finishers.