“Swimming – 4 pm C.L. Flowers one mile swim, starting at Coral Stone, south of the Holiday Inn, entry fee $8, $4 for children”
— Friday, July 9, 1993, Caymanian Compass, Page 28
“Sic Parvis Magna … Thus from small things, great things come”
— Motto, coat of arms, Sir Francis Drake (first recorded English visitor to Grand Cayman, 1586)
Over its 25-year history, the Flowers Sea Swim has grown from a back-page notice in tiny type, to a front-page headline-grabbing annual athletic tradition.
The Sea Swim, sponsored by the Flowers family, has become one of the Cayman Islands’ premier events (sports-related or not), and this year will host some 1,100 participants in the signature one-mile distance Saturday morning. It starts at the Royal Palms and ends at the Westin, Grand Cayman. The awards ceremony takes place at the Westin. People who don’t want to “get their feet wet” can sign up for the “Walk and Watch” – which is exactly what the name implies.
The Sea Swim is the world’s richest open water event, with more than US$100,000 in prizes, ranging from fuel vouchers, to sunset sails, to gym memberships to plane tickets to international destinations such as Dublin, Rome, Paris, New York and Rio de Janeiro. Swimmers who break event or world records can win US$5,000 or US$10,000 in cash. (If you’re feeling particularly fit this Saturday, the men’s world record in the ocean mile is 16 minutes flat.)
In addition to the one-mile swim, Flowers is holding international 5K and 10K races starting at the Westin on Monday. As if that weren’t enough, in conjunction with the Flowers Sea Swim, the Union Americana de Natacion Pan American Open Water Swimming Championships are also being held this weekend.
Among the hundreds of visitors flying in for the occasion are some two-dozen Olympic swimmers and other elite athletes. Satellite events include clinics, an Olympian Gala Charity Dinner at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort and an Olympic Luncheon at KARoo.
Taken altogether, the Flowers Sea Swim adds up to one spectacular sports tourism extravaganza – and all for a most-worthy charitable cause.
Event registration fees (and earnings from the charity dinner) will benefit the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. Last year’s event raised $75,000 for the Cancer Society, with the money allotted to adding 1,000 people to the Caribbean Bone Marrow Registry, which helps connect patients to potentially life-saving transplants.
The choice of the Cancer Society as beneficiary is very personal to the event organizers. Family matriarch Eve Flowers died last April after a year-long battle with cancer. Before she passed away, Mrs. Flowers requested that the proceeds of the 2016 swim go to the bone marrow registry.
Her husband, and swim founder Frank Flowers, said at the check presentation last year, “This cause was very important to us this year because we recently lost my wife to acute myeloid leukaemia because she could not find a 100 percent bone marrow donor match for a transplant. We want to make sure that never happens again. People from the Caribbean are grossly underrepresented in bone marrow registries around the world, so we wanted to change that.
“All this money will help to create that change, and help to create awareness.”
We at the Compass are well aware just how much the Flowers Sea Swim has come to mean to the Flowers family, to the Cancer Society and to the Cayman Islands as a whole.
While the swimmers are pulling themselves through the one mile of turquoise waters off Seven Mile Beach on Saturday, we’ll be pulling for everyone involved with this special event.