Recreational and Olympic swimmers will share the same strip of water Saturday, when the 25th Flowers Sea Swim takes place at Seven Mile Beach. More than 1,000 swimmers have registered for the one-mile recreational swim, which starts at the Royal Palms and ends at the Westin, Grand Cayman.
Cayman Olympians Brett Fraser, Geoffrey Butler, Heather Roffey and Lara Butler will be competing this weekend. There are also 5K and 10K races on Monday.
Olympians Allison Schmitt and Elizabeth Beisel, two of the three captains of the U.S. women’s swim team at the 2016 Summer Games, are in Cayman for the events, as well as Olympians from Japan (Yasunari Harai) and South Africa (Roland Schoeman).
Penny Palfrey of Australia, who set a world record by swimming nonstop between Little Cayman and Grand Cayman in 2011, will also be on island for the events.
The waters are expected to be choppy on Saturday, but Dara Flowers-Burke, one of the event organizers, said the conditions probably will not keep recreational swimmers from finishing by the 75-minute time limit.
“We’re not super concerned about the weather,” she said. “We’ve swam in all different sorts of conditions. Obviously, for safety reasons, we’d never put people in the water unless we’re comfortable with it. But the good thing about the Flowers Sea Swim is that it’s a recreational mile and people will have plenty of time to finish. They just need to relax and take their time.
“We’ll have over 200 volunteers on the day, many of whom are safety officials. People are going to be keeping an eye out. We’ll have a full medical support team on location at the swim. We work very closely with the [Health Services Authority] to ensure that all safety areas are covered.”
All swimmers who finish ahead of the cut-off time will be eligible for cash awards and other prizes. Swimmers have a 1-in-7 chance of earning a reward, organizers say, and all proceeds from registration will be donated to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
Flowers Burke said that her mother, the late Eve Flowers, chose the charity. The Flowers family, through awareness at the swim, aims to help increase the number of Caribbean people who are in bone marrow registries around the world, Flowers-Burke said. Now, people of Caribbean descent have just an 8 percent chance or less of getting a donor match should a medical crisis arise.
“We want to help change that statistic,” she said. “The reason why we got involved with that is because we lost my mother Eve to leukemia last year. The reason why she couldn’t get a donor match is because she’s of Caribbean descent. We’re really excited to do this in her honor and her memory.”
Flowers-Burke looks forward to Saturday’s swim, and is thrilled to see the event grow year after year.
“It’s our 25th anniversary and we exceeded all our expectations,” she said. “We have over 1,000 swimmers registered and over 200 walkers. The 5K/10K swim is actually closed out early because we had too many swimmers. It takes such an effort from so many volunteers and people in our community to make this work. We’re ecstatic and excited to get everybody in the water Saturday.
“We started off with 60 swimmers on a little strip of the beach with one tent and no food and a little bit of water. It really has grown. It’s pretty incredible and we’re really proud of it,” she said. “My dad, Frankie Flowers, had this vision to do this huge sea swim that would be globally recognized.… We went along for the ride, and thankfully we did, because it’s nice to see that vision realized.”