Kiteboarders have raised more than $120,000 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society ahead of an epic 82-mile race from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman.
The Estera Little Grand Race will see relay teams and individual boarders make the challenging ocean crossing next month.
With the race scheduled some time between Feb. 18 and 24, depending on wind and sea conditions, the athletes involved are stepping up their training.
Teams will be out on the water over the weekend rehearsing safety drills and building stamina ahead of the race.
The ocean crossing is expected to take around eight hours to complete. Though the official course distance is 82 miles, kiteboarders tack and jibe with the wind, like sailing boats, meaning the actual distance traveled will be significantly longer.
Amy Strzalko, a member of the organizing board and one of the kiteboarders planning to sail the full distance, said the race was unique.
Ms. Strzalko, who completed the course in 2016, the first and only time the event has been held, said it was a physical and mental challenge being out on the open ocean for so long.
“It can be pretty scary being out in eight-foot swells, not being able to see land. I will be following the boat pretty closely,” she said.
Staying hydrated and fueled up over more than eight hours of racing is also a challenge. Each kiteboarder or team will have its own boat and support crew. While some will stop for food and refreshment, Ms. Strzalko aims to go the distance without a break, using a camelback pack for hydration and fueling up on boiled eggs.
Though the event is primarily a charity challenge, it is also a race, with winners in various categories.
“Everybody’s going to be going for it,” she said.
While the relay teams will have the advantage of fresh legs every few hours, the individual racers may have the edge because of the time-consuming logistics of changing kiteboarders at sea.
As the training and race preparations intensify, participants have been working equally hard off the water.
Each team is required to raise at least $5,000 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society to help Cayman families affected by cancer.
Most have already surpassed that target, with more than $120,000 raised between the nine participating teams so far.
Ultimately, they hope to raise more than $200,000.
“One of the great things about this event and one of the reasons I think it is so well supported is that all the money stays on island,” Ms. Strzalko said.
A live auction is planned on March 14 at Abacus with $10,000 of raffle prizes, including work by local artists, as part of the fundraising effort.
More information on how to get involved in the race or make a donation is available at www.kiteforcancer.ky.