Fifteen feet below the surface of the sea off West Bay on Saturday, for the second time in two years, female divers on Grand Cayman broke a world scuba diving record.
Last year, to mark PADI Women’s Dive Day, 86 women broke a record by holding hands underwater along a rope line to form a human chain. On Saturday, they smashed their own record when 107 divers held hands to form the world’s longest female underwater chain.
Divetech’s Julia Bradford, clad in a tutu, officially launched the record attempt by zipping past the divers along the line, using a pink underwater scooter with a large ‘Go’ sign on it. Photographers and videographers then recorded the event, images and video of which will be sent to officials to confirm that the record has been broken.
As well as breaking a world record, the group also raised more than $5,000, and counting, for the Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation.
Divetech organised the dive, which was supported by many other dive operators on island that donated equipment and the services of their female instructors.
Divetech owner Joanna Mikutowicz said, “It went really well. It was perfect, perfectly organised; everybody got out there and held the line, we made a continuous chain and everybody came back.”
She added, “It’s always a challenge to ensure we have enough gear and tanks, and that’s why it’s so helpful that other dive shops step up and say ‘whatever you need’. It was like the Women’s Dive Day event of the Cayman Islands, not just Divetech’s.”
Among the divers was Daniela Crema, who donned a colourful mermaid’s tail.
Crema, a Cayman Islands resident originally from Italy, said, “I was really happy to be a part of this and to support the Breast Cancer Foundation. I came to the island years ago to dive in these warm waters. Today, while I was holding hands with the other 106 women, I could really feel the energy.
“I was also a mermaid; it was absolutely awesome. It was a bit difficult to swim at the beginning, but if you think you’re a sea mermaid, you’re going to make it.”
Another resident diver, Tammy Kelderman, said she took part in the day’s event because, not only was it for a good cause, but “also just to do something fun, to break a record with a bunch of women. There was a pretty good vibe here today”.
She also had a personal reason for supporting the event, as her sister and a friend are both breast cancer survivors.
Janette Fitzgerald, chief administrator of the Breast Cancer Foundation, which had an educational booth at Lighthouse Point for the day, said, “It’s fabulous. Last year was phenomenal, but this year, it’s just unbelievable – 107 women. They’ve really blown it out of the water.”
Even before all the raffle tickets for 41 donated prizes had been sold, more than $5,000 for the charity had been raised from the $25 sign-up fee for the divers, donations and raffle ticket sales.
“I’m touched,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a lot of money, which we definitely need. Never ever do I take it for granted. It always gets to me how people come out and support us. It’s great.”
Speaking to assembled divers and supporters after everyone got out of the water and celebrated with pink champagne donated by Premier Crew and lionfish canapes from Vivo, Bradford announced the final confirmed number and said, “We’ve just got a new world record, guys,” to cheers from the divers.
She told the crowd, “There has been a massive turnout from dive shops in terms of their divers. It’s heartwarming for me to see the response from every dive shop.” She also thanked the male volunteers, “not only because we forced them to wear pink rash guards all day” but for their hard work all day.
Officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service dive team were among the volunteers on hand to help with traffic control and surface support.
With more than 100 divers arriving at the Lighthouse Point site around the same time, and limited parking available, the officers directed them where to park and where to drop their dive gear before the event, as well as helping out with any on-land assistance that was needed.
Following the dive, the dive team’s Constable Richard Connolly said, “The RCIPS really likes to support the local community, and especially any charitable cause. It’s been a delight today, which we’ve all enjoyed, to help and assist the Breast Cancer Foundation and Divetech to achieve this world record.”
Not all the police dive team stayed on land. After helping with parking duties, PC Rachel Rush said she joined the women underwater in the record attempt, “holding hands with two strangers”. She said the police’s participation in the event showed that the “RCIPS are very approachable.”
Asked whether another record breaking attempt would be held next year, perhaps aiming for 200, Divetech’s Mikutowicz responded, “Sure. Why not?”