For nearly 30 years, swimmers have taken to the water surrounding Grand Cayman to participate in the Flowers Sea Swim.
On Saturday at 2:30pm, they will have the chance to compete once again, covering the distance of one mile in order to reach the finish line.
The event is usually held in June, but in 2020 it was rescheduled for October when COVID restrictions were sufficiently relaxed. You might say that patriarch, businessman and founder of the annual event, Frank Flowers, was faced with the classic sink-or-swim option last year, and he chose to swim! Not surprising, as anyone who knows Frank is aware, he is not the type to go down without a fight.
His daughter Dara Flowers Burke, who is one of the main organisers each year, is glad to be enjoying a bit of normality after the delays and unknowns of 2020.
“As the Flowers Sea Swim celebrates 29 years, we are honoured to be able to host all our wonderful swimmers after such an unprecedented year,” Flowers Burke said. “In order to adhere to the Cayman government COVID restrictions, the swim will have a local focus, limited to 500 swimmers.
“On a personal note, I am so excited for the event to be somewhat back to normal and for my daughter to swim the race for the first time this year, making it a true family event spanning three generations of the Flowers family,” she added.
In past years, the route has been set between The Ritz-Carlton and Royal Palms, but this time it has shifted slightly northward, and goes from Coral Beach to the Westin.
The 500-swimmer limit has already been met, but there are still some Walk & Watch spaces available. The Walk & Watch option allows non-swimmers to be part of the event as they walk along the beach, following the competitors on their journey. It costs $25 to participate, which includes entry into the raffle prize draw, and for an extra $25 donation, each person gets a commemorative T-shirt. Registration on the day is available, from 12:30-1:45pm.
Every year, a charity is chosen to benefit from the proceeds of the swim. The National Children’s Voluntary Organisation has been announced as the beneficiary for 2021, and Paola Robinson, CEO of the charity, expressed her gratitude for the decision.
“NCVO is honoured to be the selected charity,” Robinson said. “This year’s fundraisers will support our Children Services Programmes at the Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home, Jack & Jill Nursery, and Miss Nadine’s Pre-School.
“Since 1974 we have been dedicated to the care, education and well-being of vulnerable children and families in the Cayman Islands. Corporate and financial donations year-round are essential to ensure that our programmes can continue to help those who rely on our assistance.”
Flowers Burke also remarked that she was very happy with the choice of charity, saying, “We are particularly thrilled to support the NCVO with an emphasis on some of Cayman’s most vulnerable local kids.”
Olympic swimmers have always been a big part of this sporting event and, while no international athletes can participate on Saturday, Cayman’s Olympians will be well-represented. Geoffrey Butler, Lara Butler, Andrew MacKay, Darren Mew and Heather Harvey (née Roffey) will all be slapping their swimming caps on and will no doubt give other competitors a good run for their money. In the past, the likes of gold medallists Gary Hall Jr., Rebecca Soni, Kaitlin Sandeno and Jordan Wilimovsky have been involved in the sea swim. Hopefully next year, the tradition will be able to be reinstated, assuming the island’s borders are open.
The Flowers Sea Swim is known to be the world’s richest open-water event with over $100,000 in cash and random prizes. The odds of winning a prize are one-in-7 and previous giveaways have included smartphones, tablets, hotel stays, and dozens of airline tickets to premier destinations such as Miami, New York, Panama, Rome, Dublin and Rio de Janeiro. All finishers receive a T-shirt and goody bag filled with prizes and surprises.
You don’t have to be the fastest to be a winner, so just ‘dive in’ and enjoy the day!