PORT Elizabeth swimmers Ian Venter, 19, and Hannah Counihan, 15, broke last year’s Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival Marina Mile records in this year’s swim on Friday March 30, and were awarded trophies on which their names will be engraved.
The Marina Mile attracted about 50 swimmers (up from last year’s 33) and has a long way to go compared to the Midmar Mile which attracts about 1 200 swimmers each year, according to tourism chairman Dr Rick Pryce at the launch of the Amanzi Festival.
At the prize giving last Friday Marina Mile co-organiser, Avril Beyleveld said: “Now that we are confident with a good event, we will be able to market the Marina Mile on a large scale next year.”
She said East London swimmers were not well-represented at this year’s event.
Beyleveld has been organising the race since the days when it started at Guido’s and ended at the tourism offices, and is now organising the Marina Mile along with Pierre Coetzer of Sports ‘n All.
After the safety briefing before the race, swimmers entered the water from the jetty behind the Halyards Hotel to reach the starting line at the canal, then set off around the first marina island, returning to the Halyards and the small boat harbour up the Kowie River, at low tide.
There were three swimming categories: juniors (12-18) who wore yellow bathing caps, open section (19-29) who wore red and seniors (30+) who wore white bathing caps, necessary for identification at the finish line.
One section of the river was silted up and swimmers returned with mud on their chins.
“That is the nature of open water swimming,” said Beyleveld. “You take it as you find it.”
Venter finished the race first in a record breaking time (21:53) followed by last year’s winner, Slater Black, 17, who was five seconds behind at 21:58, improving on his own time last year (23:15).
Third was another junior, Cole Craig, 18, who was also second in the junior section and swims in the same swimming club in Port Elizabeth as the first two swimmers. His time was 22:59.
The first female across the finish line was Counihan in a time of 23:05, followed by last year’s female winner, Paige Black in a time of 23:31, beating beat her own record of 25:06 last year. Courtney Repine was third in another record time of 24:05.
Members of the Port Alfred swimming team also participated and won some prizes. They were Saffron Tweedie, Emily Beatt, Scarlett Tweedie, William Beatt and Kate Tinley.
Janine van Rooyen said that while she was swimming the race one of the swimmers said to his friend, “Dude, you can walk this bit” because it was so shallow they were swimming with their faces and chests in the mud, and all the contestants came out of the water with what looked like five o’clock shadow around their mouths and chins.
“All I can say is we are blessed with the weather,” said Beyleveld, recalling the rainy conditions last year. “The water is 19 degrees and that means wearing a wet suit is optional. However, there is buoyancy in the wetsuit that adds to the swimmer’s speed, and will disqualify the swimmer from getting prizes.”
Christel Erasmus came last but was by far the most popular swimmer as the entire Presbyterian Church turned up to support their minister who was swimming to raise funds for charity. She and last male, Vernon Bezuidenhout, finished the race together at 50:37.
Every swimmer had to wear a bangle and hand it in at the end of the race so that everyone was safely accounted for and NSRI and water police boats were on standby.