New record for Port Alfred’s river mile

NEARLY THERE: Swimmers climb on to the Small Boat Harbour’s slipway jetty for the final run to the finish. Pictures: Sue Maclennan

Swimming stars in town for their summer break took on local heroes in the fifth Royal St Andrew’s Hotel Amanzi Challenge Marina Mile in the Kowie River this week. It was youth, 12-18s to be specific, who dominated the event with Zack Waters coming all the way from Cape Town to set a new record in a blistering 21 minutes and nine seconds. Camilla Heuer, from East London, set the benchmark for female entries at 24:29.

Just short of 50 swimmers – at least one each from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland – took to the water on December 27 2022. The course started and ended in the Small Boat Harbour slipway, outside the Halyards Hotel. Winding around the hotel’s promontory are walkways, lawns and a viewing platform, making the course as spectator friendly as you can get.

“It’s cold!” was the consensus as swimmers lined up for the start. Despite Port Alfred rocking a baking hot 35C on Tuesday, the water temperature was around 19C in the morning with some locals predicting that the incoming tide could see it drop as low as 14C. One swimmer estimated it had been between 18 and 19C in the river itself, but slightly colder in the Marina’s channel – “maybe 17”.

The water warm enough to make wetsuits optional. This open water swimming event followed the Ironman rules, which are that wetsuits are mandatory if the temperature is below 16C.

“I’m from Langebaan,” said Kerryn Pedersen, who wore a full wetsuit. “We don’t swim skins.” She came in just over halfway through the field, in 28th at 33:16. Royal St Andrews Hotel’s Justin Bekker followed two seconds after.

The outward push against the incoming tide would have meant little to Rondebosch High School’s Waters, who is on the South African High Performance Squad List following a nine-medal performance in the SA Lifesaving Championships earlier this year (gold in the Lifesaving Iron Man).

Port Alfred High School’s William Beatt, whose consistent successes in the pool have earned him a Speedo Ambassador endorsement, was next in, with around a minute and a half separating him from fellow local, Joao Felizardo, who regularly makes headlines for his heroic rescues off Port Alfred’s beaches. Also in the headlines for a remarkable rescue recently, Ed Gutsche, was 12th overall in 28:28. He was pipped to the post by youngster Reece Coetzer (11th). Two years ago, Reece and Will Beatt were themselves in the news for their role in a rescue at Kelly’s Beach.

St Andrew’s College’s Oliva Lange’s successes have been focused on the pool: earlier this year he made the finals in all three breaststroke events at the SA Short Course gala in Pietermaritzburg. During 2022 he was ranked in South Africa’s top 5 for both the 50m and 200m breaststroke. The winner of the school’s recent River Mile came in fourth overall.

Hal Snyman, who in 2019 cracked a sub-five-hour Ironman, was six seconds behind Lange.

Clarendon Primary’s Camilla Heuer, a Lifesaving Nipper, was the first female home, and a remarkable sixth overall, in 24:29. SA-ranked Christie Piguet from Douglasdale, Gauteng, led a star school of girls inside the 26-minute mark. Stacey Ann Welsh, Lily Smith and Emily Beatt were close in her wake.

Safety was a priority, with Gardmed Ambulance personnel at the ready on the banks and NSRI volunteers in the water. Race organisers Pierre Coetzer and Avril Beyleveld announced a R3000 donation to the organisation in lieu of their members’ service on the day. Chris Pike, Shannen Kethro and Louise Ferguson were the volunteers on the day.

“Fantastic – we’ll definitely be back!” was the consensus of Dawn Claase (36:42) from Cape Town and Lesley Loock (33:53), from Kenton. Brian and Shannon Doherty were delighted to complete the event as a family in just under 38 minutes. Andrew Witte was slowed down by severe cramping and did well to make it to the finish.

The slipway finish was well named – it was extremely slippery. But community stalwart Eddie Wepener was there with his red flag to direct swimmers to the jetty and give them a hand-up if they needed it.

The event was first held in 2017 and has run every year since, except 2020. It is coordinated by B&S Sports and forms part of the Royal St Andrew’s Hotel AManzi Challenge, sponsored by the Royal St Andrew’s Hotel.

Zwelinzima Nkwinti, of B&S Sports, was delighted with the event’s success, which has previously been hosted at various times of the year.

“We are going to stick with December from now on,” he said.

ROYAL ST ANDREW’S HOTEL AMANZI CHALLENGE MARINA MILE IN PICTURES (for stunning action shots by Jaco van Rensburg visit BS Sports )


12-18 girls
Camilla Heuer (00:24:29)
Christie Piguet (00:25:28)
Stacey Ann Welsh (00:25:40)

12-18 boys
Zack Waters (00:21:09)
William Beatt (00:22:18)
Oliva Lange (00:24:15)

19-29 women
SUne Chadwick (00:33:11)
Kerryn Pedersen (00:33:16)
Ashlynn Wilkins (00:38:29)

30-49 women
Carin van der Watt (00:29:21)
Megan Henderson (00:31:59)
Jacqui Celliers (00:32:11)

30-49 men
Joao Felizardo (00:23:46)
Hal Snyman (00:24:21)
Ed Gutsche (00:28:28)

50-plus women
Nicky van Nierop (00:29:00)
Lesley Loock (00:33:53)
Cathy McGrath (00:34:19)

50-plus men
Lance Corbett (00:30:18)
Paul Scott (00:33:39)
Nico Claase (00:33:57)