The 2012 Bell Buoy Challenge was held in Port Elizabeth over the Easter Weekend and just over 50 swimmers managed to complete the extreme 8 Km open ocean swim.
Conditions were good this year, with a light wind and 18 degree water ensuring swimmers did not have to deal with big chop or hypothermic water temperatures.
However, there was plenty of jelly fish in the water and at times the swimmers had to face swimming through clumps of jelly fish and were stung quite badly.
Rebecca Newman, the Eastern Province 25 Km champion had to withdraw from the race near the Bell Buoy due to severe stings on her arms and torso.
Troy Prinsloo, became the first South African to ever win the Bell Buoy and did so in a blistering pace that saw him become the 2012 Bell Buoy champion in a record time of 1 hour 31 minutes.
“This was my first open ocean swim so I did not really know what to expect”, said Prinsloo after his epic win. “I put my head down and swam hard and am stoked with the result”. Prinsloo, who is the current South African 10 Km champion, is aiming for a start in the marathon swim at the 2012 Olympic Games in London later this year.
His last opportunity for qualifying is in June. “I am hoping to come and do some cold water training in Marina Martinique later this month in preparation for the Olympic qualifier”, said Prinsloo, who won both the 5 Km and the 10 Km at the SA Champs in Jeffreys Bay last year.
Local swimmer Brenton Williams also set a record at the Bell Buoy Challenge this year when he became the first man ever to swim the race using only the butterfly stroke. He is the only South African doing long distance butterfly swimming at present and does his swims in the traditional manner, using only goggles and wearing a speedo costume.
“Conditions were perfect for a butterfly attempt and even though I was still a bit stiff from the 350 km relay swim we did two weeks ago, you have to take your opportunities when they come your way”, said Williams, a DA Councillor in the Kouga Municipality, after his historic swim.
“There was very little surface chop and the currents were not as bad as the jelly fish so it was a great day for a fly swim. The jelly fish did string me which made sure the Bell Buoy remained a challenge despite the perfect conditions”.
Williams is now into a waiting period for a Robben Island crossing as well as looking at some options for a local sea swim.
“No big ocean swims have been done around Jeffreys Bay yet and I believe that our waters are perfect for ocean swimming. With proper timing, the right wind and tides should ensure good swimming conditions and water temperatures between 15 – 19 degrees. I am working closely with some of my fishing friends who know the area well and we are planning some routes for a swim in May”, said Williams.
Phil Weddel and Buzz Friday were the other two Jeffreys Bay swimmers to complete the gruelling swim which saw the swimmers hug the coast line for the first 1.6 km before striking directly out to sea for 2.4 Km and then swimming around the Bell Buoy and returning to shore.
Both swimmers only started training this season, making their achievements even more notable.