Over 200 swimmers took to the water in the canals of Marina Martinique for the annual Steers Kouga Express Marina Mile during December.
The popular swim event, which was resurrected in 2002 by the Kouga Swim Club, has now expanded into a two day open water swim festival and includes the only 25 km extreme swim race that has ever been held in the Eastern Cape.
It was the 25 K that got the ball rolling with four entrants who were brave enough to face up to what is the equivalent of the Comrades Marathon of swimming, and quite possibly even more extreme than that.
The South African 25 K champion, Tyron Venter got off to a flying start in his quest to swim a sub six hour race. However, Tyron had to withdraw after having completed just short of 10 km when he aggravated an existing shoulder injury. “I carried the injury into the event and unfortunately hadn’t given it enough time to heal”, said Venter. “The 25 K is an event that tests a swimmer physically, mentally and spiritually and will expose any shortcomings or lack of preparation”.
Rebecca Newman (18 years old) from Port Elizabeth eventually won the race from local swim veteran Brenton Williams after swimming for close to the entire day. Rebecca, who landed up in hospital with second degree sunburn after the race, said that the swim was tough and a huge mental challenge. “This race was mentally demanding as you have little other stimulus than the water, your breathing and strokes” said an exhausted but chuffed Newman after the swim.
The 10 K swim also took place the same day and was won by Chris Van Der Sande who narrowly beat Jessica Roux in a tussle for the finish. It was the first time Van Der Sande has swum a 10 km event, which bodes well for his open water swimming career.
Another new event, the Double Mile, started the action the following day with open water swim queen Jessica Roux biding her time before making a late charge to win the event from Wayne Jones.
The increasingly popular bank to bank swim took to the water next and despite the chilly conditions, the little swimmers gave a good account of themselves. Laila Venter (5 years) and Noah De Swart (4 years) both swam their first ever open water swim and did very well against the older competitors. “The water was very cold but I just kicked very hard until I got to the finish”, said a tired but happy Laila after the race.
The 500 meter swim was next and was won by Armin Swartz who managed to beat Dominic De Oliviera into second position. The oldest entrant of the day, Jane Geldenhuys (83 years) also swam the 500m.
The Steers Ladies Mile was next and Jessica Roux took her third title of the Festival when she comfortably touched the finish buoy ahead of Jamie-Lee Schlemmer and Robyn Charter. Local swimmer Caro De Jager (12 years) had a good swim to finish 6th overall.
Chris van Der Sande defended his Steers Marina Mile title by winning the 2010 edition comfortably and thereby confirming his status as the top male open water swimmer in the Eastern Cape. Up and coming local swimmer Seth De Swart (11 years) won the U/12 division. Swim legend Mally Richards (78 years) from Jeffreys Bay was the oldest competitor of the day in the Mile event.
The next open water swim event in Jeffreys Bay is the EP Open Water Swim Champs which will take place on the 5/6 February. Chad Ho, the World Champion 10 K swimmer from Durban has indicated his interest in swimming the event but it will depend on his international racing schedule. “I swam at Marina Martinique a few years ago and it’s a great place for a 10 km swim” said Chad. “Hopefully everything will work out so I can get to Jeffreys Bay for the EP Champs”.
The Weekend Post Ocean Racing Series kicks into gear in Port Elizabeth on Sunday with a 1 km and a 3 km swim for those who want to train for the EP Champs, which will offer a 10km, 5km,3km,1km, 500m and bank to bank swims.