Bajans standing tall

Superb performance by bajan swimmers at open sea event

Barbadian swimmers accredited themselves well in last Sunday’s annual Nevis to St. Kitts cross channel swim.

The race, which commenced about 8:10 am at Oualie Beach on the north shore of Nevis, was won by Trinidad and Tobago’s 15-year-old Christian Marsden who clocked 59 minutes and 20 seconds, narrowly missing the current record of 58:02, and this after initially heading to the wrong beach. Seventeen-year-old Shannon Gibson headed the list of Barbadian finishers, placing third among the Under-19 female category in a time of 1:15:55.

A mere five minutes behind her was 12-year-old Kristiana Ram whose time was a great achievement at her age and especially compared to the large field of adults who finished behind her. In fact, the youngest age category in the event was under 19, so many of the young Barbadian swimmers were competing way above their age group.

Kristiana Ram exits the water and heads for the finish line.
Kristiana Ram exits the water and heads for the finish line.

The youngest swimmer in the event was ten-year-old Barbadian Emily Odwin who finished in a time of 1:50:25, and who was one of three ten-year-old swimmers from Barbados competing in the event, with the other two being Dominique Nurse-Allen and Sabrina Peirce.

Jacob Johnson and Cody O’Neal, also from Barbados, were only marginally older at 11 years and finished well. A notable finisher was crowd favourite Mackenzie Brancker, who wowed the participants the night before with an impromptu performance on drums with the live band that had everyone on their feet. Her musician father Nicholas Brancker would have been proud.

Fourteen-year-old Kristin O’Neal achieved her primary goal of soundly beating her dad Chris O’Neal who also participated. Rounding out the field from Barbados were the two coaches and inspiration behind the challenge, Gillian Bailey and Lisa Richardson. Ironically, all of the youngsters finished ahead of the three adults.

The start of the event was similar to that of a land marathon where participants gathered behind a line and started together. After the start the swimmers quickly spread out as age, speed and tactics came into play, and well-wishers and families jumped aboard boats to catch a glimpse of the swimmers as they made their way across the 2.5 mile (4.1 km) channel.

Swimmers use landmarks to guide them, and over a long distance such as this they used a high peak on the land that stands behind Cockleshell Bay as the point of reference. The total swim distance from start line to finish line was 3.08 miles, and from sea level beaches and small buildings were not visible.

Rescue boats and a small group of about a dozen volunteers in kayaks set out with the swimmers but as the race progressed and separations became greater, swimmers were often a half-mile or more away from the nearest rescue vessel.

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