Pirates Week 5K tests swimmers’ endurance

38 swimmers set off for the 37th Annual Pirates Week 5K sponsored by KPMG.

In ideal conditions of smooth, calm water, 38 swimmers set off from Governor’s Beach for the 37th Annual Pirates Week Open Water 5K Sea Swim Saturday morning (11 November), early enough before the heat of the day bore down.

Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) president, Michael Lockwood described the longest-running event on the local swimming calendar as a strong tradition and one with important competitive implications.

“It’s a bit more of an endurance test than the regular 800m swims that we host throughout the year. In particular for our representative team swimmers, this is a qualifying event for CARIFTA and other competitions in the next year,” Lockwood said, adding that combined with another 5K early in 2018 will help determine which swimmers make the cut.

Leading the way was Stephanie Horner, who has represented Canada at multiple international championships including the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year. She was the first competitor back on dry land, finishing in 58 minutes and 14 seconds.

Horner was excited to see a stingray on her swim.

It’s not as though Horner, 28, was not expected to win but she said there was a lot of talk about American Emily Brunemann finishing in 1:00:58 during last year’s 5K. She said that helped push her pace.

“I feel like before I came here there was lots of hype that Emily was here last year and they were like ‘are you going to break this record time?’. Open water is not necessarily about times, it’s about rankings but the fact that they brought it up, I wondered how close I could get to an hour or see if I could surpass it,” she told CaymanSportsBuzz.com.

Although not being tested, having opened up a 20m lead ahead of top local finishers John Bodden and Liam Henry after the first 1.25km lap and more than doubling it at the halfway mark at the end of the next, Horner was all smiles about the experience.

“It was so much fun. The waters are so pretty here,” she said. “And when I was swimming, I saw a stingray which got me so excited that it gave me a burst of energy. The 5K always hurts but when you have fun doing it, it kind of compensates for when it hurts.”

CIASA president Michael Lockwood with Stephanie Horner.

For the second straight year, Bodden was the first local finisher in 1:03:55. The 17-year-old from Stingray Swim Club said he was pleased with his swim.  “This part of the season it’s about how hard I can push myself, not as much about the time but about how I feel physically during the race and that was a good starting point to know where I am at,” he said.

The multiple-time CARIFTA medalist welcomed the chance to once again compete against an Olympic-quality swimmer. “It’s a great opportunity because she has reached high levels of swimming, so being able to focus on being able to try to get to her or just to swim in the same water as her is a pretty good opportunity,” Bodden told CaymanSportsBuzz.com.

Meantime, the CIASA president thanked the event’s sponsor, KPMG, for helping give local swimmers that exposure. “They came on board about five years ago to sponsor CIASA and they are one of our bigger sponsors. With their support, we have always been able to get a professional swimmer to come down and have the kids race against them. That has been a very big development [aid] for them,” Lockwood said.

“It’s always good for any athlete to see what seniors are doing in world-type competitions. It always has so much more of an impact when they are current swimmers…it’s good to see that it is not out of their reach with a little bit of hard work and guidance,” he added.

CIASA’s technical director, Bailey Weathers, also explained why the associations hosts international swimmers. “In addition to supporting our sponsors by providing a wider audience to Cayman swimming, swimmers like Stephanie Horner really engage with our younger athletes. They provide strong role models and help keep our swimmers motivated.”

He added: “with Stephanie’s experience, she is able to share the bigger picture and what it takes to get there”.

Liam Henry was third overall (1:04:18). Alex Dakers (1:04:41) and Jordan Crooks (1:06:09) were fourth and fifth. Zachary Moore was sixth (1:07:04), just ahead of the first local female finisher, Avery Lambert. The 13-year-old Camana Bay Aquatic Club swimmer completed the 5K in 1:07:32.

The top 10 was completed by Jake Bailey, Raya Embury-Brown and Elana Sinclair, who swam to the end in a bunch and all registered a time of 1:08:13.

At 70, Frank Flowers was the oldest person in the water.

Lockwood acknowledged the swimmers who competed in this event and distance for the first time. “Well done on your achievement of this challenging distance. CIASA would also like to congratulate Mr Frankie Flowers for completing the 5k Sea Swim at 70 years old. He was our oldest competitor and is an inspiration for all swimmers,” Lockwood said.

Sheenah Hislop, KPMG Partner, stated, “KPMG is immensely proud to partner with CIASA, as we share the vision, passion and determination for the swimmers to excel not only in their sport, but to cultivate such positive achievement and inspiration into their real-life experiences. We are happy to support CIASA in their efforts.”

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