BRAVE; possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance – this is the adjective which best describes the open water swimmers who tackle the annual Jendamark Nelson Mandela Bay Bellbuoy Challenge.
This internationally acclaimed 5km sea swim is hailed as the toughest Indian Ocean Swim in the world and despite its short existence of just 6 years, the race already has some world famous swimming names on the winners listing.
Leading local export company Jendamark Automation have been the naming sponsor of the event for the past two seasons and recently agreed a 5-year sponsorship for the event with record prize money up for grabs this season as cash prizes are not the same for both the swimsuit and the wetsuit categories. Hydration for the swimmers will be provided by 32GI.
Part of the history of the race are 6 swimmers who have completed all 6 Bellbuoy swims to date. This group of local swimmers has Mary-Anne Stott as the only female, disabled swimmer Stanford Slabbert and includes Richden Jute, Andre Kleynhans, Ralph West and Jeffrey’s Bay swim coach Brenton Williams. Currently Stott’s mother, Maria, holds the record for the oldest female to complete the swim at 59 years and 9 months whilst Rob Connacher is the oldest male to finish the swim when in 2014 he was 80 years and 3 days. The youngest girl was Christie Vaughan (14 years and 28 days) whilst the youngest boy was Ian Venter (14 years and 334 days). The minimum age for the swim is 14 years on race day.
Around 100 swimmers from around the country are anticipated to tackle the challenge on Saturday, February 27, at Pollok Beach with the swim starting at 8.30am. The event is owned and managed by local non-profit sports events company, Zsports Events NPC.
NMB swim champs
This Sunday sees the Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics (NMBA) 10km and 3km swim championship events taking place at Settlers Dam just outside Grahamstown as part of the EC Swim Challenge Series – Round 4.
So far this season only Rebecca Newman has contested the 10km swim whilst the title race for the 3km race is anticipated to be a tight one between Ian Venter and Daniel Jones.
Swimmers from around the Province will be expected to attend the Series on Sunday as it offers the only sanctioned event in the Eastern Cape where registered swimmers can obtain their Swimming South Africa open water qualifying times.
Sunday will also include a 5km and 1km swim with all races open to all registered and social open water swimmers. Wetsuit swimmers are also permitted during these events. The EC Swim Challenge Series will conclude on Sunday, February 14, with the NMBA 5km Championship swims and the last of the 10km, 3km and 1km swim for this season and the registered swimmers’ last opportunity to gain a qualifying time to attend the SA open water nationals. See www.ECSwim.co.za for further information.
Expect the events to be well attended ahead of the 92nd SPAR River Mile which takes place on Sunday 21st February with Daniel Jones and Hannah Haswell looking to defend their 2015 titles.
See www.RiverMile.co.za for a full programme of events on offer at this year’s SPAR River Mile Festival which includes a fun run, MTB Races, disabled Mile swim, double Mile swim, a family half mile swim and a swim for kids 12 years and under across the Sunday’s River with the kids being ferried across the River by the majestic Sunday’s River Ferry.