THE toughest Indian Ocean swim in the world happens right here in Algoa Bay when the 2018 Jendamark Bellbuoy Challenge takes place on Saturday morning from Pollok Beach with a record entry of over 130 entries.
A daunting 5km ocean swim which sees some of South Africa’s bravest open water swimmers heading 2.5km straight out to sea to round the nautical bellbuoy directly off Pollok Beach. Whilst usually an easy swim out to the buoy, the currents around the area make for a very tough rounding and return to shore which in some instances can see swimmers return times double that of their outgoing time.
Local SA 3km open water swimming champion, Ian Venter, has announced that he will retire from open water swimming at the end of the season to take up a swimming scholarship in the USA and having won the wetsuit category of this event for the past 3 years he will be keen to finish off his season on a high note.
Of concern is that Venter will be swimming the SA Nationals in the pool from the Monday and needs to determine whether the sea swim will affect this in any way.
Daniel Jones, a two times winner in the swimsuit category hasn’t done much open competitive water swimming this season so leaves this category wide open this year. This is also the case with the Ladies swimsuit category with last year’s champion Kirsten Marriott also out of the scene.
Prolific ladies open water swimmer, Amica de Jager, won the wetsuit category last year and will be extremely hard to beat should she enter again.
The Jendamark Bellbuoy Challenge is the Eastern Cape’s richest open water swimming event with an overall cash prize pool of R43 000 up for grabs with prizes shared equally between the swimsuit and wetsuit categories.
With the increased number of entries, organisers of the swim have taken an unprecedented step to increase the safety of the swimmers this year by insisting that all swimmers have to swim either with a highly visible swim buoy or have a personal second paddling alongside them, both measures ensuring that appointed water safety will be able to see the swimmers much more easily on the 5km route.
The swim on Saturday offers a fantastic spectacle from the shores of Pollok Beach where spectators can watch the entire race unfold in front of them.
Race start is at 08:30.