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In Front of FLAMINGO CAFE, Grace Bay Beach Access between Club Med and Ocean Club East
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2015 News


Race Day 2015 once again saw near perfect conditions with calm water and sunny, blue skies for the 6th annual "Race for the Conch" Eco-SeaSwim. Numbers of participants rose significantly to 176 total for 2.4 mile, 1/2 mile and 1 mile events. This year also saw many returning swimmers from US and Canada-some for the 6th year in a row-along with teams from Barbados, Miami, Pennsylvania, and Maryland and individual swimmers from Trinidad and Brazil, along with a large contingent of Provo residents.

Gary Sangmeister from Pennsylvania took first place in the 2.4 mile Men’s Division in a time of 1 hr 1 min 19 sec, while Cathy Gainor from Maryland took the women’s top spot in a time of 1 hr 5 min 1 sec. Fifteen year old Nadja Martinovic from New York won the 1/2 mile in a time of 14 min 12 sec in the Women’s Divsion. Top male 1/2 mile swimmer was Matthew Cronan from Minnesota in a time of 15 min 9 sec. In the 1 mile Men’s Division, Eric Stull from Pennsylvania beat 3 time defending champion and local swim star Dan Redmond in a time of 24 min 16 sec, while Melanie Mahaney, also from Pennsylvania, won the Women’s Division in a time of 26 min 54 sec.

This year, Olympic gold medalist (1984 Los Angeles) Rowdy Gaines, active in several swim events this past week, swam in the 1 mile race, but not to compete. World class open water marathon swimmer Yuko Matsuzaki swam the 1/2 mile, also non-competitively, with youngsters new to the sport to give them support.

"We were pretty happy with the higher than expected turnout," said Chloe Zimmermann, Co-Race Director. "Only embarrassment was that we ran out of conch medals. But we promised to have more made by Stanford Handfield and send to everyone who didn´t get one."

Local artist Stanford Handfield once again carved the conchs for the trophies while another local artist Lucie Stubbs made and hand painted the trophy stands that reflected the Turks & Caicos.

Co-Director Ben Stubenberg stated, "We are very lucky to have top notch and very reliable volunteer teams providing safety, course and beach set-up, registration, timing, and all the other logistics that make for a successful event. We could not have done it without them or the solid sponsors behind us."

Race organizers modified the race course to cover the area in front of Rickie’s Flamingo Cafe heading east toward Coral House to provide more safety control and allow spectators to follow the action more closely from the beach.

Both Mr. Stubenberg and Ms Zimmermann emphasized that while the race this year drew in more than $300,000 in additional tourism revenue, it must serve as an inspiration and catalyst for more Turks & Caicos Islanders to learn to swim, with some developing into competitive swimmers.

In keeping with the "Eco-SeaSwim" part of the name, race organizers noted that only biodegradable straws were used on the beach and biodegradable plates for serving food at Rickie´s. Fresh, local coconut water served by CocoVibes to all swim racers replaced sugary energy drinks.

Last Saturday´s "Race for the Conch" was preceded by several swim events earlier in the week, including Ms Matsuzaki’s 2nd solo, non-stop 25 km swim from North Caicos to Grace Bay on July 1, swim clinics led by Mr. Gains, an open water swim tips class by Ms Matsuzaki, and a TCI Swim Federation fundraiser. Windvibes on Sunday at Long Bay rounded out the week of water sports.

Beneficiaries of the money raised by the charity swim race are Provo Children’s Home, TCI Swim Federation, and Reef Fund.

Organizers Mr. Stubenberg and Ms Zimmermann are planning for an even larger number of swimmers next year, including more swim teams, further raising the profile of the Turks & Caicos as a destination for outstanding swim racing and training.

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