CAYMAN ISLANDS HISTORY OF SWIMMING
by P. Ann van B. Stafford, October 2000
The development of sport in Cayman depended on people with knowledge of a particular sport, the enthusiasm to impart it to others, & available facilities. Cayman is fortunate to be surrounded by the beautiful clean, clear waters of the Caribbean Sea for year-round watersports.
Sea-Scouts, Seaview & Pontoons
In 1971 a group of Sea Scouts & a coach went to Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean to compete in swimming, rowing & sailing in a Sea Scouts Jamboree. They won two of the five trophies. In 1974 a British Sub-Aqua Club instructor taught swimming technique to members of a children’s club at the Seaview Hotel. The population of the Cayman Islands was about 12,000 and while there were private pools, none was suitable for competition. The Lions Club hosted inter-school swim meets off the Public Beach; the races were between two pontoons, which sometimes shifted a little! The enthusiasm was great & they were a lot of fun. The first Lions Club swim meet on Cayman Brac was held at the Buccaneers Hotel pool in 1976. In 1977, Cayman hosted a Royal Life Saving Society seminar for international delegates at the Royal Palms Hotel; a branch was established here. Lions Club Inter-Primary School swim meets were held at the Seaview Hotel pool. Competitive swimming fizzled out after 1978.
From 3 Miles to 25 meters, from Triathlons to Swim Meets
In October, 1980 an entrepreneur organized a Three Mile Sea Swim during Pirates Week, from the George Town dock to Galleon Beach Hotel; 10 males & 2 females finished, but 10 people did not. A Pirates Week 3 Mile (now 5K) Sea Swim has been held every year since then, in occasionally not optimum swimming conditions. For safety reasons, the course has varied over the years. One regular swimmer successfully competed at the age of 70. In 1982 annual Triathlons became popular: 1mile Swim, out-&-back from what is now The Wharf Restaurant, 35 mile Bike ride & 8 mile Run– that was before distances were standardized. In 1985, there being no good answer to the question “Why can’t we have a swimming event shorter than 3 Miles?”, the first One Mile Sea Swim was held, with help from the Cayman Islands Amateur Athletic Association. The Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association was formed; 2 of the 12 founding members were from Cayman Brac.
In 1986 the Lions Aquatic Centre 25 meter pool was officially opened. The Lions Club first age-group Swim Meet was held at the pool in June, with 16 children from Cayman Brac competing.
Half-mile Sea Swims were introduced; several of this popular distance continue to be held annually. Triathlons of varying shorter distances for teams & individuals were a regular feature. The first Olympic Distance Triathlon (1.5K swim, 40K bike & 10K run) was in 1987. Many newcomers to the sport take up swimming in order to participate; Cayman triathletes compete overseas, including in the Ironman. There have been notable fundraising open-water swims by individuals: in 1987, 5 miles form West End Point, Cayman Brac to Point of Sand, Little Cayman; in 1987, 7¼ miles across North Sound from Rum Point to Morgan’s Harbour & in 1989, 5 miles from West Bay to George Town.
25 meters & beyond…..
The Lions Aquatic Centre, built primarily by the Lions Club, who have promoted swimming on Grand Cayman & Cayman Brac through the years, is run by government. Since its opening, many people, particularly children, have learnt to swim. There have been ups & downs, changes of personnel, & prolonged pool closures in the earlier years. The International One Hour Postal Swim for Masters was held every January, (organized by US Masters Swimming). Early exposure to international competition (Pan American Games 1987, CARIFTA Games 1988 & 1989) has been built on, although there was a lull of several years prior to the arrival of the present national coach under whose direction competitive swimming has gone from strength to strength, from the Caribbean to the US, Canada, UK & Australia. The emphasis is on achieving personal bests. The Cayman Islands Swim Team have performed extremely well at international competitions, including the annual CARIFTA Games & the Island Games (1999 – Gotland, Sweden) held every other year.
The success of swimming in Cayman is based on the co-operation of the various entities involved. There is strong family participation, both as swimmers & officials, in this healthy sport for all ages.
The first meeting of the future Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association was held in May,1985, the first One Mile Swim was June 1985. CIASA was constituted on 20th. October 1985, two of its 12 founder members were from Cayman Brac. It was an officially registered company, a non-profit organization, on 21st. March,1986.
Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA)
12 founder members October 20, 1985:
Leon Jackson (Cayman Brac – Youth and Community Worker), Rosalind Wilson (Cayman Brac – Spot Bay Primary School Primary School Deputy Headmistress, Clare Joy, Gerry Harper (P.E. teacher), Derek Banks, (cartograpgher), Reg Koster (High School teacher), Alfred Ebanks (Customs Officer), Jan Pereira (Primary School teacher), Peter van B. Stafford (Law student), P. Ann van B. Stafford, Laura Ribbins (Fitness and Aquatics instructor), Douglas Bickerton (High School teacher)
CIASA Directors and Officers: March 20, 1986
President: Reg Koster
Vice-President: Ann Stafford
Secretary: Clare Joy
Treasurer: Tony Hale
Captain: Peter Stafford
Publicity Officer: Sue Hale
Director, Sister Islands: Leon Jackson
Executive Director; Laura Ribbins
Fixture Secretary: Denny Tomsu
Tony Hale won the logo competition
History of the Cayman Islands Pirates Week
3 Mile & 5K Sea Swims, 1980 – 2001
by P. Ann van B. Stafford
During Pirates Week, in October 1980, entrepreneur Raglan Roper sponsored and organized a Three Mile Sea Swim. The course was from the George Town dock north, parallel to the white sands of Seven Mile Beach, to the finish at Galleon Beach Hotel. This was the only swimming event in Grand Cayman for five years, although there were very keenly contested annual triathlons in’82, ’83 and ’84, in which many visitors competed. In 1985 a One Mile Sea Swim was organized and the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association was subsequently formed. The following year, Cayman’s largest and only 25 meter swimming pool was opened. Previous to that, the only option was to swim in the beautiful turquoise waters of the warm Caribbean Sea or in small private or hotel pools.
After the first two years, the event was sponsored by Pirates Week and from 1985, organized by CIASA. In 1988, for safety reasons, owing to the increase in boat traffic in George Town Harbor, the course was shifted further north – from The Wharf Restaurant to the northern end of the Public Beach. If there was an adverse current, the course was reversed. Trophies were presented to the first four overall, male and female, and the youngest and oldest, ranging from 9 to 71 years old. Age-groups were introduced in 1995. In 1996 the course was changed again, from Christopher Columbus and the Anchorage Condos south to Royal Palms Beach, which is also the finish for the annual One Mile and Two Mile Sea Swims. In 1998 the distance was increased to 5K (3.1 miles). Locals and visitors have competed in this event at a premier venue, now in its 23rd. year and, for the last eight years, there has been an average of over fifty swimmers challenging themselves and each other.
A traditional 5K Road Run is held on Friday, just before the Fireworks which kick off Pirates Week. The 5K Sea Swim follows on Saturday morning, with the Pirates Landing and Float Parade in the afternoon. The annual Olympic Distance Triathlon – 1.5K Swim, 40K Bike, 10K Run – is held around this time.
1986 Pirates Week 3 Mile Sea Swim Oct. 26, start from the George Town dock ramp, Grand Cayman
Photo: Ann Stafford
A History of the Cayman Islands Pirates Week
3 Mile Sea Swim 1980 to 1993
by Ann Stafford
Click here History PW 3Mile Swim 1980-1993
Colour photos are included and
1982, 1983 and 1984 Triathlons, (1 mile swim, 35 mile bike and 8 mile run), before the introduction of the standardized Olympic Distance
Cayman Islands Pirates Week 3 Mile and 5K Sea Swims – overview 1980 to 2001
compiled by Ann Stafford
Because the course has changed over the years for safety reasons, the distance has sometimes changed and the sea conditions change from year to year – the current, the waves, the swell, if any – the times of swimmers who competed on a regular basis have been used for a reasonable profile for this overview of the event.
This overview of the Pirates Week 3 Mile & 5K Sea Swims has been compiled by Ann Stafford, who has been present every year except 1982 and 1983.
History of the One Mile Sea Swim
by Ann Stafford, a founder member of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association
1970’s Swim Meets held in the sea
In the early 1970’s the Annual Lions Club Swim Meets were held in the sea. John Stafford, former captain of his school swimming club, encouraged his sons, Peter and John Michael, to swim and sail.Inter-primary school swim meets were held in the Sea View Hotel pool.
1980 First Three Mile Sea Swim
In October 1980 Raglan Roper sponsored and organized a Three Mile Sea Swim during Pirates Week, from the George Town dock to Galleon Beach Hotel. The Pirates Week 3 Mile (later 5K – 3.1 miles) Sea Swim became an annual event.
1985 First One Mile Sea Swim
In 1985, there being no good answer to the question asked by Peter Stafford, a keen swimmer, “Why can’t we have a swimming event shorter than 3 Miles?” the first One Mile Sea Swim was held. It was sponsored by John Stafford and organized by Ann Stafford and the embryonic swimming association, with tremendous help from the Cayman Islands Amateur Athletic Association.
1985 Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association founded
Subsequently, it was suggested that a Swimming Association be established so that it could run its own events. The Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association was formed in 1985. Over the years, CIASA added and organized more annual Sea Swims of different distances, including several annual Half Mile (later 800m) events, One Mile, Two Mile and Three Mile Sea Swims (later 5K).
the largest pool on the island.
1986-1992 Lobster Pot One Mile Sea Swim
In 1986 the 2nd. Annual – 1st. Lobster Pot One Mile Sea Swim was held. The Lobster Pot restaurant sponsored the swim for 7 years, then in 1993 Flowers took over the sponsorship of the 9th. annual One Mile Sea Swim.
1993 to present – Flowers One Mile Sea Swim
In 1993 the 9th. Annual one mile swim became the 1st. Flowers One Mile Sea Swim, sponsored by the Flowers family.
May/June 2012 Cayman Airways Skies magazine Flowers Sea Swim: Making Waves
2012 June 18 Olympians storm Flowers swim
The Flowers Sea Swim team and founder Frank Flowers are incredibly honored and humbled to be nominated for a World Open Water Swimming Association Award (WOWSA). The Flowers Swim has been a 20+ year labour of love for our team and this is an incredible accolade which distinguishes the event as one of the top swims in the world. The Flowers Sea Swim is beyond excited and would love your support to win this incredible honor!!!
Peter Mackay, Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) President summed it up, “Frank Flowers is a long serving Director on the CIASA Board, he is a stalwart in the Cayman Swimming Family and the visionary behind the internationally successful Flowers Sea Swim. He is most deserving to be nominated for – and to win – this award and I am urging everyone to visit the site, vote – and encourage all your friends to do so as well.”
Businessman and philanthropist Frankie Flowers has put so much time and money into raising the profile of open water swimming in the Cayman Islands that he has been nominated for a World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year accolade. It is fully deserved for a man who genuinely loves the sport and never seeks praise.
This award honours efforts or swims that best embody the spirit of open water swimming and the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for.
Click on the thumbnail below to see many more Cayman Islands Sports history photos: