An enthusiastic 168 swimmers took to the Caribbean Sea to compete in the 20th Annual Coral Reef Swim in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. Swimmers of all abilities gathered from as far away as Denmark and Alaska to race in glorious tropical weather in one of three distances: five miles, three miles, or one mile, all ending at the legendary Buccaneer Resort. Welcomed ashore and over the finish line by hundreds of supporters, swimmers and a myriad of volunteers were treated to steel pan music and massages on the palm-lined Mermaid beach, followed by a well-earned and bountiful awards luncheon.
Pre-race activities included a complimentary swim clinic by open water swimming guru Alex Kostich and Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman for new open water swimmers, a pre-race talk complete with google earth sighting guides, and a cocktail party at the beachfront Mermaid Restaurant that featured local folkloric entertainment. The Buccaneer’s owner and manager, Elizabeth Armstrong, who is the founder of the race and swims the five mile distance each year, welcomed the participants and their families, along with the Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
The race is best known for its signature distance, the challenging and beautiful five mile race which features a sandy beach start from St Croix’s pride and joy, Buck Island, a small island surrounded by a living coral reef, and designated a National Monument by the US National Park Service. Swimmers enjoy an awe-inspiring sunrise boat trip enroute to the island. Ninety one swimmers participated in this year’s five mile race, and were supported by safety kayaks, paddleboards and safety boats all along the route.
Almost as much a signature of the event is the champion and former USA National Team member, Californian Alex Kostich, who won his 16th title out of 17 starts in the five mile distance on Sunday in a time of 1:41:45. He was followed by 16 year old St Croix native Matthew Mayes (1:47:42) and Rob Jones from Charlottesville VA (1:48:41).
Marc Gershel from New York, NY (56:52) claimed the top spot in the Two Mile Race, followed closely by Matthew Greeley from Durham, NC (57:04) and Denise Smart (57:19) from Tulsa, OK.
The One Mile Race was won by David Greeley from Durham, NC, with Ryan Williams from Pompano Beach, FL (26:27) in second and St Croix’s Bridget Klein in third (31:05).
With competitors from ages 11 to 68, awards for age groups were also given. Locally made glass medallions and bottles of Cruzan Rum (for adults) were awarded to the top winners.
The 21st Coral Reef Swim Races will take place on Sunday, November 6, 2016. For more results and to sign up for next year’s race visit www.swimrace.com. For swim race packages, visit www.thebuccaneer.com or call 800 255 3881.
Open water swimming news is courtesy of Coral Reef Swim Races.