When the wind blows hard and long, you want to have it at your back. Ironically, if the race had been held from end-to-end of Lake Burley Griffin as intended, swimmers would have benefited from a tail gale and fast times would surely have ensued. However, with East Basin and a few transition beaches closed, the only option was to stage the race on a loop course: Lake Ginninderra offered a setting less busy, though quiet and pretty.
2020 marked the first time this race has extended to the full Olympic Marathon swim distance – 10km – so the 2.5km loop was to be completed 4 times, anti-clockwise. Sadly though, because not swum on the ‘official’ course in Lake Burley Griffin, best times from today cannot be recognised as course records.
The Over-50s relay teams dived in with all the Solo Swimmers at 6.30am – not only was the morning cooler, it seems the wind had not yet received its orders for the day. The remaining relay teams followed after 15 minutes. An advantage of the loop course is that spectators could wander along the shore and follow most of the action, without needing to drive and navigate from one transition to another.
By the second lap, kayakers were fastening their hat straps, swimmers were struggling to make forward progress into the wind, and officials were clinging forlornly to the inflatable finish arch – a mission ultimately deemed futile and abandoned.
Ned Wieland has performed splendidly at the Sri Chinmoy National Capital Swim for several years. Today the 19-year-old veteran brought along his younger brother Duke (17) in tow, and the pair literally swam stroke for stroke through the full 10km, barely missing a beat through the fiercest bluster (their 2nd lap was only a minute slower than the 1st), with Ned powering home to finish in a fantastic 2:18:07, 3 seconds clear of his understudy Duke in 2:18:10. Another Sydney teenager, 14-year-old Lucas Dubois felt the effects of the wind more as the race wore on, yet showed plenty of class and guts to claim 3rd with an exceptional display of 2:37:34. Other sub-3-hour finishers – outstanding in the conditions – came from Michael Pranckl (2:48:56), Chad Schneider (2:56:49), Mark Newman (2:57:41) and the strong winner of the Male 50-59s, Murray Chapman in 2:59:13. Greg Gourley, who had designed a perfect 10km course in Lake Burley Griffin which will now have to wait another 12 months in cotton wool, took out the Male 60-69 with his sterling 3:54:52.
Belinda Bullivant glided through the water as though it were a still pond in winning the women’s race courtesy of a fine 3:02:01, from 2nd placed Courtney Bicknell (3:06:35), with Annabel Maggs (3:31:30) completing the podium placings. Right on Annabel’s toes however, came 1st placed Female 50-59, Nicolee Martin with 3:32:20, from Suzie Gunning’s 3:38:09.
Team-of-2 pairings did very well in the Relay races. The All-Female Teams division was taken out by the pairing of Janelle Ahern & Melanie Wellenberg (AKA “Zig and Zag”), in 3:02:19; while the ensemble of “Bilby Bathers” (Peter Thorley & Alex Gosman) came home strongest in the All-Male Teams Over 50, with a fine 2:57:13, taking 3rd placed team overall. The Open All-Male Teams race was dominated by “JT Multisport” (Yoann Colin, Joseph Pascall & James Thorp), winning in 2:31:20; while the Mixed Teams event saw “Team Keeping It Real” (Steve Robertson, Teresa Wynter, Pete Quinn & Alex Bowyer) just missing the 3 hour barrier, clocking in at 3:00:35.
On behalf of all participants, our immense gratitude to the sterling work under trying conditions from members of the Canberra Canoe Club under the stewardship of John Birch; and to our medical officer, Rebekah Stamatis, who fortunately had a quiet morning of it.