Despite a forecast of rain and wind threatening to make for tough going for both swimmers and helpers alike, conditions turned out nigh perfect for the 7th swimming of the Sri Chinmoy National Capital Swim, covering the entire 9 km length of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin.
Water temperature of around 21 degrees allowed more than half the field to swim sans-wetsuit. The morning saw the largest field of solo swimmers in the history of the event, though the teams representation was thin.
The outstanding swim of the day came from 16-year old Oliver Bourne who, though wearing a wetsuit, became the first solo swimmer to break the 2-hour barrier, previously only ever achieved by one relay team comprising 4 excellent swimmers. Oliver's time of 1:56:53 bettered even the teams record of 1:58:30 set by the "Southside Slayers" in 2008. En route to his victory, Oliver set new course best times for the 1st and 4th legs, seeming to get faster as the swim progressed and the prospect of a sub-2 hour time beckoned. So fast was Oliver, that the official timing crew had not yet arrived at the finish, his time having to be phoned through by the catering staff on hand.
First female sans-wetsuit was the impressive Hayley Gosman, surprising even herself with her excellent time of 2:26:50 in this, the longest swim she has ever attempted. Jo Vaile was second in 2:41:00, while 3rd overall in this division was claimed by the event's youngest entrant, and the youngest person ever to swim the length of Lake Burley Griffin – 11-year old Swapnali Yadav, who travelled from India with her mother to participate in the race. Julie Turner was 1st female 50-59 in 3:36:37.
First male sans-wetsuit was Cory Dimmer, from the NSW South Coast, in 2:16:08, with Ross Paterson and Andrew Dawes not far behind. Graeme Wolfenden was happy to have made the decision on the morning to swim without a wetsuit, winning his category of Male 50-59 in 3:00:57.
Meanwhile, in the wetsuit 70+ category, the indefatigable Geoff Llewellyn - who turns 77 in 2 weeks time and has completed this swim every time it has been held - just missed his category course record by 5 seconds, cruising in in 2:50:31. The 65-year span between Geoff and Swapnali Yadav is certainly the largest age difference we've yet seen in this event! Greg Gourley took out the Men 50-59 wetsuit category in 2:36:53; and Melissa Clarke the Women Under 50 wetsuit category in 3:09:57.
A wonderful race developed between the two Open Teams, the "Awesome Foursome" in 2:46:19 just pipping Ric Fitch's team in a sprint to the line. First Mixed Team was the "Barramundi" pairing of Nicolee Martin and Steve Barry in 2:33:00. "Rad's Buoyz", a combination of over 50s primarily runners and cyclists who had nothing to do with Rad other than the inspiration of his name, won the non-existent award for Team with the Best Attitude, and by the way finished in 3:19:41.
No sooner was the finish area packed away than the winds picked up strongly right across the lake and the rain descended in force, to be savoured by all from the comfort of our respective homes.
Full results are published, overall and by age category and division, along with a photo album from the event.
The next Sri Chinmoy swimming event is the Sri Chinmoy Lake Swims - including 5 km, 2.5 km and 500 m options, from Yarralumla Bay on Sunday 20 February 2011.