BRIDGEPORT, CT - On Saturday, August 5, 153 swimmers and more than 200 boat and SWIM volunteers participated in the 30th Anniversary of St. Vincent's SWIM Across the Sound. Motivated by personal experiences with survivorship and loss, the swimmers had one shared goal in mind: supporting 30,000 people annually who are battling cancer and their families. This year's SWIM raised over $300,000, all of which goes to St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation's 45 cancer education, prevention, and assistance programs. SWIM participants consisted of eight Solo Swimmers, two Two-Person Relays, one Never Alone relay, six Classic (non-wetsuit) Team Relays, 13 Traditional (wetsuit) Team Relays, and four Corporate Challenge Team Relays.
"The weather forecast and sea conditions made this one of the most challenging years in the SWIM's history because of their potential to impact our swimmers and other volunteers on the water," said Lyn McCarthy, Executive Director, St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, "and their safety is our number one priority."
Thunderstorms and rough waters accompanied many of the swimmers and volunteers as they headed to Port Jefferson on the Bridgeport Ferry at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. After arriving at Danford's Marina, the SWIM committee deliberated and decided to delay the start. The first wave of swimmers took to the water at 9:05 a.m. By 10:30 a.m., all 153 swimmers were in the water, making their journey across the Long Island Sound to Captain's Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, CT. The course was 15.5 miles but with wind and waves, for many it would seem much longer.
For most of the day, conditions seemed almost perfect with the exception of the wind which pushed the swimmers to the east. The boat captains and swimmers had to work harder (and swim longer) to keep within the perimeter and on course. At around 4:30 p.m., the combination of the currents, due to the changing tide and wind strengthening just enough, swimmers hit a wall and few swimmers made forward progress. By 5:30 p.m., with the current and wind going in the same direction, swimmers that were pushed to the east could not overtake the tide. Despite the challenges, 18 of the 34 escort boats completed the entire swim.
The Results are In!
Beating out the tide to take first place Overall and in the Traditional Category - although they swam without wetsuits - was a team of six (6) 16-year olds from Westport and Wilton called the King Wrats, who completed the marathon in six hours and 42 minutes (6:42). Their motto, "Never Stop Fighting," was evident in their tremendous swim, finishing 32 minutes ahead of the next team.
"I don't think I have ever felt more accomplished in my entire life," expressed team captain Austin Twiss of Westport, Connecticut. "While getting out of the water I was expecting to feel pain, but instead, I felt a rush of happiness knowing that we all just swam 15.5 miles to raise money for cancer. The best part was at the finish line when everyone came up and hugged us and thanked us for what we did, and the people who told us their stories and how much this all meant to them. I think this swim is a great experience and it is all for a great cause. I will definitely be doing this many more times in the future." The King Wrats hit the streets, going door-to-door before hitting the water, and raised $8,499 for the SWIM.
Twiss's teammates included Westport's Scott Adler, John McNab, Josiah Tarrant and Charles West, and Richard Nolan of Wilton - all members of the Westport Weston YMCA's Water Rats Swim Team.
The Water Rats Swim Team (7:14) came in second Overall and first in the Classic Category. Red Tide (7:26) placed third Overall and second in the Classic Category. Water Rats Swimming (7:31) finished in fourth place Overall and second in the Traditional Category. Team Marco Polo (7:34) took 5th place overall and 3rd in the Traditional Category.
"The SWIM made our team feel as though we were really doing good for the people that need help," said Water Rats Swimming's team captain Caroline Sargent of Trumbull, Connecticut. "We nearly reached our fundraising goal, and we all plan to come back next year and raise even more money." The team raised $8,468, just shy of their $9,000 goal.
The Solo Category had three finishers. Marcia Cleveland (Illinois) came in first with a time of 9:25. Arthur Coleman (Larchmont, New York) took second place with a time of 10:46. Mariel Hawley (Mexico City, Mexico) was the third solo swimmer, touching the dock in the time of 11:00. The other solo swimmers - Thomas Bell (Wyomissing, Pennsylvania), Chip Bruchac (Westerville, Ohio), Herve Hamon (Norwalk, Connecticut), Samuel Stein (Bridgeport, Connecticut), and John Waanders (Old Saybrook, Connecticut) were amazing and inspirational in a day described as "harder than the English Channel" by many that have swum it.
In the other categories:
The Hornets finished in first place in the Two-Person Relay Category, touching the dock in a time of 9:00. Being of Sound Mind finished in second place in 9:33. These teams swam the entire Sound with just two swimmers, without wetsuits and with only 30 minutes of rest between legs.
Wave of Support is the first team in the Never Alone Category to complete the SWIM. Their time of 8:59 is the category record. The team of six rotated in as pairs, representing that you are "Never Alone" when battling cancer.
Sink or Swim finished in a time of 9:15 in the Corporate Challenge category and was the only team to officially finish in the category. The three other teams, Code Blue Fish, Trumbull Emergency Medical Swimmers, and Bullsharks swam longer than previous SWIM years and continue to gain experience.
Class Relay Category: In addition to Water Rats Swim Team and Red Tide, other finishers included Fairfield Stag (9:05) and Fairfield YMCA (9:07). Just Keep Swimming and Team D'Addario (a first year team) finished unofficially.
Traditional Relay Category: Following King Wrats, Water Rats Swimming and Team Marco Polo, Power Rangers (8:01) finished fourth, followed by Pisces Strong (8:54), Pisces Pride (9:07) and Survivors (9:56). Finishing unofficially were: Colony Hot Oilers, Barbara's Bunch, and Fairfield Prep Jesuits, Team KSea, Seas the Day, Snappers.
For a complete list of results, please visit give.stvincents.org/marathon2017.
The SWIM would not be possible without its dedicated volunteers. "We are extremely grateful to the boat captains, their crews and kayakers who volunteered for the SWIM," said SWIM Marathon Director Liz Fry, herself a volunteer. "I especially would like to thank our SWIM Committee members, all of our SWIM officials, observers, medical support, Captain's Cove volunteers, the Foundation staff, and the many others who have committed their time to this special event - including drone volunteer Peter Sauer who provided the first ever aerial coverage of the SWIM! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to this event year after year."
Since the very first marathon raised $5,000 in 1987, the SWIM has grown into a series of year-round events. Each swimmer and team raised funds in order to participate in the SWIM, which offers a significant safety net to the region by providing one-on-one financial assistance to cancer patients regardless of where they receive their care.
"We encourage people living with cancer to focus their energy on maintaining their health. Let the SWIM help with the other day-to-day concerns - that's what we're here for," explained Lyn McCarthy, executive director, St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation. "We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who participates in the SWIM. It's their generosity that allows people fighting cancer, some without insurance or money for food, utilities, medications, or housing - somewhere to turn to get the help they need."
St. Vincent's SWIM Across the Sound provides cancer education, screening, and prevention programs at low- or no-cost for the uninsured and underinsured. In addition, the SWIM helps individual cancer patients on a case-by-case basis with specific needs, such as the funding of wigs and prostheses, payment of utilities or rent, medication assistance, free transportation to treatments and appointments, day-care scholarships, support groups and more. For more information on the SWIM, visit www.SwimAcrosstheSound.org.