The fourth annual Friends of the V.I. National Park Beach to Beach Power Swim went off without a hitch, thanks to more than 80 volunteers who helped with everything from stocking coolers to ensuring the swimmers’ safety.
Sixteen-year-old St. Croix resident Annie Myrvang became the Beach to Beach Power Swim’s first two-time winner when she crossed the finish line at a time of 1:20:00. She also won the event last year.
Myrvang, who trains with the Dolphins swim team on St. Croix, made the swim part of a mini-vacation to St. John with her parents.
One hundred forty-five swimmers came out for the Sunday, May 27, event which featured a short course to Cinnamon Bay at a distance of one mile; an intermediate course to Trunk Bay at a distance of 2.25 miles; and a long course to Hawsknest Beach, which is approximately 3.5 miles. The swim began at Maho Bay beach.
Swim Promotes Friends
The power swim, although not a major fundraiser for the Friends, helps to publicize the organization, explained Friends Development Director Karen Brady.
“Financially, it is not our biggest fundraiser, but this event is really one of the most reflective of who we are and what we do,” said Brady. “It’s in the Park, it’s a family friendly event, and it really creates a good awareness of the Friends.”
“We’re able to invite people into the Park to show off two of its most special features, which are the beaches and the water,” she said.
Through sponsorships, entry fees and fundraising at the post-swim barbecue, the Friends raised nearly $10,000 at this year’s Power Swim.
Helping the Friends during the annual swim are 85 volunteers, who play a major part in ensuring the event goes off without a hitch.
Safety Most Important
“We can’t thank our volunteers enough,” said Brady. “It can be hard work — you’re out in the sun for a good portion of the day, and there’s quite a bit of physical work involved if you’re setting up at one of the beaches. We need so many volunteers, and we are so thankful and appreciative of each and every one of them.”
“The level of detail that goes into this race is really quite remarkable,” Brady added.
Nearly half of the volunteers are dedicated to the safety of the swimmers, which is the most important aspect of the race. Twenty-five kayakers stay with the swimmers to offer assistance if needed, and private boat owners sit in each bay, manned with an EMT, to provide further assistance.
“We spend a great deal of time on the safety piece of the swim, because that is of the utmost importance to us,” said Brady. “Every single person who gets into the water gets out safely and has fun.”
The National Park Service also patrols the course to ensure recreational boaters are kept away from the swimmers.
“They let other boaters know there’s a race going on with a lot of swimmers in the water,” said Brady. “We try to minimize the movement of powerboats while the race is going on. We haven’t had anybody who needed to be rescued, and I don’t think we’ve even had anybody need any type of first responder care, so we’ve really been extremely fortunate.”
The safe, fun environment at the Beach to Beach Power Swim has helped to attract more and more participants each year, and swimmers are already looking forward to the 2008 race, explained Brady.
“We’ve noticed there’s more of a buzz around it,” she said. “People know of the race, and we’ve seen the numbers grow from 125 our first year to 145 this year.”
P.R., Stateside Marketing
In an effort to bring even more swimmers into the race, the Friends plan to do more marketing stateside and in Puerto Rico, explained Brady.
“I think we’ve kind of topped out in the amount of swimmers that we’ll get from the islands, so we need to reach out a little further and try to do some more press over on Puerto Rico,” she said. “They have a very large swimming community over there, and I just don’t think we’ve tapped that community. We’re getting more and more people who come here specifically for the event, and we want to continue to grow those numbers.”
The competitor who came from the farthest away for the 2007 swim was Marcello del Olmo, brother of Alfredo del Olmo of Alfredo’s Landscaping, who traveled from Argentina.
Approximately one-third of the competitors are from St. Thomas and St. John; one-third are from St. Croix; and one-third are from the states, according to Brady.
This year’s winners were given framed photographs of the race by Caroline Rogers.
Next year’s race has been scheduled for May 25, 2008. Registration begins in March.
Brady extended her thanks to all those involved in the 2007 race.
“These kinds of community events don’t happen without the support of the community,” she said. “The people who swim and the people who volunteer — we truly couldn’t do it without them.”