Billed as the toughest Indian Ocean swim on the planet, the Nelson Mandela Bay Bellbuoy Challenge, sponsored by Jendamark Automation, has attracted swimmers from around the world. Previous winners include international open water swimming Hall of Fame legend, Bulgarian Petar Stoychev, and Australian world record holder and Olympic swimmer Melissa Gorman, this epic 5km swim starts and finishes on Pollok Beach and sees participants swimming 2.5km directly out to sea to round the nautical buoy and returning along the same route. Unpredictable weather, strong currents (particularly over the reef near the buoy) and the fear factor of swimming over more than 30 different species of shark are just some of the reasons which make the Bellbuoy Challenge appealing to open water campaigners.
The 2015 Jendamark Bellbuoy Challenge takes place on Saturday 21 February, just one week after the SPAR River Mile, with around 100 swimmers from around South Africa expected to take up the challenge. The swim supports the traditional open water swimming guidelines of participants taking part in just a Speedo costume but also makes provision for a wetsuit category. The bulk of the R21,000 prize pool is offered to the Speedo category. Unique Bellbuoy trophies, made from wire and beads by a local Walmer crafter, are offered to the overall costume and wetsuit swimmers plus the age group winners in the 40-50, 50-60 and 60+ age groups (both Male and Female).
“The Bellbuoy Challenge is another of the Metro’s unique events which attracts visitors to our shores but we are well aware, and really concerned, that if the proposed Fish Farm goes ahead this will in all probability be the last Bellbuoy Challenge swim.” said race director Mike Zoetmulder of Zsports Events NPC who, as a non-profit company, is trying to establish Nelson Mandela Bay as the Watersports Capital of South Africa.
Whilst all participants in this 5km swim have to prove their competence for such a sea swim, they may be accompanied by a paddle craft to assist with their navigation. Online entries are available on www.bellbuoychallenge.co.za with late entries and an increased entry fee coming into effect from 1st February. Entries close on Wednesday 18 February after which no more entries will be permitted. A welcome function and the collection of race kits will be held at News Cafe (Boardwalk) on Friday 20 February from 6:00pm.
The oldest finisher of the Challenge is Rob Connacher who last year completed the swim in a time of 2 hours 53 minutes at the age of 80 years and 3 days. The oldest female finisher is USA’s Denise Everitt (2012) at the age of 59 years 167 days whilst the youngest ever swimmer has been Port Elizabeth’s Christie Vaughan (2011) at the age of 14 years 28 days with Ian Venter the youngest Male finisher in 2014 at the age of 14 years 334 days. The minimum permitted age for swimmers is 14 years of age on race day.
The event offers a fantastic spectacle from Pollok Beach with boats and yachts from the Algoa Bay Yacht Club lining the route in support of the swimmers.
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