By S. Williams

The 16th annual Nevis Cross Channel Swim will feature five Olympian swimmers, an IronMan World Champion and several World Class Master Swimmers, according to event organizer Winston Crooke.

“The other name for the event is the Bente Weber Memorial Swim. Bente Weber, she was a lady and one of the early members of our club. She and her husband were instrumental in helping us all to learn how to swim better than we could before. We lost her to cancer so just as a celebration of us knowing her we decided to swim across the channel,” Mr. Crooke said.

“In the first year there were 35 of us and then more people got interested in doing it. I did it for the first two years and then the numbers started to grow and I was unable to swim anymore because I was busy organizing it. And now it has just grown from strength to strength to become and international event with more and more countries coming and participating.”

In 2015 the swim boasted 205 participants and this year is expecting at least that amount and greater as the event has since grown in stature globally. To date 17 countries are registered to participate in the 2017 edition and these include St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, USA, UK, Barbados, BVI, Guadeloupe, Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Netherlands Antilles, Peru, France, Germany and The Netherlands.

Notable swimmers taking part in this year’s Nevis Cross Channel Swim include Keri-Anne Payne who won a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic in Beijing and Ashley Whitney who was a freestyle specialist and an Olympic gold medalist.

Taking part would also be Karlyn Pipes who after nearly two decades of swimming in the Masters category has become the most decorated Masters swimmer in history, amassing more national and world records than any other Masters swimmer in history, with a current world record tally of 223.

David Carry is a Scottish former competition swimmer who represented Great Britain in the Olympics, FINA world championships and the European championships, and Scotland in the Commonwealth Games and is the winner of seven medals in major international championships.

Other swimmers include Simon Murie who founded SwimTrek after spending many years organizing open water swimming trips for himself and others, Eney Jones who has been the first woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated and Jane Hansom who is the current Ironman 45-49 Age group World Champion.

According to Mr. Crooke, the annual event now falls under the umbrella of the St. Kitts and Nevis Swimming Federation which he founded 3 to 4 years ago to help the development and broaden the scope of swimming in SKN. He also highlighted one other important aspect of this year’s Cross Channel Swim that sets it apart from previous years.

“I like to make a donation to charity but last year I switched to help the Special Olympics for the first time and this year we are hosting a relay event. Part of the development is to train our Special Olympics swimmer to increase the distance so they’re going to do it as a full person relay team, mixed relay team that is mixed with two special Olympicathletes and two standards swimmers to make a relay team. And so each swimmer will be required to swim 1 kilometer,”  Crooke said.

“They have a big involvement so they have people coming from Cayman Islands, St. Maartin and Connecticut I think and more. We’re hoping to have two teams from St. Kitts and Nevis. Two relay teams so that’s four athletes from St. Kitts and Nevis plus four persons who will be swimming with them. And this has never happened before in the world. It’s quite a thing.”
The swim distance is 2.5miles (4km) and starts from Oualie Beach on Nevis on Sunday, March 26 to finish at Cockleshell Beach on St Kitts. One of the attractions of this event is that it is not only a race but also a challenge, so for those not so fast or competent swimmers please feel free to use fins or a snorkel mask to get you across the beautiful ‘Narrows’.