TEENAGER Wayne Jones became the first Port Elizabeth swimmer to win the Nelson Mandela Bay Bell Buoy Challenge in the toughest conditions of the short history of the race on Saturday.
Competing in his first challenge, 18-year-old Jones completed the gruelling 8km swim in rough seas and cold water in one hour, 43 minutes – some nine minutes ahead of second-placed Pretoria swimmer Gary Albertyn.
In a strong south-easterly wind and a three-metre swell, 50 swimmers from around the country set off on what is becoming billed as one of the toughest ocean swims in South Africa.
First casualty was leading PE open water swimmer and pre-race favourite Kyle Main who withdrew after 3km due to the frustration of the rough conditions and not having a personal second to direct him along the course.
Another race favourite among the 11 not to complete the swim was top local woman swimmer Tracy Gous, who had to withdraw because of the cold.
Natalie Goedals, in third place overall, was the first woman home, winning the female wetsuit category. Tammy Geyer, fifth overall, was the first in the women’s swimsuit category.
Top EP Masters swimmer PJ Duffy won the men’s swimsuit category in 2:01. Jeffreys Bay’s JC van Wyk was second in the swimsuit category, just ahead of PE swimmer Pete Turner.
“Today was definitely the toughest we’ve witnessed in the short history of this epic swim,” said chief referee Neville Smith, who was on the lead boat. “The finishers can be very proud as you don’t get much tougher races than this one.”
Race promoter Mike Zoetmulder, of Zports, praised the safety of the event.
“The guys did a fantastic job. It is not possible to hold an event like this without a lot of local support and you can’t get better than the efforts from the NSRI, Algoa Bay Yacht Club, Prodive and the surf lifesaving clubs of Bluewater Bay and Summerstrand.
“Together with race volunteers, swimmers’ seconds and the beach office presence, the swimmers were made to feel safe and secure along the whole stretch, despite the daunting thought of being on your own some 2.5km out to sea.”
“While only four years old, this race is set to become a landmark event for the metro due to the interest it already receives from around the world.
“Despite no local financial support, the event continues to showcase watersport in this region and draws a lot of coverage for the city.”
Participants enjoyed a warm reception immediately after the swim for the prize-giving ceremony.
Carol Ann Kelleher, representing Tarryn Laine Clinic, joined FINA-qualified open-water swimming official Neville Smith to congratulate each of the swimmers and to present them with their finisher’s medal.
Age-group winners received a unique locally made wire and bead penguin trophy, while the overall winners shared the R4000 prize-money.
Swimsuit: Men: 1 PJ Duffy (2:01:16.1); 2 J C Van Wyk (2:05:20.3); 3 Pete Turner (2:08:35.2); 4 Kevin Grey (2:13:07.4); 5 Roger Finch (2:14:08.8); 6 Duncan Edwards (2:15:36.0); 7 Iain Geddes (2:24:59.7); 8 Robert Geddes (2:25:00.6); 9 Wayne Ketteringham (2:26:05.8); 10 Kendal Wright (2:45:28.0); 11 Carl Schreuder (2:46:11.0); 12 Andrew Stewart (2:46:20.7); 13 Brenton Williams (2:53:19.6); 14 Ryan Pienaar (2:58:21.3); 15 Roelof Wilsnach (3:08:00.5); 16 Ian Van Der Walt (3:18:05.7); 17 Willem Agenbag (3:20:13.0)
Women: 1 Tammy Geyer (2:02:26.7)
Wetsuits: Men: 1 Wayne Jones (1:43:10.5); 2 Gary Albertyn (1:52:23.3); 3 Paul Blake (2:06:30.0); 4 Rohan Greyvenstein (2:07:58.8); 5 Greg Tucker (2:10:19.5); 6 Richden Jute (2:11:23.3); 7 Ralph West (2:20:35.8); 8 Iain Barrow (2:27:19.9); 9 Bradley Joubert (2:33:51.1); 10 Andre Kleynhans (2:34:25.2); 11 Stanford Slabbert (2:45:38.8); 12 Christo Van Ryswyk (2:46:57.2); 13 Ian Ross (3:09:08.2)
Women: 1 Natalie Goedhals (1:59:22.6); 2 Liza Bright (2:13:10.3); 3 Denise Bosman (2:20:20.3); 4 Idelette Olivier (2:34:56.7); 5 Mary-Anne Stott (2:45:21.8); 6 Glenda Lee Thomas (2:55:09.1); 7 Angela Ackermann (2:58:13.5); 8 Heather Paton (3:09:49.6)
Full results from the event are available at www.bellbuoychallenge.co.za.