The 2014 Nelson Mandela Bay Bell Buoy Challenge, presented by Jendamark, takes place on Saturday 8th March from Port Elizabeth’s Pollok Beach and is set to test some of South Africa’s bravest open water swimmers. World renowned as the toughest Indian Ocean Swim the event, in just 4 years, has earned a world class listing of former winners which includes Bulgarian Petar Stoychev, Australian world record holder Melissa Gorman and Slovenian Rok Kerin. Stoychev, arguably the greatest open water swimmer to ever compete in South Africa, was the inaugural winner of the event in 2010 beating South African long distance champion Tyron Venter but some 5 minutes.
“I was very nervous coming to the Bell Buoy Challenge in 2010 as I had never swum in this ocean before. I recall that my race started terribly as I missed the first turning buoy and lost about 300m on the leading pack, but I was determined to win this race at all costs and the end result was great for me and I had a terrific time in Port Elizabeth.” said Stoychev who retired from swimming after the London 2012 Olympics and is currently the Sports Minister in the government of his native Bulgaria. He is rated as the greatest marathon swimmer of all time and is an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
“We aren’t expecting any overseas swimmers this year but have had huge interest from around the country. Already former South African swimming sensation Gary Albertyn has entered and interest has been shown by SA Olympic open water swimmer Troyden Prinsloo, the first South African to have won the Challenge back in 2012.” said race director Mike Zoetmulder of local event management company Zports.
Over 100 swimmers are expected to tackle the 5km distance swim from Pollok Beach straight out to sea around the Bell Buoy and back making for a wonderful spectacle as the course will be lined with yachts from the Algoa Bay Yacht Club and water safety craft from Prodive, Xtreme Projects, the Metro and Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club.
The race has two categories of entry for swimmers who will swim in a wetsuit and for those who prefer the traditional swimsuit open water swimming. This year local automation company, Jendamark, has put up R10,000 cash for the winners in the swimsuit category and a further R5,000 which will be for lucky draw prizes whilst 32Gi will provide hamper prizes for the wetsuit winners and hydration for all swimmers after the event. All swimmers will also receive a complimentary hot drink from Coffee Café before the prize giving.
Local favourite must be the defending champion Wayne Jones who had a fantastic race last year to become the first Port Elizabeth swimmer to win the Bell Buoy Challenge and this year is in top condition being undefeated in the current Ocean Racing Series 2km swims. Already in the list of entries is Port Elizabeth stalwart Rob Connacher who will be turning 80 years of age just 3 days before the event. Connacher is expected to be joined by the 6 legends of the Challenge, the only swimmers to have completed all Bell Buoy Challenge swims to date. This group of local swimmers has Mary-Anne Stott as the only lady and includes Richden Jute, Andre Kleynhans, Ralph West, Brenton Williams and disabled swimmer Stanford Slabbert. Race referee will once again be FINA accredited swimming official Neville Smith from Pretoria, Smith, who’s accommodation is sponsored by the Radisson Blu, has officiated at all previous Bell Buoy Challenge swims and brings a wealth of experience to this open water event.
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/2014/02/bell-buoy-challenge-looms/