A record entry of over 110 swimmers from around South Africa will be lining up to attempt the toughest Indian Ocean swim on the planet this weekend with a strong contingent of local swimmers vying for race honours in the 6th internationally acclaimed Jendamark Nelson Mandela Bay Bellbuoy Challenge – a 5km ocean swim race which lists some of the world’s greatest international swimmers as past winners and offers one of the highest prize pools in local open water swimming.
Naming sponsor Jendamark Automation, an award winning Port Elizabeth based export company, have been behind the race for the last two years and recently agreed a 5 year sponsorship with a fixed annual increase in prize money. This year a record R36,000 will be shared between the swimsuit and wetsuit categories making it very interesting for the swimmers to select the category they will take part in.
All 4 defending champions from 2015 will be back in action this year with Hannah Haswell (ladies swimsuit), Amy Mardon (ladies wetsuit), Byron Lockett (Men’s swimsuit) and Ian Venter (men’s wetsuit) keen to grab the top prize money. Lockett has just recently returned to Port Elizabeth and isn’t as swimming fit as he would like to be whilst last year’s runner up, Daniel Jones, is in top form having won the Hydrassist Double Mile and SPAR River Mile last weekend and will definitely be the one to watch in the swimsuit category. Venter has been in phenomenal form this season, leading the aQuellé Ocean Racing Series 1km and is the Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics 3km and 5km champion. He was pipped on the line at last Sunday’s SPAR River Mile and it will be very interesting whether he opts for the swimsuit category to seek revenge on Jones or whether to goes for the secure win in the wetsuit category.
An incredible 48% of the field will be attempting the Jendamark Bellbuoy Challenge for the first time whilst 6 swimmers will be lining up to tackling their 6th swim. Mary-Anne Stott, Stanford Slabbert, Richden Jute, Andre Kleynhans, Ralph West and Brenton Williams have completed all Bellbuoy swims to date and will look to continue this unbroken record this weekend. Stott’s mother, Maria, currently holds the record for the oldest female finisher to complete the swim but this will be broken this weekend if first time entrant, 61 year old Gauteng swimmer Sharon Ball finishes the race. Sharon is just is just 1 year older than Maria. Rob Connacher’s record set in 2014 as the oldest participant at 80yrs and 3 days will be safe for another year with 75 year old Rolf Kordes being the oldest entrant for 2016. Likewise Christie Vaughan (youngest girl at 14yrs and 28 days) and Ian Venter (youngest boy at 14yrs and 334 days) will be safe as Dieter Marais (15 years and 190 days) and Hannah Haswell (16 years and 25 days) are the youngest in the 2016 line-up.
“In today’s economy it’s great to see an event which is growing as strong as this one and we look forward to meeting all the swimmers and safety crews at tomorrow night’s (Friday) 6pm meet and greet session at News Cafe,” said Race Director Michael Zoetmulder from Zsports Events NPC. “It looks like there’s fantastic weather on the way and we’re looking forward to another world class swimming event in Nelson Mandela Bay backed by a local award winning export company in Jendamark.”
The 2016 Jendamark Bellbuoy Challenge, which starts at 8.30am on Saturday morning from Pollok Beach, in front of the Summerstrand lifesaving Club, is fueled by Caltex Eastern Cape and hydrated by 32GI. A strong contingent of water safety and support crew is being assembled for the event with the water safety being led by Chris Meistre from the Coastal Water Rescue team. This spectacle will see yachts from Algoa Bay Yacht Club and support boats lining the route which has marker buoy every 400m to the nautical Bell buoy positioned some 2.5km off Pollok Beach.
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