Australia Day 26 January 2013. The day our country celebrates the colonisation of the continent by the British 225 years ago. The day when the first fleet full of convicts who were no longer wanted in the 13 former colonies were re-located. I have been told that I had two ancestors on this voyage: a seaman and a female convict. They were probably on board ship in this place waiting to come ashore.
This was the third time I had done this swim, and I enjoy it every year. It is a harbour swim which means that otherwise fearless swimmers who swim in the open water at beaches get nervous and refuse to enter. The advantage is that there are no swells or surf to deal with, and there is an in the water start and finish.
Several members of the squad had opted to do this swim and not do the Palm Beach swim the next day, though there were a few who were doing both. After registration we sat down under Bunyan Pine in the Botanic Gardens and waited for the 300m and 750m swims to get under way.
The swim also attracts Olympic swimmers and this year Ky Hurst, Mel Gorman and Kenrick Monk were in attendance.
The organisers in their wisdom decided that the first wave in the water would be the anything goes category for those using flippers, wet suits or anything else to assist them in the 2200m swim. The second wave was for those over 40 male and female. As we wandered up to the pontoon to jump into the water, I was amazed by the size of the wave. There must have been about 250 swimmers jostling for position at the start line. This start would be interesting.
I entered the water with the reporter and the muppet and we positioned ourselves on the right hand side of the start line only because that was where we entered the water. The hooter went and we were off in a splash of arms and legs and green and pink caps.
Now the muppet has improved over the last several months due to some hard work he has been putting in at training. He was quietly confident that he could beat me today,.
Off to the first mark across Farm Cove and I was in a good steady style concentrating on keeping my elbows high on my pull through. There was lots of heads to follow as they sprinted across the cove before turning right towards the Botanic Gardens. It is usually about here in this swim that I get distracted by the view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as I took in air. But today I was blase to all that.
The swim down to the Gardens was fun with the chop in the harbour pushing us along. I had lost contact with the Muppet and Reporter by now.
Across the Gardens the chop was quite severe as the wind was onshore pushing waves up against the sea wall only to bounce back, creating a nice bump to navigate through, testing techniques.
The next turn was hectic as a number of swimmers seem to converge all at once, with the inevitable person stopping to sight the next mark. They should learn how to sight in mid stroke like the rest of the field, or just follow the swimmer in front of them. Off to the next mark which was the last turn right on the course. The chop now was intense, but fun in the warm water, with plenty of other swimmers around me.
Back across the cove to the open air cinema for the first of two left hand turns (as per the briefing). It was here though that most swimmers turned for home instead of going to the next marker. I was with one other swimmer and I even asked a water safety person if I was going in the correct direction. I was told I was, even though most of the field were by now headed for the finish line.
So I swam another couple of hundred metres before turning for home, and it was odd swimming mostly by myself after being surrounded by others in my wave until now. I pushed onto the finish line and waved my wrist towards the finishing mat.
As I climbed out of the water I was surprised to see the Muppet just ahead of me. I was amazed that he had beat me as I had not seen him pass me in the water, but he had got home first. The reporter was just behind me, and as we downed our drinks we talked about the swim. I told them that I had swum off course when compared to the route they had taken.
We were all happy with our bags containing a large swim towel, a cap, two drink bottles, some sun cream and thongs for our feet.
My time of just under 36 minutes put me 11 seconds behind the muppet and six seconds ahead of the reporter. I was about half way in the field. Last year I had swum twenty seconds faster and finished in the top third. I was content with the swim as I had kept a constant pace most of the way and did not tire.
Not a bad effort for my 49th swim race. Now where will I swim for my 50th? Will it be Caves Beach next weekend, or the weekend after at Bondi? I will have to wait and see what the weather does after the wild weekend we have just had with flooding only two weeks after the highest temperature on record. A former cyclone has created havoc all the way down the east coast from North Queensland to Sydney.
Here are some photos that I wanted to share with you taken of various places in NSW that I had visited in the past.