Open Water Swimming Adventure: St Croix!
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Omar devastation

Mocko Jumbies and steel band at the Social

Barry, Jana, Ed: post-race at the Finish banner

Great Bay Masters at St Croix 5-mile Ocean Swim - October 19, 2008
Three Great Bay Masters traveled to St. Croix to do the St. Croix 2 & 5-Mile Coral Reef Swim Race.   St. Croix is a beautiful Caribbean Island east of Puerto Rico. The five mile swim starts at Buck Island and finishes at the host hotel, the Buccaneer. The morning of the race swimmers are taken by boat and dropped off at Buck Island. They race two miles back toward St. Croix, then take a right and swim three more miles along shore, before taking a left to swim to the finish at the Buccaneer. The prevailing wind and current provide swimmers with a little push (you're swimming with the waves, not into them). Water temperature is typically between 78 and 81F - no wetsuits allowed!

At least that's the way it always worked until hurricane Omar popped up, and passed just east of St. Croix three days before this year's race. Omar took an unusual southwest-to-northeast track toward the central North Atlantic. A direct hit looked probable, but thankfully Omar's last minute shift to the east lessened the blow. The hurricane still toppled many trees, downed power lines, and damage / sunk a number of boats in the Christiansted marina. Many race volunteers (and their boats) were affected by Omar - so the course was changed to start at Duggan's Reef, a restaurant at Teague Bay. The new course was all along St. Croix shoreline - 5.5 miles back to the Buccaneer (yes, a bonus half mile added!).

The St. Croix swim includes several support activities. A discounted pre-race trip to Buck Island is offered for those who would like to preview the race course and snorkel the underwater park. There is a social the evening before the race at the Buccaneer Sugar Mill featuring a steel band and Mocko Jumbies. This is followed by a buffet dinner - the food is good too.

You might see some famous swimmers at the Coral Reef Swim. Olympians Rowdy Gaines, Amanda Beard, Margaret Hoelzer and Misty Hyman all swam in the 2007 race. This year the top three spots were claimed by Julian Baillod, Alex Kostich (a Pan-Am Games 1500 meter free gold medalist), and Fran Crippen (2007 Pan Am Games 10K open water gold medalist). See full results of 2008 St Croix Coral Reef swim race.

See also last year's story on GBM's at the 2007 St. Croix race.

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