It was with some anticipation that I arrived for the 2.5k swim around the rocks at Big Bay – with Robben Island looming large a mere 4 miles offshore.
After registering at the table outside the Lifesaving club at Big Bay, I met Derrick Fraser, the founder of Big Bay Events, and the organizer of the event. I was referred to Derrick by Wayne Chaitman, to be the skipper of the boat that will accompany me for my Robben Island swim. He was busy so I arranged that I’d come up to him after the event to discuss my swim.
About 15 minutes prior to the swim, he started to give instructions. Those first timers were asked to walk to the roof of the building to get a good view of the course. We were told to aim between Table Mountain and Lions Head for the first 100 meters in order to avoid the rocks to our left. We would turn right around a bright orange buoy. Then the current would help carry us to the next buoy which was our next mark to turn right. Then we would swim into the bay, between the rocks and past the surfer lineup before swimming to the beach. We would run to the timer would make note of our number that was written in black marker on the top of both hands.
All swimmers then walked along the beach to the starting point. He made an additional announcement. Those swimmers that wanted to qualify for the organized Freedom Swim event taking place on April, could do so by completing the swim and staying in the water for a minimum of 60 minutes.
Then the bull horn he used left off a loud beep and we were off. There were prizes to be awarded to fasted swimmers (male, female, skins and suits). I was not attempting to complete for being the fastest. My goal was to finish the swim. Although I knew I was not going to participate in the organized Freedom Swim in April, I wanted to prove to myself and Derrick that I could qualify for the swim, so I decided to wait and be one of the last to leave shore.
The water was cold. But I found that the temperature varied quite a lot. At the shore it was about 58 F, then around the rocks and into the bay the temperature suddenly dropped to about 53 F then it warmed up a bit as I swim to shore. The sun was out, there was alight wind and conditions were very good. Life guards on paddle boards formed a corridor that helped me keep in a good line.
After giving my number to the time, I was told to go to the person keeping time for people attempting to qualify for the Freedom Swim. I was told to go back in the water for an additional 11 minutes – to swim to the buoy in the middle of the bay and then back to shore. I did so and qualified for the Freedom Swim.
After showering and changing in the mens locker room, I joined the other swimmers in the court yard of the lifesaving club waiting for the awards to be announced. Hot chocolate and jelly filled donuts were made available. Which I gratefully accepted and enjoyed. It took a good 20-30 minutes for me to warm up.
While waiting a woman came up to me. She introduced herself to me. Her name is Monene Murray. She recognized me form my blog and began chatting with me. She has been swimming for about 4 years and was a believer in the Total Immersion method of swimming. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to be in touch. She is a highly qualified business coach.
After Derrick called the event over, I went up to him to chat. He escorts swimmers regularly on Robben Island swims and is very experienced. He said the weekends were very busy for him because most people scheduled their swims then. Being flexible with my time, I arranged that I would attempt the swim during the week. This would suit both of us. He said to me that when ever I am ready, I should call him. Then from that point on, we would both watch the weather and select an ideal day for the swim. I agreed, we shook hands and left to go back to Sea Point.