My team members include Mallory James, who is our team Captain, Robb, Michael, Pedro and Donny (who actually lives in Sydney, Australia and is here to participate in the race) and our boat captain is Jeremy Wilmes. Let me give you some background on the history of this event and the details of the swim.
Dating back to 1972, the Maui Channel Swim is the longest, open water relay swim race in the world. For nearly 20 years, Ian Emberson, a Kauai resident and chairperson of the race, has been the coordinator of the race as well as, a long running participant. There are an estimated 240+ participants expected to compete in this year’s swim.
The race course officially starts at the pier at Club Lanai on the island of Lanai, crosses the Au Au Channel and ends on the beach in front of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel on the island of Maui. The Kaanapali Beach Hotel is the headquarters for the Maui Channel Swim and serves as the racepoint. It will also be hosting the awards banquet.
Teams from all over the United States and the world come to compete in this event which is one of the most popular masters swimming events in the nation. Teams from Australia, Taiwan and Japan, along with teams from California, Texas, Hawaii, New York, Washington and other States will be represented.
Now for the details of the race:
The distance between the start and finish as “the bird flies” is approximately 9.9 miles.
The relay race is timed and starts at 8:00 am. The race typically lasts 5 – 6 hours.
There are six swimmers per team.
The race starts with each swimmer swimming half-hour legs until all team members have raced.
Then, each swimmer swims a 10 minute leg until they cross the finish line.
Each team has a dedicated escort boat where the boat captain acts as the navigator for each team.
Swimmers compete in 7 categories based on the ages and sexes of the team members.
The Grand Prize, a large, perpetual carved koa wood Duke Bowl, goes to the first team to finish.
Swimmers of the top 3 teams in each division receive Hawaiian swim towels with their division and place embroidered on the towel.
Other perpetual trophies go to the winners in many of the divisions.
Each swimmer receives a custom-designed tee shirt.
This event is so popular that it has never been formally advertised. The Maui Channel Swim is well run and so much fun that many of the teams come back year after year and enlist friends and fellow swimmers. There has always been a great rivalry between the Australian and American teams.
What makes this race so interesting is that the navigation and currents can be a deciding factor. While the channel is clear, warm and beautiful, the open water is notorious for its swift currents. The fastest, strongest team does not always finish first! And it is not uncommon for some teams not to finish the race.
As noted, the actual distance swum is longer depending on currents, winds, etc. Each team is responsible for their own navigation and, as such, at various points during the race, escort boats of all shapes and sizes dot the horizon with everyone thinking they have the shortest route. Depending on conditions, the fastest teams finish in 3 to 4 hours.
So, wish me and my team lots of luck – it should be fun!
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