The American pair of David Heron and Taylor Abbott dominated the Men’s 1.5K and 5K
swims, American Pan Am medalist, Chelsea Colwill, was in a league of her own in the
1.5K and 10K races. And US Olympic medallist, Ashley Whitney, won the 5K at the 6th
Barbados Open Water Festival.
Trinidadians Nikoli Blackman and Savannah Chee-Wah represented their country well with winning swims in the 3.3K and Canadian, Taylor Parker, repeated his win in the Men’s 10K.
The weather was picture perfect with bright sunshine, little wind and excellent sea conditions. Swimmer Eney Jones described “The water is prettier than many pools I have been in.” As an added attraction a few curious sea turtles joined in and the star fish were glorious, easily visible, basking on the bottom.
As expected the two visiting elite American swimmers – David Heron and Taylor Abbott –
set the pace in both the men’s 1.5K and 5K races with US 5K champ Heron edging out
Junior World Champion (2014), Abbott, for the wins in both events. Twenty-four year old
Heron set a new course record for the 1.5K with a 17:14 minute swim and the pair
provided a highly exciting finish in the 5K where they led the race from the start and were
neck and neck at the final buoy. Heron managed to pull slightly ahead of the younger
Abbott as he emerged from the water and they then raced up the beach to the finish line,
much to the delight of the waiting crowd of spectators. The pair, who are both studying
and training at the University of Tennessee, said the finish on the beach was fun, as they
are accustomed to water finishes in their competitive races.
Barbados’ Olympic Triathlete, Jason Wilson, made a valiant effort to stay with the two in the lead pack but was unable to keep up as they moved into the third lap and settled for third place. Junior competitive, Barbadian swimmer, Nkosi Dunwoody, was fourth.Twenty-nine year old Chelsea Nauta Colwill of the US, set new course records in both the
1.5K and 10K races (18:17 and 2:14:28). The accomplished swimmer, a product of
Tampa Bay Aquatics and University of Georgia, is a double Pan Am medalist from the
2011 Games in Mexico (Gold and Silver) and has big wins under her belt in marathon
swims. In 2013 Colwill won the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon swim in 10 hours 7 minutes,
in difficult conditions, defeating three time Olympic gold Medalist Brooke Bennett and the
male swimmers in the challenging race. In April 2017 the seasoned distance and open
water swimmer won the US Masters Swimming Marathon Open Water National
Championships “Swim around Lido Key” 7 mile race and set a new course record.
Twelve-year old Nikoli Blackman of Trinidad stole some of the limelight from elites and
Olympians on the weekend with a stellar effort that rewarded him with third place in the
Men’s 1.5K behind the US elite swimmers and a commanding victory in the 3.3K.
The Barbados Open Water Festival was celebrating its sixth event this past weekend with
a record number of entries: 597 to be exact, from seventeen countries, for four distances
in Carlisle Bay. Swimmers arrived from England, Canada, Wales, Poland, Spain,
Costa Rica, Germany, Brazil, Australia, United States, Czech Republic, Switzerland,
Netherlands, USVI, Trinidad, Antigua and Barbados. The swimmers ranged in age from six years old to 75+ years.
The competitive races segment of the five-day event opened Saturday morning with 336 swimmers completing the 1.5K swim in the Bay. Sixty of those swimmers opted for a “Fun Swim” supporting the Children’s Charity: The Variety Club of Barbados. Those swimmers were not timed.
On the second day of racing, 246 swimmers finished three races: 3.3K (84), 5K (119) and the 10K Marathon Swim (43).
Many of the swimmers take part in the practice swims and casual dinners in the days ahead of event and this adds a wonderful social element with many new friendships being made at the Festival every year.
There are many regulars at the Barbados Open Water Festival, several swimmers have
been visiting for the past five years including the popular “Jersey Girls”. This informal
group of energetic ladies is led by Susan Kirk and Sarah Clark, passionate open water
swimmers, who first visited years back and now bring up to 25 swimmers with their group.
John Corcoran of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is another fan of the event and swam his first 10K
here on his fifth visit.
In addition to winners named, Dominika Jamnicky, Canadian pro-triathlete, who recently
had two solid results in Intl Triathon Union racing in Mexico (4th) and Ecuador (5th) was in
fine form and took second in the Ladies 1.5K and 5K races. Canadian Olympians Katie
Brambley and Tera Van Beilen (4 th in 10K) as well as retired pro-triathletes Eney Jones
and Alison Hayden (2nd in 10K) were in attendance. Masters Open Water Swimmer, Bill
Ireland, of the USA also made his first appearance in Barbados and was sixth in the 3.3K.
The fifty-eight year old was part of a relay team that completed a 15 hour 41 minute
crossing of the Catalina Channel on September 29 th , 2017.
Two special awards were handed out to Barbadian swimmers over the weekend. The
Jonathan Morgan Memorial Trophy for the first Barbadian Masters swimmer to complete
the 5K was won for the third time by Rick Peters. Peters resides in Toronto but has
attended all six of the festivals. A strong swim by Barbadian Simon Wilkie earned him
third place in the Men’s 10K Marathon Swim and the coveted “Chris & Peter Gibbs Trophy”
for the first Barbadian in that race.
Organizers of the BOWF were highly flattered when they learned recently that the Festival
has been nominated for a 2017 WOWSA Award for the “Performance of the Year”. They
acknowledged that Barbados was very fortunate in 2017 to have been spared by two
Category 5 Hurricanes that caused total devastation in many other islands. During the
Festival a collection of money, non-perishable foods, medical supplies and toiletries was
made and donated towards a group helping with the relief effort in nearby Dominica.
The next Festival is scheduled for November 7-11, 2018.