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(PRESS RELEASE) — Some may remember in 2017 when Jacques Sicot completed a staged swim around Saint Lucia. Or maybe 2018 when Molly Nance swam from Saint Lucia to Martinique.
On July 7, 2019, four vessels left IGY Rodney Bay Marina to embark on a historic moment. Two solo swimmers — Sandra Frimerman Bergquist and Kevin Pollman — as well as a relay team comprising of four locals — Vanessa Eugene, Monique Devaux-Lovell, Rodja Constantine, and Joshua Adjodha — would be the first to attempt a multi-swim across the channel.
Saint Lucia Channel Swim organizers diligently worked for 10 months to organize the event to increase local participation as well as regional and international recognition. The event comprised several days of clinics and training as well as 1K, 3K, and 5K races leading up to the “go” day for the swim.
In the wee hours of the morning on July 7, volunteers, supporters, captains, and swimmers gathered to prepare for a full-day (and possibly into the night) attempt to cross from Smuggler’s Cove, Saint Lucia to Martinique. Aiming for the Grande Anse area, the captain and crew loaded the vessels with all the provisions necessary.
At 5:25 a.m., the four vessels — a Moorings 42’ catamaran; Salty, 21’ speed boat, and two 17’ RHIBs from Adventure Tours — reached Smuggler’s Cove to where the swimmers were waiting. At precisely 5:31 a.m., Frimerman-Bergquist, Pollman and Constantine (the first swimmer from the local relay) ran into the water to begin their attempts. The 33-kilometre/21-mile challenge is the same distance as the English Channel which has much colder water.
Within minutes, Frimerman-Bergquist pulls into the front position of the swimmers. Pollman stays within half a mile to one mile of Frimerman-Bergquist and the relay team stays towards the back. With swells on average 1.1 to 1.2 metres, the weather cooperated throughout the day. The camaraderie was heard throughout the day with the crew and captains in good spirits. Lively banter was heard across the radio from the start of the attempts until all vessels headed home.
At approximately 1:30 p.m., Frimerman-Bergquist was about five miles from the coast of Martinique. Pollman was about seven miles off the coast at this point and the relay team had reached over halfway across the channel. Frimerman-Bergquist was ready to make the final push through the WNW currents that could potentially carry any swimmer into the wrong direction.
After the main boat picked up kayaker Weston Moses at approximately 2:30 p.m., the boat returned to Frimerman-Bergquist and her support boat, captained by Will Wilson from Adventure Tours, to help guide her into shore. During this last stretch, Frimerman-Bergquist charged through the water, finally reaching shore just northwest of Grande Anse beach at 4:08 p.m. She completed the swim in a time of 10 hours and 37 minutes.
The main boat set off now to meet Kevin Pollman and his captain Cornel Clairmont from Adventure Tours; they were about 2 ¼ miles offshore now. Philip Rush jumped on board as the Moorings Catamaran reached the support vessel. At this point, the relay team aboard, Salty, captained by Cleus Mc Lorren, was coming into the five-mile mark as well.
Rush worked with Clairmont to motivate Pollman onto the shore. At 6:21 p.m., Kevin Pollman touched land in Martinique just 12 hours and 50 minutes after he set off that morning.
The main boat quickly set off to meet the relay team. At this point, the sun was setting and the swimmers were fighting the WNW current holding them about five miles from shore. With nightfall quickly approaching, Captain Jammain Stanley from the Moorings 42’ catamaran headed towards Le Diamant area of Martinique to find the relay boat.
Unfortunately, due to the darkness of nightfall and the swimmers not being fully prepared for night swimming, Capt Mc Lorren had to formally abort the swim. At 7:04 p.m., after 13 hours and 33 minutes, the relay team ended their attempt approximately four miles from shore.
Sue Dyson, principal organizer for the St Lucia Channel Swim events, reported that she was pleased with the event, the performance of all the swimmers, and the workmanship of the boat captains.
“From all aspects, the event was a success. The regional participation in the clinics and races from various countries including Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, as well as international participation from the USA was phenomenal. Slow steady growth is all we are looking to achieve at this moment,” she said.
Dyson went on to affirm that she couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of not only the two solos swimmers, but the local relay as well.
“They have achieved so much swimming approximately 16 to 17 miles together. I believe everyone in Saint Lucia should be proud of what they achieved for our country. We need to build on this and continue to grow avenues from this in various ways,” Dyson added.
Philip Rush was extremely thrilled by the growth and abilities of all the swimmers. He commented that with a strong core group of captains such as these, the channel can continue to be conquered. Rush looks forward to working with the organizers as well as captains over the next year creating more growth for 2020’s event.