THE Channel was well sheltered from the strong south-easterly wind, however, the San Remo bridge was not, so for the 542 racers who took part in the 35th annual Channel Challenge it was a challenging yet enjoyable race.
The day paid respect to both CFA firefighters and past race heroes. San Remo CFA Brigade members Mark Thiele and Joe Espirito started the race, and, for the first official year, the Michael Gordon memorial trophy was awarded.
There were 150 local participants, as individuals with more in the teams sections. More than 300 visitors plus family and friends came to San Remo and the Bass Coast Shire for the event.
Event organiser Ron Nicholson was impressed by the community spirit and competition amongst the ranks.
“The overall winner and defending champion, Marcel Walkington 11:32, was a clear victor again with the second fastest overall time being recorded by the female winner, Tamsyn Moana-Veale 12:41 – a great effort,” Ron said.
“The margin in the male O/50 open category was a mere 0.2 of a second between local competitor, Rob Fleisner and his regular opponent from Melbourne, Aural Wachter.
“They always have a fierce rivalry for the Bass Coast Series title and most BCS categories will see close competition at Cowes in two weeks,” he said.
Nine of the 24 placegetters in the eight Open categories were local competitors so the locals are probably punching above their weight, taking more than 37 per cent of the placings by 32 per cent of the field.
Three locals Luke Muir 12.56, Luke Plant 12.57 and Walter Hiatt 13.13 all finished in the top 10 overall placings.
In its second year, the relay categories grew to 39 teams which will help the event grow and see more families involved as lots of teams had a parent and son or daughter component.
Ron was impressed by dedication of competitors.
“Two locals, Brian Dallinger and Geoff Daff kept their record intact by both completing their 35 consecutive Channel Challenges dating from 1986 to 2020 and not having missed a single event,” Ron said.
“The event went very smoothly after the dramas of last year and it was terrific to see all four waves in the water at the one time with more than 500 swimmers spread from one side of the Channel to the other.
“Because of the early start the race centre was opened on Friday evening and that worked well with about 130 competitors being processed on the night.
“We also had very positive feedback about the new policy of having single use plastic water bottles replaced by recyclable cups of water.
“Part of the proceeds from yesterday’s race will be donated to the Mallacoota SLSC as they lost their caravan facilities in the bushfires. The San Remo Hotel also are donating $1 a can sold yesterday to that same cause.
“A big hand for Darlene Stillwell and her staff from the Phillip Island Markets who helped arrange the market at short notice and whose staff then donated their day’s wages towards both Surf Life Saving Clubs – Woolamai and Mallacoota.
“We have always believed that the community spirit engendered by the Channel Challenge is a major factor in its continuing success,” Ron said.
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