<–Please share this post with your facebook friends and twitter followers by clicking on the appropriate icon to the left.
UPDATE 09:23pm 06/12/2011: We have heard from eyewitnesses that a man suffered a heart attack during the swim. He was pulled from the water and CPR was administered immediately while transporting him to shore to a waiting ambulance. At this time, we have not been able to verify this with race organizers or EMS, but we have received word from several eye witnesses.
This morning 650 swimmers gathered on the beach at Sandy Point Park in Annapolis ready to begin a 4.4 mile swim across the Chesapeake Bay to Hemingway’s Restaurant and Bay Bridge Marina on Kent Island.
Under the best of circumstances this is a grueling race–and the conditions were very favorable. The waters were calm and the water temperature was 78 degrees. The winning swimmer, Frederick Hviid of Spain, clocked a time of 1.35.57 and was soon followed by hundreds more.
Unfortunately, the race was cut short near the end by a violent thunderstorm and any swimmers still in the bay were plucked from the water and brought to safety. One of those was Craig Dietz who we were unable to catch up with on land. Craig was born without limbs and swam this race on his back, outfitted with a flipper on his lower torso. About 45 minutes before the storm, Craig was at the 4 mile mark, so there is no doubt this incredible man would have made the finish line. We do have several photos of him in this gallery–he is the only one facing up.
But Craig was not the only physically challenged swimmer. A man with an amputated leg was met at the water’s edge by his wife with his crutches. Another woman who had no muscles in her legs was met by helpers who carried her from the water to the finish line.
And of course there were the other incredible athletes who endured the pain of the swim. They came in all shapes and sizes and all levels of fitness. Age is not a factor as the oldest to complete the race today was 80 years old.
By no means is this a race for sissies. The Chesapeake Bay is a very complicated body of water with tides flowing north to south. The tides are studied and the race timed to minimize their effect. The race is staffed by volunteers and the US Coast Guard. The USCG deploys 25 vessels to close the bridge to marine traffic for the swimmers. They are supplemented by 55 boats from the Chesapeake Power Boaters Association who will assist any swimmers in need. Finally The Chesapeake Paddlers bring 5 kayaks to monitor the swimmers and to signal for any help.
This event raises funds for the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the March of Dimes. To view all of our photos, please visit our online gallery. Please stay tuned for a video to be posted later.