Four of the five finishers, L-R, Phillip Ryan, Abby Armstrong, Bronwen Burmester and Todd Pritchard
Phillip Ryan (25) swam his way into the record books in Samoa to win the inaugural Apolima Strait Swim (Upolu-Savai'i 22.3km swim). Phillip's time of 5:03:15 is now the benchmark for the annual race between Samoa's two main islands.
The inaugural event drew five solo swimmers and two teams from Samoa. The solo swimmers were Phillip Ryan (Auckland), Abby Armstrong (Hamilton), Bronwen Burmester (Whangamata), Todd Pritchard (Auckland) and Kate Sinclair (Gold Coast, AUST). Abby (28) won the women's crown.
The swim was not without major challenge. Whilst the sea was smooth and flat the water movement that was generated by cyclone Zena over Fiji had a major impact on the race. The finish line had to be moved to Salelavalu village (4km along the coast from Salelologa wharf) to avoid a fast developing dog leg due to the massive current that was sweeping swimmers to the right of the course. In the end however, everyone swam a minimum of 22.3kms. Some, like Abby, showed 27kms on the garmin reading at the end of her swim.
All swimmers were tested big time. Each had to dig deep into reserves to make it to the finish. Abby was the most affected by the current. She was swept far wider than everyone else. Abby sustained stomach cramps and threw up a lot in the last half of the race. Yet, she made it to the finish.
Phillip Ryan was not exempted from trials. Twice he showed his frustration with little progress in the middle of the course.
"I found it tough today. If I found it tough I imagine it would be even tougher for you guys," he said at the Medals ceremony after the race.
For their efforts each of the swimmers was awarded with Savai'i Citizenship. That was presented by the Minister for Education Sports and Culture, the Hon. Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio. They each also received a Savai'i Passport from the Savaii Tourism Association, that includes free accommodation and other offers for the next time they return to the big island.
2017 Race - 11 April
The second year of the Swim attracted six solo swimmers and three teams. The six solo swimmers from USA, New Zealand and Samoa are: Robin Rasmussen Rose and Tiffany McQueen (USA), Christina Harris, Paul Feltoe and Tony McLean (NZ), and Sitivi So'oa'emalelagi of Samoa. Sitivi was the last to enter the race, and the last to qualify just a month out from race day.
Yet his minimal training for the long swim had little impact in his amazing ability to maintain a fast pace throughout. His winning time of 5:37:27 is amazing in that regard. The second fastest time of 6:48:10 is a full hour and some slower than Sitivi's time. All six swimmers finished the race, with a better than average time of the year before.
Of the Teams, Team Tonga made history by winning that event. All female team of Jo Armstrong, Gerry Glover and Abby Armstrong was second. Third to finish was made up of expat friends and aptly named, Paid for by Mexico.
The 2018 Upolu-Savai'i Race is already on the Calendar for Saturday, 7th April 2018.
The swim is the opening event of the Savai'i Games. Other events are the 180km Ride around the Island, a one day challenge.