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One Stroke at a Time

Swimming the Bay is an endurance act of charity

Calm winds and sunny weather greeted the 650 swimmers who braved the sometimes-turbulent waters of the Bay Sunday, June 11, for the 26th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.
    Just how long does that take?
    Less than 90 minutes for the fastest swimmer, Andrew Gyenis, 22, of Herndon, Va., who crossed in 1:29:07. Katie Fallon, 21, of Warren, NJ, claimed the title of first female to finish, with a time of 1:40:11.
    The country’s premier open water distance swim attracts both world-class swimmers and endurance athletes.
    Swimmers stroke and kick 4.4 miles along the Bay Bridge, starting at Sandy Point State Park and finishing at the beach adjacent to Hemingway’s Restaurant on the Eastern Shore.
    Additionally, 294 swimmers took on the One-Mile Chesapeake Challenge from the beach adjacent to Hemingway’s. Justin Chiles of Vienna and Deborah Dawson of Baltimore were the top finishers of that race.
    Now a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and other charities, the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim began when Brian Earley made a solo swim from Sandy Point State Park to Kent Island on June 13, 1982, in memory of his father, Joseph Earley, who died of diabetes complications in 1981.
    Swimmers of all ages take the challenge every year, says race director Chuck Nabit. “Our youngest swimmers are 11 years old, participating in the one-mile event, and we have nine seniors over the age of 70 in the 4.4-mile event.”
    Athletes come from 31 states, and the District of Columbia to swim the Bay on the second Sunday in June. Many are repeats. The oldest, 82, swam for the 23rd time. Two swimmers completed their 30th Bay crossings.
    Helping swimmers make the journey safely are 700 watchful volunteers in helicopters, jet skis, kayaks and boats.