Bay Swim surpasses records on anniversary of third decade of caring
Hundreds of spectators and supporters from all over New England blanketed Potter Cove Saturday morning, July 29, anticipating the arrival of participants in the 30th annual Save The Bay Swim. A record-smashing 422 swimmers paddled the 1.7-mile trek from the Naval War College in Newport to Jamestown's east shore, just north of the Newport Bridge.
Jason Eaddy of Watertown, Mass., completed the swim in first place this year, in 35 minutes and 29 seconds, with his wife Jennifer not far behind him. "I came in first because Stuart Cromarty didn't swim," Eaddy humbly remarked, giving acknowledgement to the top swimmer of the event for the past six years. Eaddy said Cromarty, from Smithfield, was injured, "otherwise I'd probably come in second."
Brittany Olerio, 17, swam for the first time in the bay event, and she was the first to complete the swim out of the second wave of swimmers. "I swallowed so much water," she said with a grin, adding that the water was free of jellyfish. "That's what I was really afraid of," she admitted.
"She was first out of the pack," noted her kayak spotter Vinny Saitti. Swim team captain at North Kingstown High School and a lifeguard, Olerio noted that she raised over $600 so far.
John Martin, director of marketing and communications for Save The Bay, said that the organization expects over $150,000 in fundraising for the event this year. "That might be a conservative number, considering the swimmers' personal Web pages," Martin added. He noted that Save The Bay added online donation capability to their Web site in mid-May, making contributions easy to make from the Internet. Donations online for the swim are still being accepted through Aug. 25.
To prepare for the annual swim, "It takes 100 volunteers working many hours," said Martin. He noted the swim had become a "cumulative event" of the 30 years of its growth. Volunteers, companies and individuals, offered food, drinks and other services, all contributing to a successful day.
Swimmers weak from fighting the currents out in the bay began dropping like sacks onto massage tables set up on the beach. Valerie Vendetti, supervisor for the Therapeutic Massage Program at Community College of Rhode Island, said that 12 students from the program set up tents to volunteer their skills. "We enjoy being able to help relax the swimmers after their long trek," she said.
Frank McQuiggen, coach of the East Providence Masters Swim Club and 15th year participant in the bay event, said he brought 37 swimmers from the East Providence swim club as well as 15 swimmers from Citizen's Bank, another team he coaches. Citizen's team members are from all over New England, according to McQuiggen. "We also have about 60 volunteers, spouses, friends, with us," he noted, pointing to T-shirts specially made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the swim.
For future swims, Martin said the organization hopes to expand not only the number of swimmers in the water, but the number of supporters for the swimmers. "We need to motivate more people to get behind our swimmers," he said. According to Martin, more people in the water impacts not only boat lanes but also landside access to facilities "to a dangerous level."
However, the danger is in numbers of people, not in water quality level. In 1977, on the day of the first official Save The Bay Swim event, co-ordinator Trudy Coxe received a call from the state Department of Health announcing the water in front of the beach a category C, too polluted to swim in. Coxe told the 100 swimmers in front of the Bay View Hotel to row out and enter 300 feet from shore, where the water was acceptable for swimming. The water quality these days is much better, thanks to the fruitful efforts of Save The Bay over the last three decades.
Jamestown not only hosted the arriving swimmers, but supplied nine swimmers of its own, ranging in age from 19 to 69. Bruce Novis of Intrepid Lane was the first from the island to cross the bay with a time of 41 minutes and 10 seconds.
James Upton noted it was his third swim, and he was excited to be a part of it. "We're lucky to be able to participate in something you love to do," he said, adding that it was a "joyful" experience. He expressed the hope that the big turnout made an impression on Jamestowners to be more aware of runoff into the bay. "No more fertilizers for me," he said.
The Jamestown swimmers and results:
Bruce Novis, 00:41:10; Patrice Kilroy,00:57:47;Edward Flanagan, 00:59:34; Hannah Yoffa, 01:01:56; James Upton, 01:15:03; Dennis Nixon, 01:19:31; Jean Poirier-Green, 01:25:42;Anne Lane, 01:27:36;Sherry Flaherty, 01:37:46.