2013-05-16 / Front Page

Cove remains finish line for swim

Jamestown will also host start of July event
BY TIM RIEL


Above is a map of the Sequester Swim. Save the Bay’s alternate route was created because federal budget cuts prevented Naval Sta­tion Newport from hosting the starting line. Above is a map of the Sequester Swim. Save the Bay’s alternate route was created because federal budget cuts prevented Naval Sta­tion Newport from hosting the starting line. Every summer for the past 36 years, dozens of Jamestowners have looked forward to the 1.7- mile plunge from Naval Station Newport to their home shoreline at Potter Cove.

But this year, following a fed­eral sequestration that crippled the country’s defense spending, un­certainty loomed over the annual Save the Bay Swim. Organizers were left scrambling for answers. Without the cooperation of the U.S. Navy, where would the swim commence?

At the same place it’ll end, it was decided.

Save the Bay announced last week that Potter Cove will act as both the start and finish lines for the 37th edition of the swim sched­uled for July 20. Rather than cross­ing the East Passage from coast to coast, swimmers and kayakers will compete on a triangular course just north of the Newport Bridge. The length of the course remains the same.

“I had promised that the swim would go on, and I’m happy to tell you that we have finalized our plans,” said Jonathan Stone, exec­utive director of Save the Bay.

Last year more than 500 swim­mers and 250 kayakers made the trek across the bay, east to west. This year is less direct. Swimmers will start on the beach at Potter Cove, swim northeast to a marker buoy a little less than a mile away, make a 90-degree turn and swim another half mile southeast toward the Newport Bridge, then take a 45-degree right turn at a second marker buoy and head back toward the beach at Potter Cove.

The after party, as always, will be held on the lawn adjacent from the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority headquarters.

Race organizers said about a dozen possible sites were reviewed before deciding on the triangular Potter Cove course. According to Stone, logistical challenges in­cluded tidal currents, shoreline conditions, parking, restrooms and electricity. The starting line also needed enough space for sponsors, vendors and onlookers, as well as room to drop off kayaks.

Safety and security also had to be ensured in order to get approval from the U.S. Coast Guard, who has the final say.

“We feel strongly that a triangu­lar course starting and ending at Potter Cove meets the criteria for safety, distance and logistics,” said Eric Pfirrmann of Save the Bay. “Considering how much support we have enjoyed from both the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and the town of James­town, this year’s course just makes sense.”

As much as 6.5 percent of the country’s defense spending is ex­pected to be cut in 2013, totaling more than $42 billion. Civilian- oriented events were a primary target. The Save the Bay Swim wasn’t the only local military-re­lated event to get the axe.

The enormously popular Quon­set Air Show was canceled after the U.S. Department of Defense said all military demonstrations, including the Blue Angels, were restricted from participating. The R.I. National Guard’s Leapfest, the largest international static-line parachute competition in the coun­try, was axed as well. Except for a weather-related cancelation in 1985, it has been ongoing each year since 1982. Navy Week was also abandoned this year.

The Save the Bay Swim is the organization’s most important community event of the year, and it acts as its largest fundraiser. The race is one of the longest-running open-water charitable swims in the country.

“It celebrates decades of achievement in cleaning up the bay,” said Stone.

This year’s Sequester Swim – as Stone is calling it – may only be a one-year trend. He hopes Naval Station Newport will allow them to return in 2014.

“This decision came despite strong support from leadership at the naval station and regular par­ticipation in the swim by many ac­tive and retired Navy personnel,” he said. “We would like to thank the city of Newport and Naval Sta­tion Newport for their long-stand­ing support of the swim, and look forward to bringing the start back to Newport next year if allowed.”

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