On Saturday, August 7th, approximately 75 swimmers and over 200 boat captains and volunteers participated in the 2021 St. Vincent's Swim Across the Sound. It was the 34th annual Swim and was so welcomed after canceling the 2020 Swim due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s Swim consisted of 17 escort boats: there were five Solo swimmers, four “Classic” (non-wetsuit) team relays, six “Traditional” (wetsuit) team relays, one “Never Alone” and one “Corporate Challenge” relay.
The weather was perfect and the seas were calm and relatively flat. The 2021 Swim Across the Sound marathon established the new 13.5 mile course by adjusting the location of the finish. The start location remained at Old Field Beach near the Port Jefferson breakwater; the new water finish was positioned at Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse. Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse, first built in 1808, is also known as Fayerweather Island Lighthouse and is considered part of Bridgeport’s Seaside Park historic district. The finish was live streamed to Captain’s Cove where family and friends gathered to celebrate the event and cheer the swimmers.
The Swim began as the tide was coming in which provided a helpful, moderate push toward the west for the swimmers. Wave 1 left the beach at 8:33 am with the 5 solo swimmers and 5 relay teams. Wave 2, with 7 relay teams, started almost an hour later at 9:30 am. The swimmers in both waves were guided by kayakers and quickly connected with their escort boats. The water conditions seemed almost ideal – water temperature 74F and < 1 ‘ wave height. The lead boats set a perfect line and perimeter boats maintained the narrow swim field width throughout the Swim.
Throughout the day, families and friends watched the escort boats on the GPS tracker move swiftly across Long Island Sound. Starting in Wave 1 two solo swimmers, Andy Rieger and Nikko Price, led the escort field for the entire swim. The lead position changed between these two swimmers for over 13 ¼ miles until Andy found another gear and powered to the finish. Andy Rieger of Montgomery, Texas was the first Solo finisher with a time of 5:56:20, a record for the new course. Nikko Price of Branford, CT was the second Solo finisher with a time of 5:57:34. Benjamin Casey of Boynton Beach, Florida was the third Solo Finisher with a time 8:08:54, followed by Daniel Dunmire of Stony Brook, NY in a time of 8:29:54 and Dylan Michael of Wilton, CT in a time of 9:45:17.
A similar battle for the lead took place in Wave 2 where Aquamen and Fair Diego - the Reunion raced neck and neck through the entire swim. The Aquamen team was the fastest finisher overall and won the Classic team category in a time of 5:24:02. Fair Diego - the Reunion was 2nd overall with a time of 5:33:49 and 2nd in the Classic team category. Rising Tide was 3rd place in the Classic team category with a time of 6:36:03, followed by Barbara’s Bunch who finished in a time of 8:58:19.
In the Traditional (wetsuit allowed) team category, Pisces Pride was the first Traditional team to cross the buoy finish in a time of 6:18:50. Hilbre Island Swimmers was second in the category with a time of 6:38:48. Pisces Strong was third finishing in 6:46:07. Boo's Crew was fourth in the Traditional team category in a time of 7:43:07, followed by Seas the Day finishing in 8:12:49 and Survivors who finished in 8:31:10.
A.B.C. (Atlantic Battles Cancer) in the Never Alone team category crossed the buoy at Black Rock Lighthouse in a time of 7:45:02. For the Never Alone team category the six swimmers rotate in as pairs to signify that you are never alone when fighting cancer.
Code Blue Fish in the Corporate Challenge team category swam for 6 hours and 33 minutes when the team chose to move up and join the rest of the field before missing its second milestone. The team continues to improve each year and inspire many.
The "Dream of Life" award was presented to Ann Gorton captain of Code Blue Fish for her commitment and dedication to the SWIM Across the Sound. Ann has participated in the SWIM for over ten years, both as a swimmer and a volunteer. In 2015, she organized a group of swimmers from St. Vincent’s to help support a cause for patients close to her heart where she is a 33 year employee. She and her teammates saw the needs of these patients everyday and wanted to help in a significant way by raising funds to help relieve some of the financial burden many faced. The SWIM is forever grateful for her enthusiasm and commitment to giving back to the SWIM community, helping thousands of patients going through cancer.
The 2021 Swim Across the Sound mourns the loss of Ron Bianchi who passed away on July 24, 2021. Ron served as president of the St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, the fundraising arm of St. Vincent's, since its founding in 1987. Ron will always be in our hearts and will be remembered for his leadership, kindness and spirit to always find a way to help the patients and families impacted by cancer. An award in his honor has been established for fundraising and was awarded to Boo’s Crew who raised $45,000 for the Swim this year.
We are extremely grateful to the boat captains, their crews and kayakers who volunteered for the SWIM. I especially would like to thank our Swim Committee members, all our Swim officials, observers, medical support, and Captain's Cove volunteers, the staff, and the many others who have committed their time to this special event. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to this event year after year.
On a personal note, no words can properly express the gratitude for Lyn McCarthy who retired from the Foundation this year. She will be greatly missed by everyone.
With gratitude and admiration for you all,
Swim Across the Sound