The seemingly good weather conditions belied the strong currents, particularly in the North Comino Channel and swells that 132 swimmers, undertaking the Birkirkara St. Joseph Garmin Malta – Gozo – Malta and Gozo-Malta Open Water Swim Race, had to contend with on race day.
The 11km race saw fourteen swimmers starting at the crack of dawn from Marfa Beach, where they proceeded towards Comino onto Gozo before heading back through the North Comino Channel. The only surprises in the final results where the massive improvements registered by winners of the Race, Andrew Sultana and Sarah Demicoli.
Sultana, won the 2017 edition in a time of 2:41:09. This was the Open Water Swimming National Team athlete second foray in this distance. “This is the second time I competed in this distance. The north westerly force 3-4 wind did not seem too daunting, it was a tough race especially at the beginning when we were heading towards Gozo. Eventually the sea conditions improved and the return to Marfa was a steady consistent pace. I am definitely pleased with my result, not only because of the win but also due to the massive improvement of eighteen minutes from the time registered last year”.
Whilst there was little doubt that Sarah Demicoli would retain the title she won in 2016, it is worth noting that the Open Water Swimming National Team athlete beat her 2016 time by fourteen minutes. Demicoli finished the race in 2:44:31.
“Today’s race was my second over such a distance. Whilst the sea wasn’t as rough as last year, it felt more challenging especially around Comino where it was very choppy, making it hard to find a rhythm with your stroke work. Nevertheless, training and hard work paid off as I manged to improve my time – thanks goes to my coaches, the ASA and Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club for the organisation. I am now looking forward to continue with my training so as to improve my times in future competitions, both locally and abroad” – Sarah Demicoli
Gilbert Bartolo and Robert Vella and Lilian Calleja and Nathalie Gauci took second and third place respectively to complete the Malta-Gozo-Malta race podium.
The Club introduced changes to the format of the race this year, which meant that the approximate distance of 5.5km was extended to over 6km. Stronger than usual currents in the North Comino Channel gave a tough start to the 118 swimmers undertaking the swim from Hondoq ir-Rummien to Marfa Bay. As swimmers reached Comino they gained some respite from the currents, though a moderate to strong swell made for some challenging swimming. The tough challenge athletes faced through these conditions were made evident by the results registered, where the majority of the athletes clocked slower times over the previous year.
Despite suffering cramps for most of the race Dylan Cachia, who had a very good open water season, did not disappoint. Cachia also had stiff competition from the young Andre Camilleri who has been shadowing him throughout the season. Only nine seconds separated the two athletes.
“I started off the race with a comfortable pace, but after the first kilometre I started getting cramps which I had to contend with throughout the remaining duration of the race. Definitely not a pleasant experience but nevertheless I am very satisfied to have retained the title”- commented Cachia after the race.
Third placed was Isaac Micallef.
With eyes firmly set on race favourite Maya Schembri Rodgers, it was National Triathlon Champion Hannah Pace who claimed the honours in the end, edging Schembri Rodgers by five minutes minutes. Pace has been absent from this race since 2012 but – “Despite being a longer than usual route and quite choppy in some areas, I thoroughly enjoyed the race. This is really a very special race – the waters are clean and clear and we are very lucky to have such an amazing race in Malta”.
Third female was veteran Isabelle Zarb.
Trophies were presented to the winners by Mr. Joe Caruana Curran, President, Aquatic Sports Assocation of Malta, Mr. Raymond Grech, President, Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club and Mr. Henri Mattocks, General Manager of the Ramla Bay Resort. The Race was held under the auspices of the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta (ASA) and supported by Garmin (Malta) and the Ramla Bay Resort.
Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club would like to thank the Armed Forces of Malta, Transport Malta, the Malta Police Force, Red Cross (Malta) and the volunteers and marshals present throughout the morning for their assistance provided throughout the race.