2022 GCBS Info

The first Great Chesapeake Bay Swim since the COVID pandemic was at risk of being canceled due to bad weather, but the forecast of severe thunderstorms in the early afternoon was thankfully wrong.

That forecast did convince several of the 38 kayak volunteers to sit this one out, which is completely understandable. Because the 4.4 mile race had a late start (target 1315, actual 1330), and because Sandy Point State Park had warned us that they may close the park to new visitors before noon due to capacity issues if they get too busy, many of us parked at the Bay Bridge Marina and paddled over before the race.

The paddle over was … interesting, given the 10-14mph southerly winds, but we made it. The start of the 4.4 mile race had pretty good weather and lighter than expected winds, but they picked up around the midway mark, causing 2’+ confused waves to throw you around a bit.

We had about 20 paddlers supporting the 4.4 mile and around 7 or 8 supporting the 1 mile in the end (many of which gave a hand with the end of the 4.4 mile too). Just like all the years past, every bit of feedback received from Race Command and the swimmers greatly appreciated having kayakers out there.

Kudos to Earl and May on the 1 mile support team for going above and beyond helping a swimmer who was having a medical issue. That swimmer had to be rushed to the hospital after May went to help after she went off course and looked in distress, Earl helped transfer the swimmer to a power boat, and the power boat took her to a waiting ambulance. The swimmer is doing fine, and she, the Safety Fleet Coordinator, and I are very thankful that Earl and May were there. Even if we don’t have as many kayaks as we would like, we still clearly make a difference.

Official numbers have not been received yet, but the last pre-race update had 150 1 mile swimmers and 570 4.4 mile swimmers, a bit lower than historical but not bad for a pandemic. Looking at the Linmark results, only 485 4.4 mile swimmers and 148 1 mile swimmers logged a finish time. This post will be updated if and when official numbers are obtained.

The following websites have content (mostly pictures) about this year’s swim:

2019 GCBS Info

2019 was the first year the race was fundamentally changed due to the weather (which was a direct result of lessons learned in 2016). There was a Small Craft Advisory active on race day, so the 4.4 mile swim was canceled. In its place was a 2.2 mile swim which was essentially a larger triangle in the same location as the 1 mile swim, with swimmers starting and ending at the Hemingway’s beach.

This was absolutely the right call, as there would have been no way the safety fleet (specifically kayaks) could have provided any meaningful support to swimmers crossing the bay in those conditions (not to mention having to concentrate solely on not becoming a swimmer ourselves, while maybe making some progress into the winds).

32 kayakers helped out this year, braving the weather. The one mile swim wasn’t too bad as the winds were reasonably calm, but the modified 2.2 mile course wasn’t quite so lucky. The winds were frequently blowing at approximately 20mph, gusting to near 30mph it seemed. At the farthest edge of the triangle from the shore, it was pretty rough. We even had some light (but pelting) rain showers here and there.

A total of 796 swimmers from both races were all accounted for at the end of the day, and every one of them that commented about the race were glad it happened and were very appreciative of the volunteer fleet’s presence.

Here is a group photo of all the kayakers present (at least, at the time the photo was taken).

Here is a link to the Capital Gazette story about the swim: Capital Gazette

The official results from LinkMark Sports, plus links to their photo album and YouTube videos, is here: LinkMark Sports official results

Here’s a link to the few photos I was able to take: Mike Matthews’ GCBS 2019 public photo library

And here are some images taken by Jim Ransom from the shore:

Here are some pics Michele Mintling took:

2018 GCBS info

The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim on June 10, 2018 was another good day on the water. The weather was threatening, but held (storms stayed to the north, wind stayed reasonably calm during the race, although the easterly breeze did pick up a bit after the race). The sun never came out, but that’s OK. We had about two dozen kayakers on the 4.4 mile swim and a little over a dozen on the 1 mile swim, and we all were busy. The decision to start the race a half an hour early so swimmers wouldn’t be pushed into the rather obtrusive paint barge was successful for that purpose, but it did present tidal challenges for the main span area. Over 60 swimmers had to be pulled, well above average.

Based on the LinMark Sports results, there were 532 4.4 milers and 271 1 milers.

The Capital Gazette has a story with a photo gallery at http://www.capitalgazette.com/lifestyle/ac-cn-bay-swim-0610-story.html.

2016 GCBS Info

For those that participated this one, they knew it was one of the most challenging ones in memory. There was a small craft advisory with winds coming from the northwest. Said winds were over 20mph, guesting far higher, creating conditions that were “challenging” (or perhaps “hazardous”) to small craft such as kayaks. Swimmers probably benefited from it, as it pushed them across in record time. But this did lead to some lessons learned and the event became more the better for it.


2017 GCBS Info

Weather conditions were just about perfect for the 2017 swim & support. A great turnout of 44 kayaks total (45 kayakers, as one was a father & son tandem sit-on-top) supported 647 4.4 mile swimmers and 294 1 mile swimmers.

Fellow paddler and awesome photographer Dom J Manolo has published the following photo albums to Facebook:

The Safety Fleet

The Swimmers

The Capital Gazette ran this story after the swim: Smooth Day for Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (photo gallery)

Lin-Mark sports (organizers of the swim itself), shared these photos: SmileBox

Stories like this, from one of the 4.4 mile swimmers, really drive our value (and the reason I personally do this) home (outstanding job, Ron!):

Hi Linda,

I want to pass along a story about an amazing volunteer who changed my race. Maybe you might even know who I am talking about and can pass along my words. I know there were 700 volunteers but you never know.

This was my second swim. The second wave left from the beach and thrashed into the water. As always, people were bumping into each other and swimming over body parts. I couldn’t catch my breath and was getting completely overwhelmed. The more I thought about it, the worse I got. Breathing every other stroke wasn’t frequent enough. I was panicking-like panicking.

I stopped to catch my breath and was treading water. I couldn’t believe it. This kind man on a kayak noticed me and asked if I wanted to hold on. He was amazing. He spoke to me in such a kind way and completely talked me through my panic. He let me hang on the front and said it wasn’t a rush. He introduced himself (I wish I could remember his name but my brain wasn’t working). He just kept telling me to breathe. I hung there for what seemed like a long time but was probably just a few minutes. That interaction changed my race. I was able to calm down and go back to the race.

I wish I knew his name because I would like to send him an email/note. He was on a white kayak with a red stripe. He was right in the beginning when the swimmers first turn under the bridge. He was on the left.

I’m crying as I write this because that is the difference he made.