By Christopher Tobutt
A crowd of onlookers at West Bay dock cheered a 37-year old man, Oly Rush, the last 100 yards of his amazing 65-mile swim around Grand Cayman. Children grabbed handfuls of the sargassum seaweed, as men raked the way clear on the shore where an EMS ambulance was waiting (just-in-case). But when Mr. Rush finally stood up, with a smile on his face, he seemed amazingly fit and full of energy for a man who had just spent more than 36 hours swimming non-stop. He began his epic swim at the exact same spot 5am on Monday 16 May, to raise money for Plastic Free Cayman, and has so far raised more than 16,000 KYD. The funds raised will help Plastic Free Cayman to hire staff to support outreach, education, advocacy to take action to help reduce single-use plastic in the Cayman Islands.
Rush’s projected completion time was 30 hours, but he spent a good deal of time battling against grueling currents, so that he eventually finished at 6pm, instead of 11am. It isn’t his first mega-swim, and Rush, who comes from Devon in the UK has swum around the Isle of Wight on Britain’s South Coast, as well as a 100 mile stretch of limestone coastline in England known as the Jurassic Coast. Rush loves to use mega-swims to draw attention to his number one passion, which is keeping the seas and oceans clean and healthy by removing plastic trash, as well as educating people about the need to cut down on plastic waste. “We are raising money for Plastic Free Cayman who are reducing plastic pollution in the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean,” he said from an online video. “As a child I was a successful club swimmer and holidays were often spent camping on the stunning coastline in either Devon or Cornwall. All this time by the water seems to have had quite an effect and my friends seem to think I am ‘part fish’,” he said. “A lot of my focus is now spent on awareness swims, with the aim of preventing the plastic entering the ocean in the first place through education and behavioral changes. This enables me to reach a much larger audience with some huge, exciting challenges in the coming years.”
Vice-president of the Cayman Islands Aquatic Sports Association, Stephen Broadbelt was there to cheer him on. “It’s just an incredible achievement for anybody to swim that far,” he commented, “It’s further than the ultra-swims they do in the Olympics, and Oly’s just taken it to a whole other level. It’ll be something that I doubt I will ever see repeated in my lifetime.” Mr. Broadbelt said he came out to offer some help and advice to Mr. Rush and his team, “I did a few hours last night round at East End to help guide him through a tricky section – instead of going all the way round, outside the reef they kept going inside the reef. It was very shallow so they wanted someone to pilot them through there at night, to avoid the strong currents that were round the Eastern point offshore.”
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