On the shores of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Swim Argentina hosted the International Winter Swimming Open Cup for a second time. The event took place on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of August in front of the Los Cauquenes Resort & Spa. The water temperature was around 4° C and lured 35 swimmers from Argentina, Chile, Finland and France to the event, many returning for their second year.
The level of competition was high and there was a focus on longer distances.
Friday started with short distances of 25m freestyle and breaststroke, increasing to the 100m and 200m events and the 25m x 4 relay ended the day. The longer distances were particularly popular.
There was a party atmosphere, with music playing and people dancing as part of their pre-race warm up preparations. Coca Cola was one of the sponsors of the event and provided PowerAde drinks for refreshment. A mobile sauna and a heated tent kept swimmers warm between and after swims.
In the water the atmosphere was very competitive, with all participants focused on achieving impressive results. The races finished by lunchtime so participants got to explore the mountains by dog sled in the afternoon.
The Saturday events were the 50m freestyle, 450m freestyle and a marathon swim,where the swimmers kept swimming as long as they wanted.
Swimmers were only allowed to participate in the marathon swim after completing the 450m distance, during which, they were assessed as to whether or not they could continue swimming. The spectators cheered the marathon swimmers with the longest distance covered being 1950m by Lalo Le Lan in the men’s category and 1050m by Micaela Muñoz Delahoz in the women’s category.
In the evening the swimmers gathered at the Hard Rock Café to celebrate the days achievements with cocktails and live music.
On the Sunday participants could use their day to rest of explore. Many swimmers went skiing but I chose to go on a trip to Martillo Island, also known as Penguin Island to walk amongst the Gentoo penguin colony. We stopped on the way and I was also able to see Imperial Cormorants and other birds such as Skuas, Giant Petrels and Black Browed Albatrosses. We also observed South American Sea Lions and Southern Fur Seals. Just before reaching Penguin Island we sailed by the famous Les Eclaireurs lighthouse.
On Monday 35 swimmers had hoped to complete a crossing of the Beagle Channel from Chile back to Argentina, as a relay. Unfortunately, much to everyones’ disappointment, the relay was suspended because of poor weather conditions, which meant that the Naval Authorities of Chile would not authorise the swim because of the risk of the conditions to participants.
Understandably the swimmers were frustrated and some were brought to tears; the relay had been the main challenge of the event. However Swim Argentina are doing their best to organise another attempt this year for the same group of people.
Later that day, Ushuaia Extremo, a sponsor of the event also gave swimmers the opportunity to go on a snow bike excursion. We were taken deep into the Tierra Del Fuego mountains where we cycled around the filming location of the movie Revenant. Even though the cancellation of the relay had lowered peoples’ spirits, the amazing views, snow biking adventure, followed by a delicious meal of Patagonian lamb, brought a satisfying end to the day.
Safety support for the whole event was provided by the Argentinean Navy and the Governor of Tierra Dl Fuego also supported the event. Once again we have to raise our biggest shout out for Matias Ola for his hard work in organising the event. He was the first winter swimmer from Argentina and his passion for cold water has led to the growth of winter swimming in his beautiful home country. Matias and his team are aiming to organise an even bigger event next year, with plans to have floating pool established by then. And before that, his team and all winter swimmers are welcome to enjoy the other IWSA events in 2018, including the World Championships in Estonia!