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People power creates Port to Pub swim

Port to pub

With entries to the Rottnest Channel Swim harder to score than Beyonce tickets, a group of swimmers who missed out on the ‘fun’ have created another opportunity alongside the 60th anniversary of the event with their Port to Pub Swim next March.

Training all year for the iconic Rottnest Channel Swim only to miss out on an entry with a limited race capacity led to a lot of disappointed goggled folk. Instead of navel gazing, an enthusiastic bunch of swimmers decided to take matters into their own hands.

WA’s open water swimming golden girl Ceinwen Roberts had missed out on a Rottnest berth in 2015 for the second consecutive year. Despite having just completed a triple Rottnest crossing (and the first person to do so, if you don’t mind) and many international marathon swims under her multi-coloured swimsuit, the luck-based ballot system had yet again denied her an entry.

“People train all year round and while you do the little ocean swims around WA throughout the year, the focus is on the Rottnest Channel Swim and even if you get an entry, it’s one day and then it’s all over,” Ceinwen explained. “I missed out again this year and so had a lot of my squad, so everyone was feeling pretty flat after training so hard.”

Former president of the Rottnest Channel Swim Association John Guilfoyle planted the seed that perhaps with her experience and popularity within the community, Ceinwen could do something about it.

“John had tried to set up a swim himself called the Big Splash which ran for a couple of years,” Ceinwen said. “He said to me ‘we need someone like you to get the swimming community together and start another one up.”

Never one to avoid a challenge, Ceinwen latched on to the idea and with the support of her husband, local community groups and plenty of keen swimmers, she waded through hours of planning, meetings and research to make the inaugural Port to Pub Swim a reality in 2016.

“It’s so exciting, I’m learning new things and meeting new people every day,” Ceinwen enthused. “We have had meetings with the Rottnest Channel Swim Association for their guidance plus we have so many volunteers putting their hands up. We’ll have the Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club helping at the start line, the Fremantle Sea Volunteer Rescue Group out in the middle – the work those guys do is really incredible – and the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club will help at the finish line.”

Ceinwen and her event management team want a race for swimmers, listening to what they want to see in the race. Plenty of inspiration has come from the original channel swim, which Ceinwen believes is the best open water swimming event in the world.

“I’ve done a lot of international swimming events, including the Manhattan Island swim which is meant to be one of the world’s most prestigious events and without a doubt, Rottnest Channel Swim is the best,” Ceinwen said. “The event handles do many people and gets them all across to the island safely and smoothly, it’s amazing.”

Rather than considering the Port to Pub competition, Ceinwen believes it is the perfect chance for swimmers to have another crack at the incredible feat of swimming to Rottnest. Considering the historic milestone of the 60th anniversary of the first channel swim is next year (Gerd von Dincklage was the first in 1956) and the hundreds of expressions of interests submitted by swimmers, the building excitement for the event indicates it is exactly what the swimming community is looking for.

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