Grand Bahama News

Bernie Butler Swims back with two new categories

Forty-five swimmers took to the ocean at Lucayan and Coral Beach on Saturday in the Bernie Butler Open Water Swims 2022, a new event separating it from the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) Annual fundraiser, held in Freeport each year.

Though swimmer turnout was lower than during the races’ heyday, many familiar local faces and families turned out to support the new event, ranging from ages 10 to 80 years young.

Bernie Butler Swims Race Committee member Robbie Butler, competing for the 50th time, said, “It was an almost perfect day for swimming with just a slight chop closer to shore and a slight current helping everybody along.

“No records were broken but there were some fast times and some very promising young swimmers are starting to make a name for themselves.”

Over the years, the BASRA marathon regularly attracted swimmers and supporters from all over The Bahamas, the USA, Canada and the UK, making it one of Grand Bahama’s most popular events – and defiantly heralding the end of summer.    

The swims committee this year separated from the BASRA fundraising event, as the growth of the event had escalated, and opted not to hold the accompanying beach party at Coral Beach, but instead a trophy presentation at the Grand Bahama Sailing Club. 

BASRA though was on hand to provide rescue support, captained by Chairman Captain D’Von Archer, assisting the other support boats, kayaks and paddle boards that stayed with the swimmers.

This was the 50th anniversary of the swim, which was first staged in 1971 and re-named the Bernie Butler Open Water Swim to commemorate Bernie Butler’s tireless work for this event, as one of the founders of the race. 

In addition to the traditional Bernie Butler 1.35 mile marathon, there were two new categories: the John Bradly 5k swim, which is double the original distance and the Bert Bell one-mile event for the more casual or new swimmers. 

The races were named in honor and memory of Bradley and Bell who died during the COVID lockdowns and were major figureheads in the BASRA race organization for many years.

“It was important to my dad that the marathon was successful every year,” said Stacey Bradley-McBride, race swimmer and committee member. 

“It is fitting that they named the 5k after him as he was the one who pushed to have that distance added as a race. 

“My father and mother taught us about giving back and helping where we can. It is an honor to carry on the tradition of supporting the Bernie Butler open water swims as he has done for the past 35 years.”

During the medal and trophy presentation at the Grand Bahama Sailing Club on Saturday afternoon, awards were given out by master of ceremonies, race participant and committee member Godfrey Waugh. 

He was assisted by Craig Stewart and Robbie Butler, who presented the trophies which were a selection of intricately decorated conch shells and sea biscuits crafted by local artist, Sissel Mosvold Johnson.

Winners were announced in all three race categories, (see race winners list). 

Isabella Cuccurullo, who is only 11, normally trains six days a week with the YMCA Wave Runner but spent the last few weeks practicing with Bradley-McBride for the open water swim, in which the youngster placed third overall in the female category.

“The race was excellent,” Isabella said.

“I swam the tractional race. In the past years I’ve swam the mile. I’m really proud of myself, especially as I won my age group and I came third overall.

“However, I did swallow a bit of water. It was a bit rough, but not too bad, but it was funnier swimming the longer race and I loved the sprint to the finish boat.”   

Despite the change of venue and event, there was quite a bit of community support, with vendors supplying a variety of food and drinks and the traditional Rotary Club burgers and hot dogs were on sale.

Race committee member Andrea Thompson noted the money raised from entry fees and the afternoon event will go back to the community.  

“The cash raised by the event will be used to teach underprivileged children how to swim, plus a donation will be made to Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association,” Thompson said.

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