After a hiatus due to COVID restrictions, the Grand Bahama Conchman Committee says it’s expecting healthy competition at what will be the 34th edition of the popular sporting event at Taino Beach, Grand Bahama, on November 5.
“We are really pleased that the GBPA Conchman Triathlon is back after a two-year absence and entrant response is looking good,” said Wima Stefanutti, the new chairwoman and the first woman to take on this role, following Christopher Baker and Bert Bell.
Stefanutti said the excitement is growing as the date for the event gets closer.
“The newly introduced mini sprint distance will make a welcome addition to the main event and hopefully will encourage more people to try their first triathlon,” she said.
The Conchman Triathlon was started in 1986, the brainchild of the late sports guru Bell, who felt that it would be a great idea to do something similar to the successful Hawaiian and Bermuda ironman competitions.
Bell hooked up with Ambrose Guthro and Craig Stewart, the presidents of the Freeport and Lucaya Rotary clubs, respectively, to create Conchman as a positive community event that would contribute to charitable organizations, involve local athletes and bring in visitors.
The first race was held at Xanadu Beach and consisted of a 1,000-metre (half-mile) swim followed by a 25-kilometre (15 mile) bike ride and finishing with a 5-kilometer (three mile) run.
It attracted 166 participants, many from the United States and Canada, and became established as an annual event.
Over the course of its history, the Conchman moved to the Lucayan Hotel area and then to its present venue at Taino Beach, where it has become one of the most popular local sporting events as well as an attraction for international athletes.
“It is great to see the annual Conchman Triathlon returning to Grand Bahama,” said Nuvolari Chotoosingh, the Northern Bahamas Ministry of Tourism manager.
“This event is one that is really looked forward to by residential and visiting athletes alike. It no doubt will herald the return of such sports tourism events that attract visitors to our shores to compete and at the same time enjoy an island getaway.”
Local Competitor Donna Idol has taken part in 31 of the 33 triathlons so far, and is looking forward to making this her 32nd.
“I am not particularly competitive,” Idol said.
“But I really enjoy having the Conchman as a get-fit target to train for during the preceding couple of months, and I’m very happy that it is back.”
The main race is the triathlon sprint, consisting of a 750-metre swim, a 20-kilometre bike ride, and a 5-kilometre run with individual age groups in male and female categories.
There are categories for team events and students and for Iron Kids, a shorter course consisting of a 200-metre swim, a 2.5-kilometre bike ride, and an 800-metre run.
New this year, is a mini sprint designed for those who have always wanted to do a full triathlon but were intimidated by the long distance.
The organizers also feel that after a two-year break, it will help people ease back into the sport to build up for another go at the main event. The mini sprint is almost half the distance, with a 500-metre swim, a 12-kilometre, ride and a 2.5-kilometre run.
The cost of entry is $75 per person but would be reduced to $50 if paid by September 30.
The mini sprint entry fee is $40, the team fees are $75 per team and students $25. There is no charge for the Iron Kids category.
Activities on November 5 will start at 7:30 a.m. for the main sprint triathlon, 8:15 a.m. for the mini sprint, and 10:30 a.m. for the Iron Kids.
“We will also be honoring two of our sadly departed members, Bert Bell and John Bradley, whose organization and support contributed so much over the years to making this event a success,” Stefanutti said.
Bell, a well-known teacher and swim coach, died in early 2021, and Bradley a few months later, shocking the sports community in Grand Bahama.
Both men played a significant role in competitive swimming in the country and both served as president of the Conchman Triathlon as well.
While Bradley and his family ran the results and registration for the event, Bell was the event’s first organizer.
“You would hear Bert’s booming voice, calling all triathletes to the start,” said Vicki Stafford, a women’s tri winner.
“He always gave the rundown on the event, where you go in, where you go out, transition area protocol and the racecourse. He never needed a microphone; and though he was loudly intimidating, he was a real softy when it came to the Iron Kids and helping them become good competitors.”
Bradley was also a consistent presence at Conchman and Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association events.
“The Bradley family are the key to any sporting event success,” said Sarah Kirkby, former tri participant.
“John will be greatly missed as a consistent presence at these events. I think it’s wonderful they are honoring him and Bert. These are special Grand Bahamians in our community who have truly participated in the island’s success.”