More than 140 swimmers will travel to here this week to compete in the 35 Annual Swim Around Key West Saturday, June 4. The 12.5-mile endurance swim will include competitors from 21 states stretching from California to Maine and international competitors from Switzerland and India. Florida will send entrants from 25 different towns and cities.
Participants will swim the circumference of the island individually or in teams of two or three. A record 75 swimmers will attempt the event solo this year, each accompanied by a kayak or support boat that will provide protection from motorized watercraft and carry food and drinks for the swimmer. The swimmer may not touch or hold onto the kayak at any time or stand up or touch the ocean bottom. No fins, snorkels, wet suits, body suits or devices that give extra buoyancy, propulsion or skin protection are allowed. The majority of solo swimmers will complete the distance in five to six hours, but participants have as long as eight hours before the course closes.
In addition to the solo event, six two-person relay teams and 18 three-person relays are entered in the race. Relay teams generally charter a motorboat to transport team members between entry points. There are no land entries for swimmers. Two-person relay members will each swim 6 miles continuously and three-person team members will swim 4 miles each. The event starts and finishes at the west end of Smathers Beach on the Atlantic side of Key West, Fla. The first wave of swimmers will take off at 9:30 a.m., with the official start at 10 a.m. Slower swimmers can take the extra half hour to assure favorable tides through Key West Harbor, Fleming Cut and Cow Key Channel.
The historic, round-the-island event is the longest-running sporting event in the Florida Keys. It was founded in 1977 by Anna Fugina, who began swimming as therapy to assist recovery from a car accident. She completed the first swim in 12 hours, 59 minutes, improving to 8 hours the following year due to careful consideration of tidal currents. Fugina remains an active part of the event and will swim in a two-person relay this year. The current record finishing time is 3:31:28 set by Gabe Lindsey in 1999.
Last year, the event raised $2,000 that was donated to the Key West High School Cross Country Team. This year’s Sponsors include the Lexington Hotel of Key West, Quality Inn, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Key West Southernmost Runners, First State Bank, Keys Evangelistic Ministries, Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, Coca-Cola and Zico.