Cameron Bellamy of South Africa has become the first person in history to complete the highly complex swim around the island of Barbados. His unprecedented swim began on Sunday November 11 at about 11:20 am. Hundreds of swimmers from around the world were already at the Carlisle Bay start as they were taking part in the annual Barbados Open Water Festival. There was an atmosphere of great excitement on the beach as they gathered with many other interested onlookers to cheer him on. Unbelievably, he swam for almost 41 hours and completed the 96K swim at 4:06 am on Tuesday November 13. According to the Marathon Swimming Federation there are only three documented non-stop, unassisted sea swims in history that have been longer than Cameron Bellamy's incredible swim around Barbados!
The seemingly impossible feat of swimming all the way around the island of Barbados by the South African will be remembered forever by all who witnessed the accomplishment. His is a highly unique and unbelievable story dating back to his first "long swim" across the English Channel in 2012. Swimming this channel, after only one year of swimming, should perhaps have been an indicator of the great moments that would follow in his open water swimming life. In June 2018 Bellamy completed the challenging Oceans Seven swims and joined an elite group of only 11 swimmers to have completed the seven toughest channels. Even before completing the Oceans Seven he already had his sights set on swimming around Barbados and had begun training in earnest.
On September 7, 2018, Bellamy set out on his first attempt to swim around Barbados. He spent 27 hours in the water and swam 66K, from Pebbles Beach on the south west coast to Animal Flower Cave on the north coast via the Atlantic facing East coast. After 24 hours in the water, a shift in the winds and adverse currents off River Bay caused conditions that were exceedingly difficult. He dug deep for another three hours and made it past River Bay to the Cave where he aborted the swim, realising that he still had the "distance of the English Channel" to complete the circumnavigation. Exhausted and with sore shoulders and suffering with a highly painful "salt mouth" he returned to his hotel, admitting that the swim - around the jagged coastline, battling tough conditions on the south east and north coasts including back wash from the cliffs - was more difficult than he expected.
?He had put up a great fight and surpassed previous attempts by about 40K. Local swimmers and the community in general were in awe of his attempt even though he hadn't reached the finish line he had set for himself. However, his tenacious nature was apparent when about 24 hours after the first attempt he announced he would try again. "I am the fittest I have ever been and now I know what I have to do to make it all the way around". He travelled to Australia, intensified his training and applied a more specific and scientific approach to his training regimen in the waters off the Gold Coast. He swam up to nine hours a day and focused on maintaining a target heart rate among other goals.
Just over 8 weeks after his first attempt Bellamy returned to the island in early November to await a "weather window": a period of at least two days when the wind and sea conditions would be favourable. Many in the local community were doubtful that November would provide the needed conditions given that the wind speeds are generally higher in this month and sea conditions unpredictable with a much greater probability of "north swells" causing difficult conditions. Swimmers, boaters and surfers all expressed concern that it would be nearly impossible to "get around North point" and the "south-east coast will be too choppy" and the "sea conditions bad". But Cameron Bellamy pressed on with his plan and with the assistance of various online wind models identified Nov 11-13 as the window to swim.
The support crew consisting of about 30 core volunteers acting as kayakers, feeders, observers and boat captains, along with paramedics were assembled. An entourage of eight boats was utilised at different times over "four legs" of the swim. The conditions were not as favourable as the September 2018 attempt and even as he started the swim, on Sunday November 11, a squall passed over the south of the island bringing heavy rainfall, wind and choppy seas.
Well, needless to say, Cameron Bellamy, a man who exemplifies the very definition of perseverance, fought through wind and bumpy water on the south, literally ploughed through huge waves in the Kittridge Point/Ragged Point areas of the south-east and continued up the Atlantic facing East coast. When he reached his "nemesis" from the first attempt - the North Coast - conditions were extremely challenging - large swells caused him to detour out to sea to avoid being washed up on the rocky cliffs of the North. Totally focused and maintaining a similar stroke rate throughout he defeated the unforgiving North coast and entered calmer waters on the north west coast of the island. Flagging a bit at this point he had to draw on his steely resolve and the positive energy of his highly supportive crew to keep moving along the west coast. ?In forty plus hours this was the only point where he said, "I had a few negative thoughts". Throughout the duration of the swim, he never faltered, taking the time to give a thumbs up and thank-you to volunteers as shifts changed and new support crew took over (pictured below).
News of his success in rounding the North Point spread like wildfire on the island and across the globe where thousands were following his progress by live tracking. Social media exploded with enormous numbers of shares, likes and comments on the posts updating his progress and excitement grew that this time he would make the finish line. Twelve hours later Bellamy swam past the wall of the Deep Water Harbour in the island's capital city of Bridgetown and swam across Carlisle Bay to his starting point in front of the Copacabana Beach Bar. A large and jubilant crowd, many of whom had tracked him continuously over the two days of his swim, welcomed him as he erupted from the water and walked up the beach. He had done it. He never let up, he maintained his focus all the way and history has been created. Cameron Bellamy swam around Barbados!
?Cameron Bellamy, has been nominated as the "Man of the Year" by the World Open Water Swimming Association. The award is meant to honour a swimmer who best embodies the spirit of open water swimming, possesses a sense of tenacity and perseverance and has positively influenced the world of open water swimming during the year. This highly talented, totally dedicated, endurance athlete who uses his incredible abilities to raise funds for a children's charity (The Ubunye Challenge) is an outstanding role model. In fact, one could argue that his positive influence extends well beyond the world of open water swimming.
Kristina Evelyn - Barbadian. Enjoys promoting open water swimming in Barbados and meeting open water swimmers from all over the world.