Cam departed from St Peters Bay in Barbados at 8:18 am on Friday September 13 and touched a rocky outcrop in the scenic Moule a Chique area near Vieux Fort at 5:13 pm on Sunday September 15. He swam a distance of 150K. He was in the water for 56 hours and 55 minutes.
He had put in the training, nine months of solid swimming and built on his 2018 foundation when he had trained to swim 90K around Barbados. Over the months in 2019 he increased his training hours to 60 hours of swimming weekly. The water literally became his office.
Of course, in addition to the training there was other planning and preparations that go into an independent solo marathon swim. In this case even more so being that the swim was initially planned for the Florida Straits and then changed to Barbados to St Lucia in the latter part of August. This left only a few weeks to assemble new crew, secure a support boat and boat captain, fulfill all requirements by authorities on both islands, ship in needed items, hire medics and study the currents to ascertain start and finish points among numerous other details. Even when all was planned, unexpected weather caused the departure date to be moved forward by two days, which played havoc with some of the logistics.
Life on the support boat for three days was a highly unique and a truly unforgettable experience. In some ways it’s difficult to describe after the fact but one factor that is clear is the significant role of support crew in an independent solo swim, especially very long swims such as this. The support boat was aptly named “Imagine”, the perfect name really as the story that unfolded over three days at sea was well beyond our imagination!
Many ask if it became boring for those sitting on the boat moving at idle speed for three days. Quite the opposite really, because every minute of every hour the swimmer has to be watched from the boat by an Observer, accompanied by at least one kayak, given food and drink every half hour and every other hour a support swimmer is allowed to jump in and swim alongside the swimmer.
The Observer on duty was responsible for keeping the swimmer in their sight, noting wind speeds, latitude and longitude, stroke rate (number of strokes swimmer took per minute), sea/air temperatures and any other notable points, every half hour, for the duration of the swim.
The crew took turns with kayaking often in two-hour shifts, day and night, feeding and support swimming as well as documenting the trip with numerous video clips and photos. The crew became tired too, many suffering from sleep deprivation and several with seasickness but everyone was completely focused on Cam and his end goal. Generally, it all went like clockwork and was a shining example of what excellent teamwork can accomplish.
There were a plethora of memorable moments on the boat, too many to recount but a few highlights are likely etched in the memories of the crew for a lifetime.
As dusk approached on the first evening the sea became very flat and as the sun disappeared, an enormous moon rose casting a wondrous beam of moonlight across the tranquil ocean. At one point looking back from the boat Cam was caught swimming along in water lit by the moon-beam with two kayakers on either side. It was a remarkable sight. Kayaking that night was surreal. Sitting atop thousands of feet of incredibly still water in the vast open sea; the moonlight was mesmerizing and the setting so serene, just the slap of a swimmer’s arms hitting the water and two kayaks silently gliding on either side.
The days were very warm but the second day was a scorcher with air temps hitting 33 degrees C for several hours. Not unexpected as September is one of the hottest months in the Caribbean. On the second day the air temp was very warm from shortly after sunrise. Cam had been swimming for 24 hours. It was hot in the shade on the boat and on the water the heat was blistering. Even though the water depth was in the thousands of feet the top layer was warm to the touch – like a bath-tub of warm water. The heat caused Cam several hours of visible discomfort and the crew was substantially worried that he may not be able to make it till sundown and cooler temperatures – but he fought through it and plodded on, having extra ice in his drinks and putting ice and cold water on his head.
On that second night when dusk was approaching and the Barbados coastline had faded away a most stunning sunset ensued. Impressive hues of bright reds and oranges filled the sky and their reflection on the water created an illusion almost as if the water was on fire. The crew and Cam were spellbound, sheer beauty all around us and nothing but distant horizons in every direction. Then nightfall came and swimming through the long hours of darkness of a second night in the water.
Sunrise on Sunday was a defining moment – looming in the distance was the outline of the cliffs of the southern tip of St Lucia. When Cam was told St. Lucia was visible he stopped swimming and popped his head up as high as he could and seeing the land on the horizon set out with renewed vigour towards Vieux Fort.
Approaching the southern tip of St Lucia and the planned beach to complete the swim after 55 hours was another extraordinary moment. Cam was directed by the kayakers towards the beach, where a welcome party including his mother and the Prime Minister were patiently waiting, but a strong adverse current was encountered and forward progression was impeded. Even the kayakers were finding it difficult to stay the course. That plan was quickly abandoned and Plan B was hatched: head for the next beach! But the next beach wasn’t even in sight, apparently it was around a headland and probably about 2-3K away.
Aligned with Cam and the boats at this point and as far as the eye could see were majestic cliffs rising out of the water and providing a wonderful backdrop for an ending to this epic swim. The decision was made to swim over to the nearest rocky outcrop and “touch St Lucia” to end the swim. Somehow Cam dug deep, even after 56+ hours of swimming and made it to the land.
Cameron Bellamy became the first person ever to swim nonstop from Barbados to St Lucia: 150K in 56 hours and 55 minutes. He survived heat, jellyfish stings, two sleepless nights, sunburn, a horrific case of “salt mouth” which left his lips hugely swollen and cracked, extreme fatigue and very sore shoulders.
It was phenomenal. There are literally no words to adequately describe the exceptional story of Cam’s Caribbean swim. Cam you are an extraordinary human being and your support crew feels privileged to have been able to witness this astounding feat firsthand. Your “out of this world determination”, your dedication to the training required, your humility and your charitable efforts are hugely inspiring.
Cameron used this swim to raise funds for causes close to his heart: namely the Ubunye Challenge (southern Africa), the AC Graham Development Centre in Barbados, a facility providing educational and therapy support to special needs children, and the United Through Sport charity in St Lucia, aimed at teaching children and youth to swim. For more information and to donate, please go to: https://ubunye.web.app/
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