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Friday, June 12, 2015

The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim Goes On

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The 2015 Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (GCBS) will be held in Annapolis, Maryland on June 14th. One of the most popular open water swims in the Americas, the Capital Gazette News first covered the GCBS on June 13th 1982.

The coverage and the vision of the first participants played a significant role in the exposure and growth of open water swimming on the east coast of the United States.

"The 24th GCBS is organized under the incredible leadership Charles Nabit, a businessman from Baltimore, Maryland," says Brian Earley. "The swim is a benefit for the March of Dimes and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, an environmental advocate of the Chesapeake Bay. Well over US$2 million has been raised for national and local charities as well as educational scholarships for students are awarded at the event."

Over the last 33 years, the organizers have had to deal and plan around one of the strongest tidal flows of any open water event in the world. "The swim must be conducted to the exact minute in order to get over 600 athletes of all ages, backgrounds, areas of the U.S. and from around the world safely across capitalizing on the 60-minute slack tide," explains Earley.

"The GCBS is conducted from west (Annapolis) to east (Kent Island) in an area known as the 'hourglass effect'. Between the two bridge spans where the state of Maryland connects their eastern and western shores, the race is held over the shortest distance between two land masses. As a result, the tides move through their borders - north and south - faster than a person can walk down the street.

If you do not get the tides right, swimmers are taken south or north begging disaster if the one hour when the tides are not moving across the channel. With the assistance from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration, these tides are predicted with pinpoint accuracy.

The weather is also a factor. The GCBS has never had a rain-out and the weather for this weekend is predicted to be sunny and 83 degrees F. With the exception of the 2012 event where the last 20% of participants had to be picked up because of approaching thunderstorms, the GCBS has had a miraculous 33 events without a rain or storm cancellation

This weekend should be another grand event.

Historic photo from 1982 provided by Brian Earley of the Cynthia Earley Scholarship Fund.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association


  1. I've done the full GCBS 4.4 mile crossing once, the mile swim event twice in butterfly, and tomorrow I'll be escorting my blind swim partner Mark Rew in his second attempt at the mile. His 47:10 swim last year, was successful, but he's not satisfied with last place, so he's aiming for under 40 minutes tomorrow! Every swim is a success when it is completed safely though. Wish us luck!

  2. There are many reasons that The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim shows up on so many "favorites lists.” It is well established, having started officially in 1986. It is a large swim with over 500 swimmers in the full 4.4 mile crossing, and several hundred in a one mile challenge on the same day. It is WONDERFULLY supported by local kayakers and boaters, the Coast Guard, professional organizers with electronic timing and a battalion of volunteers. GCBS is a BEAUTIFUL location with a historically significant and imaginatively engineered bridge as its centerpiece. The full crossing is NOT a beginner's swim, as the tidal flow and chop can make it quite challenging, and it takes about 2-3 hours to complete.

    Those things all make it a very nice swim, but what makes it so memorable is the wonderful people I've met through the event over the last few years. From the Toretsky’s warm hearts and precise management, to the kindness of kayakers like Peggy Connor, all the members of the Arundel Breakfast Club from US Masters Swimming, and even random swimmers and staff I talked to, this is a heartwarming family that welcomes us in, no matter your experience level. I've met and swam with some of the greats like Craig Dietz and Bill Shipp in this swim, and many who never knew me or I them, but I am in love with this one. I think you will love it too!

    - World's Top 100 Open Water Swims: http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=World%27s_Top_100_Open_Water_Swims
    - Top 10 Competitive Open Water Races In America : http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2015/05/top-10-competitive-open-water-races-in.html
    - America's Very Difficult Open Water Swims http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2014/04/americas-very-difficult-open-water-swims.html
    - America's Top 100 Open Water Swims (#4 in 2014) http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=America%27s_Top_100_Open_Water_Swims



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