National female swimmer Vanessa Eugene made history last Sunday when she became the first woman to swim 14 Kilometers from Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa and Beach Resort to Rat Island in a time of 6 hours 58 minutes 10 seconds.
The 14 Kilometers swim is the first documented swim for this route, additionally, it will be ratified through the International governing body for Marathon Swimmer’s Federation (MSF) since the measured distance is over 10 Kilometers.
Sunday’s event started at approximately 6.21 a.m. when the official horn sounded on the Sandals boat and Vanessa ran into the water to commence her historic swim.
According to Channel Swim Coordinator Sue Dyson who performed duties as an independent observer, “The conditions at this time of year can be challenging with increased winds, sporadic rain showers, and changing currents. This proved to be true for this swim attempt.”
Dyson said, “Eugene made her way to Rat Island, the current was in her favor, reaching Rat Island in 2 hours 18 minutes. However, the currents around Rat Island and on her way back would cause her to swim another four hours.”
Sandals Aqua Centre Manager, Terrol Compton shared similar sentiments, “I know this bay very well; I have been working in this area for a long time. Where I live, I could tell that the wind picked up, so immediately I called the guys at the Watersports to prepare our Maser Craft and a Kayak on the vessel for support.”
“Fourteen kilometers is nothing easy, you talk about a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) road race and she is swimming, so when you look at the body resistance, the fact that you are in the water, the work that the body goes through to maintain and to keep a rhythm and a stride is nothing easy,” he said.
Upon finishing, Eugene was greeted by co-workers, family, friends, and hotel guests.
Also in attendance was Minister for Youth Development and Sports and Parliamentary representative for Gros Islet, Kenson and former Sports Minister, now Minister for Education, Shawn Edward.
At a brief celebration and as a token of appreciation, Eugene was presented with a noteworthy Gold Swim Cap donned with Marathon Swimmers Federation logo signifying this momentous swim by Channel Swim Coordinator, Sue Dyson and Sports Minister, Kenson Casimir.
“ I am very proud of Vanessa’s achievement, she is an individual that is committed to the sport of swimming at all levels, and gives back to the community by coaching, she is very passionate about the sport of swimming,” Casimir said.
According to Casimir, “The next generation could always look on her and see an example of a true patriot, somebody who is community oriented, somebody who’s a good social consciousness and that’s what she represents. Her achievement today is something we can all look back one day and say this is when Channel Swimming really took off in Saint Lucia.”
Minister for Education, Shawn Edward, relayed a WhatsApp message from Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre to Eugene congratulating her on her historic swim and many more swimming achievements in the years ahead.
Aqua Centre Manager at Sandals Grande, Terrol Compton, said “It’s a victory for women in Saint Lucia and for us here at Sandals, we are elated to have a team member who has a goal, a dream and can live it.”
Compton added, “Vanessa is an assistant instructor in Scuba, she a swimming instructor, one of the highest-ranking National Lifeguards, a member of the Executive of the Saint Lucia Lifeguard Saving Association, so what can I say, this young lady is outstanding, and ladies in Saint Lucia should be proud.”
“Going down to Rat Island from the Sandals Grande, despite the fact that you see Rat Island looking close, the swim was quite long. Going around the Landmark (Rat Island) it was a bit tough because of the sea swells in the area and heading back to Sandals Grande it was also tough because it was windy, plus sea swells,” Eugene told this reporter.
According to Eugene, “(Breathing) was a bit difficult, every time I breathe, the water goes straight into my mouth, so I had to time it in terms of breathing. I also encountered a lot of sea current which was quite tough as well, but at the end it was good”
She never thought of calling it quits, “At no point and despite the many challenging conditions that I experienced along the way, I never thought of quitting. This is what I set out to do, and I was determined to finish.”
What next on the agenda: “It’s in the making, when it’s ready I will let everyone know. For 2021, this was the final challenge swim for me,” Eugene said.
She thanked Team Sandals Grande for their support as well as Sue Dyson, Channel Swim Coordinator, Sandals support team and members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, Marine Unit.