The bloke on the PA system at yesterday's Cole Classic kept saying: "Everyone's a winner here today."
This isn't strictly true. The big winners were Josh Beard (first man home) and Luane Rowe (first woman), who swam away with tickets to ocean swims in Vanuatu.
Moi, I got a bag with a copy of The Sun-Herald, a medallion (does that mean I'm a winner?), a snack bar and a sun-protection lotion sample.
But even though I'm a grumpy old bitch, I'm not complaining. It was a fabulous swim and a huge improvement on last year's mess.
Fairfax, the newspaper proprietors, have run the event for the past two years, which has led some die-hard ocean swimmers to bemoan the commercialisation of one of Sydney's 'iconic' ocean swims. And it is expensive at $47 - $57 if you miss the early-bird entry cut-off.
But today, despite erratic weather, it ran like clockwork. The organisers learnt lessons from last year, so the swim started on time, no buoys were shifted around the course mid-swim and the starting swimmers didn't collide with the swimmers coming back in.
The swim start has now been permanently moved from Manly to the sheltered Shelly Beach and is supposed to end at Manly. But because the swell was a bit big (didn't bother me) the finish was moved to Shelly - as happened in 2009. The organisers weren't taking any chances on the newbie entrants.
Apparently, there were around 4500 swimmers in the 1 km and 2 km events.
The early morning weather was miserable, after sheeting rain during the night, so I half expected the swim to be called off. But the gods shone down on Shelly and gave us glimpses of sun mixed with light rain.
Davo and Precious Princess (PP) were my swim mates. Poor old PP hasn't done any exercise for about nine months (she reckons walking to the bus stop counts) so she felt it. Afterwards she complained of having pain down her left side mid-swim. PP is 18 and a little prone to exaggeration. She also partied hard last night and Friday night.
Davo was in the 7th wave of swimmers (old blokes) and I was in the 10th with all the other 50+ women. Let me tell you, these birds are rough and tough as nails. It was like a scrum as we raced into the water after the starter gun, and throughout the swim/race I was poked and prodded by my 'sisters'. Don't ever let anyone tell you that women over 50 are mellow. There was a lot of repressed anger in my cohort!
After the swim, Davo said he thought he'd seen baby sharks, which is exactly what I saw about 5 metres (not good with depths, so might be wrong here) beneath me and 1 km or so into the swim. The little critters were cruising below like choreographed ballet dancers. Apparently, juvenile dusky sharks hang out at Fairy Bower on the western side of the beach. Two sightings couldn't be wrong. PP was in such pain so she saw nothing during the swim, except her life flashing before her eyes. Serves her right.
I loved this swim. The water was glorious and I saw lots of fish.
My only misgiving, if it's true, is about the profit that Fairfax makes from the event. Mr Oceanswims, who runs www.oceanswims.com, claims Fairfax makes a $100,000 profit. If this is the case, I reckon they should come clean and donate any leftover cash into the surf lifesaving community.
Still, I'll be back next year just for the fun of it.
The photos are of PP and Davo with their 'winners' medals, the view to Manly and looking at Shelly Beach from the esplanade.