The 1-mile and 3-mile races have an unusual start. Del Monte explains his races:
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Of all the various courses in the open water world, the ship-to-shore courses are among the most rare. Why did the Escape to Lewes Open Water Classic decide upon this type of course?
Stephen Del Monte: The Escape To Lewes was born as a cousin to the award-winning Escape the Cape Triathlon. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry connects Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. In 2013 we started the Escape The Cape Triathlon. The event was an instant success and we wanted to add a second, non-competing event in Lewes.
We believe the open water swim is the perfect compliment.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Please explain the Escape to Lewes course.
Stephen Del Monte: The Escape to Lewes Open Water Classic course starts with a 12-foot jump off the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Once athletes enter the water, both the 1-mile and 3-mile swimmers head straight to a gated double buoy. The 1-milers turn right toward the finish, the three-milers turn left toward the breakwater wall, turn right at the wall to swim along the wall, then turn right to swim to the finish.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How many athletes participate in the Escape to Lewes event?
Stephen Del Monte: We’re expecting close to 1,000 swimmers
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you monitor people safely jumping off the ship and not jumping on one another?
Stephen Del Monte: We have this down to a science. All athletes are escorting by a handler off the boat. The handler makes sure swimmers who have jumped have cleared the area, then gives the next swimmer the OK to jump.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Like everything in the open water, there is an element of risk. The Escape to Lewes has been previously cancelled due to weather conditions. How do you determine when to cancel an event?
Stephen Del Monte: There are so many factors, but I would say the #1 reason – next to lightening – is wind. When the wind kicks up north of 25 mph, it make things VERY difficult for our water safety personnel. We use a few different apps to monitor our situation as well as the weather gear on the boat. “When in doubt, don’t go out.” Safety is our #1 priority.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Who is involved in the decision to cancel? What are the protocols that lead to that decision?
Stephen Del Monte: I discuss many scenarios with our technical director, the boat captain, as well as local marine authorities. Ultimately, the final decision lies with me.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: The Escape to Lewes continues to grow. What are the reasons for its growth?
Stephen Del Monte: The Escape to Lewes continues to grow due to our commitment to our athletes. They know we have their safety as our #1 priority. Additionally, you are only as good as your last event and we ALWAYS try and outdo ourselves. We are all about efficiency, athlete experience, communication, and hard work.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Please explain about the demographics of the event in terms of the percentage of men versus women and older versus younger swimmers.
Stephen Del Monte: In 2016, we had more women than men. Also, our swimmers tend to be a little older, but we are making strides to expand the open water swimmer movement into the junior programs…that is where our future lies and we are committed to showing these kids how much fun can be had outside.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are some of your future plans to expand or improve the event?
Stephen Del Monte: Our immediate goal is the execute a flawless, safe event in 2017. Beyond that, we want to continue to grow this race to as many swimmers as we can. I truly believe we can one day amass more than 3,000 swimmers.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What drives you and your staff to put on these events?
Stephen Del Monte: This is a loaded question. I don’t know what drives me, but I know what I don’t like…and giving anything less than your absolute best is a disgrace. I love what I do. I love the connection we can have with an athlete who is trying to overcome a hurdle in his or her life.
And why not? Why can’t we produce world-class events in southern Delaware? Who said it can’t be done? I want to show the world that right here along the southern Delaware shore is the Super Bowl of open water swimming, and I will not stop until that dream is realized.
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