GENERAL SANTOS CITY: Swordfish and dolphins crossed paths with iron lunged contestants of the annual Sarangani Bay or Sarbay Swim-Across-the-Bay over the weekend.
The exotic sea creatures seemed as if they wanted to join the 15-kilometer swim.
Jeboy Villar of the GenSan Gliders (4th placer) immediately shifted to backstroke from freestyle for fear that he might bump into approximately 10 dolphins playfully swimming along with him.
The dolphins roughly measured a meter and a half each, according to Villar.
His coach at the escort boat navigating about five meters away from him also warned him that more dolphins were crossing his way.
Villar felt anxious and just synchronized his strokes with the marine mammals.
The dolphins were sighted midway of the course where the current was noticeably strong.
It was also the same spot where champion team leader Jazz Babagonio of Koronadal 1 said they were thrown off course, causing about 20 minutes of lost time.
Event organizer Nemrad Butil said the current has always been the swimmers’ “ultimate burden” and might have also foiled the winning team from breaking its record last year of 2:54:35, a 17-minute and 59-second variance from Friday’s 3:10:34.
Butil estimated the current strength could bring a 40-horsepower boat of the Philippine Coast Guard off course.
“This is how challenging the race is this time,” Butil said. “But the swimmers said they were having more fun instead.”
Butil said the erratic current was the reason he moved the mass start of the competition an hour late to 5:48 a.m.
The sightings of the dolphins and swordfish, he said, was an indication that Sarangani Bay’s marine ecosystem “is still rich and the marine wildlife is friendly and tame.”
At least 18 teams initially signified to join the annual swim fest but was later reduced to 10 following stringent screening.
Davao Merchant Marine Academy placed second this year with a time of 3:11:34 while the University of the Philippines Team clocked 3:12:19 for the third place.
GenSan Gliders, Tinoto Team, Lagare Team, Kabacan Team, Pipay Team, Koronadal 2 and Polomolok Aqua Team finished 4th to 10th, respectively.
The bay crossing event is one of the highlights of the two-day 2016 Sarangani Bay festival, which ended Saturday.
It is also considered as one of the longest swim relay courses in Asia.
Every summer since SarBay was launched in 2006, Sarangani Bay has become a virtual swimming pool of professional and amateur swimmers craving to conquer the bay.
The champion, second and third placers got P50,000, P35,000 and P25,000, respectively while the rest of the finishers got P6,000 cash prize aside from the “Invaders” medal and trophies.