The ocean swims overseen by East Hampton’s volunteer ocean rescue squad in Montauk Saturday drew record numbers — 57 for the 2-miler spanning the Kirk Park and Ditch Plain beaches, 56 for the 1-miler, and 41 for the half-miler.
The swims benefited the Montauk Playhouse committee’s fund for the planned aquatic center there. Maureen Rutkowski of the committee said that fund-raising was proceeding apace.
“We’re getting there,” she said. “Our goal is $5 million — $4 million for construction and $1 million for endowment. It’s just not a pool, there’ll be a multipurpose community room too. We’ve raised about $2 million so far. Our goal is to break ground at the end of 2014 or in early 2015.”
“There was a chop and rollers, but not a [westward] sweep,” said the 2-mile winner, Rod McClave, who ran up the beach at Ditch Plain after having been in the water for 40 minutes, a time that Billy O’Donnell, who did the 1-miler, described as “fast as hell.”
“The times were a lot slower last year,” O’Donnell added, “because there was a westward sweep. This is the most I’ve seen, times two, I think. I guess the word has gotten out that this is a great course. It doesn’t get any better than this. . . . I wore a sleeveless wetsuit, which keeps you buoyant, high in the water.”
A boy who did not wear one for the half-miler was carried out by lifeguards, though Dick Monahan, a 71-year-old O.R. member who is an emergency medical technician, and who won five medals in the short course nationals recently, said he recovered quickly.
Monahan, when questioned about his national medals, said, “It’s not that I’m getting faster, it’s that my competition is getting slower.”
When told this writer had talked by phone the day before with Lynne Cox, who’s been described by Sports Illustrated as “the greatest open water swimmer,” and who’s to be at the Gubbins Running Ahead Nike store in East Hampton this Sunday from 8 to 10 a.m. discussing her newest book, “Open Water Swimming Manual,” McClave said, “Oh, wow! This wouldn’t even be a warm-up for her. The longest I do are 5Ks. Plus she swims in 30 to 40-degree water. I met her and Oliver Sacks once at Chelsea Piers [where he coaches]. I’m not a slacker, but in their presence I didn’t feel like a high achiever!”
Asked about his race, McClave, a former 50-meter freestyler in college, jumped into the lead from the get-go, “because I didn’t want anyone drafting me.”
“We were swimming into the sun, so you couldn’t see, but that was okay,” said Matt O’Grady, the fourth-place finisher, “because you knew where the shore was. The Ocean Rescue Squad is so committed to this race. They make it so much fun. You couldn’t find a safer swim.”
Lori King of Amagansett, who was sixth over all in 46:40 and repeated as the women’s 2-mile winner, said, “This kind of a swim is just as much of a challenge as a 22-miler — you never know what you’re going to get.”
In Florida in April what she got in Tampa Bay was sharks, and thus was pulled out with two miles left in the 24-mile swim she was attempting. When Cox’s name came up, King said, “She’s the queen of cold water swimming! I wanted to do the Catalina channel, but Lynne Cox advised against it — she didn’t think I was adequately prepared for the cold water. When Lynne Cox says no, it’s no, though I would like to try it some day.”
The day’s eldest competitor, 76-year-old Dieter Wunderlich of Warren, N.J., who placed 26th in the 1-miler in 29:04, said his times improved considerably after having had a quadruple bypass seven years ago.
“My daughter has a house out here. This is the first time I’ve done this race, though I race every weekend in New Jersey.”
Daniel Moreno was the runner-up to McClave in the 2-miler in 43:23. Sinead FitzGibbon of Sag Harbor was the runner-up to King, in 49:30. Angelika Cruz was third, in 50:00.
Andrew Winthrop, 17, won the 1-miler in 16:07, followed by Mark Casey, 51, in 17:43.
Abigail Doyle Hurlburt, 43, was the women’s winner, and fourth over all, in the 1-miler in 20:02. Katrina Garry, 17, who was 10th over all, was the runner-up to Hurlburt in 24:49. Laura Gundersen, 18, was third in 24:54.
Elizabeth Dix won the half-miler in 13:19, with Amanda Calabrese second in 13:29 and T.J. Calabrese third in 13:50. Julia Brierley was fourth in 14:47.