Colin Hill, FINA Open Water Correspondent

photos Giorgio Scala for Deepbluemedia

Although the Seychelles islands are generally blessed with blue sky’s this time of year, some unseasonal weather and heavy rain had caused some issues during the build, therefore today’s race was a water start instead of dive.

Women’s Race

With twenty-six women starting at 08:00 this morning, the race was packed with the world’s top ranked open water swimmers.

Ana Marcela’s coach confirmed that her training was going well and was hoping for a better finish than a very close fourth in Doha.

Sharon van Rouwendaal showed her form in Doha taking her first FINA/HOSA MSWS event and was hoping to repeat that in the Seychelles with similar water conditions.

Germany were the largest team with six in the women’s race but it was Italy who came through during a tough race.

After the water start it was Germany that took to the front of the pack with Italy’s Arianna Bridi deciding to tuck in at the back and stay out of trouble for the first few laps. But it wasn’t until half way around lap two (of six laps) that Ana Marcela Cunha took to the front that the pack was put under any sort of pressure.

This wasn’t to last as on the third lap the pace slowed and Cunha went onto her back to have a good look at the pack to see who was with her.

Everything remained pretty stable until the forth lap when Bridi took to the front and really stretched out the pack, so unlike a ‘V’ formation like geese flying south, the swimmers formed a long line, a sure sign of the pace picking up.

Often in elite open water races the swimmers will miss out the final feed in favour of keeping in with the lead swimmers, but with a warm 26 degrees most of the front pack elected to take on some fluids before the final lap.

The last lap saw three Italian swimmers side by side but Bruni called out, obviously feeling like her space was being invaded. Bridi went to move into clear water and the two swimmers became entangled losing several spaces in the pack. The referees gave out a yellow warning flag for the incident.

The finish of the women’s race was close with four swimmers in contention and it came down to a photo finish with Bridi managing to get herself back to the front to secure first, with Ana Marcela true to her work and making improvements at this event in second and Italy’s Martina De Memme gaining an impressive third for the Italian team.

After the race, Bridi said:

“It’s my dream to be here in the Seychelles, although the water was very warm for me it was a good race, I felt very tired at the end.”

Men’s Race

Starting three hours after the women’s race, the clouds opened and the rain poured down during the athletes briefing, but this soon passed and the drone was back in the air to capture the footage for FINAtv.

Although clouds loomed ominously throughout the race with the tropical island backdrop the rain held of for the remainder of the swim, showcasing the Seycehlles in all its glory, air temperature of 30° with a constant sea temperature of 27°.

With the absence of the French team in the men’s race, there was again a strong showing from the Germans with five swimmers in the race of 26 swimmers.

As with the women’s race Ferry Weertman, Olympic and current Series Champion was going to be hard to beat. Before the race Ferry stated that he’d just gone through a big training period, as he’s aiming to peak later in the season.

Shortly after the start Hungary’s Kristof Rasovsky took to the front of the pack, normally when someone goes to the pack early, you wouldn’t expect them to feature at the end of the race. But no so with Kristof who has shown his quality time and time again and is strong swimmer happy to put the other swimmers under pressure early in the race.

The men’s event had two Seychelles swimmers, the Payet brothers, both of whom had competed in Doha and their goal was to finish in the allocated time (30 mins after the first swimmer touches the finish), the fourteen-year-old Damien had a great start, staying with the lead pack for most of the first lap.

Similar to the women’s race you had one of the main contenders sitting right at the back of the pack, with Ferry Weertman with his distinctive slow stroke rate looking at ease as he bid his time in the early stages.

A good race was being swan by Jack Burnell who was always sitting behind the lead swimmer, seemingly waiting for his moment to pounce.

The strong German team took to the front at times with the lead switching between them and Kristof, but at lap four Kristof’s kick started and the pack stretched out again, losing more swimmers off the back of the pack. It was in lap four (of six) that Ferry started to make his way through the pack to cover a breakaway of five swimmers going into the final lap.

The Italians were also suddenly up at the front, as the pack split, Ferry Weertman taking a more direct line across the back straight with Kristof losing several places by taking another line.

As the pack got back together and bunched, Ruffini saw his chance and went around all the other swimmers to get clear water and with two turn buoys to go and 400m finish straight he gained some clear water and with once glance back 200m before the finish he outsprinted a world class field to finish clear in front.

Jack Burnell showed his tactics worked well by gaining second place and third went down to a photo finish with Frederik Muffels (GER) in third.

Very happy with his win, Ruffini said:

“I timed my sprint well, I held back until the last lap and went for it, I’m so happy to win in this beautiful location, it is like paradise.”