The words on the back of this year’s Hamptons Swim To Fight Cancer T-shirts perfectly summed up the event’s mission: “We came, we swam, so they could conquer.”
The fourth annual event, hosted by the Town of East Hampton and the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, and conducted by Swim Across America, gave swimmers the choice of a 3-mile, mile or half-mile swim at Fresh Pond Beach in Amagansett on Saturday morning. And while pushing their physical limits and trying to finish their respective races as quickly as possible were certainly priorities for those in attendance, the swim was less about competition and more about camaraderie and helping those in need.
The swim raises money for cancer research, with half of the funds going to Fighting Chance in Sag Harbor, a free-of-charge cancer counseling and resource center. The remainder goes to fund cancer research at various institutions, including the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Swim Across America conducts open water and pool swims from Boston to San Francisco to raise money for cancer research and treatment facilities, and has raised more than $50 million since its inception 25 years ago.
The swim featured a mix of year-round residents, as well as people who vacation on the East End or come out from the city for the weekend. What unites them is their dedication to eradicating cancer and the fact that the disease has touched their lives in one way or another.
Rod McClave, 39, of New York City finished first by a wide margin in the 3-mile race, meaning he has won the race in each year of its existence. McClave, an accomplished open water swimmer and triathlete by trade, said after the race that the Hamptons swim is his favorite event of the year. He finishes the 3-mile race as quickly as possible, he explained, so he can be out of the water and get a short break before joining his young niece in the half-mile swim.
Like almost everyone joining in the swim, McClave has a personal story to share about how cancer has affected his life. Two years ago, he lost four friends to cancer in just six weeks. Thoughts of them are ever present in his mind when he’s competing in the Hamptons swim, he said.
“It was unbelievable,” McClave said, moments after finishing the race on Saturday. “I was devastated. It affects all of us, but it seems to have been really pronounced for me in the last couple of years. So, I do it in honor of my four friends who died and everyone who keeps fighting.”
Georgi Bogetti, 14, was one of many young East Hampton Hurricanes swimmers who got in the water on Saturday morning. She’s entered the event every year it has been in existence, since she was 10, and said it has taken on special meaning for her as she has watched her father, Jeff Bogetti, battle brain cancer.
Georgi is one of the top distance swimmers on the Hurricanes team, and was one of the top finishers in the 3-mile race on Saturday. Her father, a member of the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, was out in the water on a stand-up paddleboard to help guide the swimmers throughout the course.
Georgi said that this year, she was the captain of “Team Jeff,” recruiting a group of swimmers who raised money in her father’s honor, and that it was particularly nice for her to be able to see her dad out in the water.
While swimming in long-distance events is nothing new to her, Georgi said that knowing what her father has endured helps her get through the tough parts of the swim. “If he can get through cancer, I can get through a 5K,” she said.
In total, 103 swimmers participated on Saturday, according to East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad member and race director Jim Arnold. As of Monday, money was still trickling in for various individuals and teams who did fundraising, but Arnold estimated that the event most likely raised about $150,000 for Swim Across America, half of which will go to Fighting Chance.
Arnold said he was proud of the local East Hampton community and the Ocean Rescue Squad for supporting the Swim Across America event and making the community proud.
“The local community came out strong to support a really worthy cause,” he said. “And ocean rescue members volunteered their time so graciously. Our swimming community out here is huge. We’re so lucky.”
For more information about Swim Across America and the Hampton Open Water Swim, visit www.swimacrossamerica.org.