The return of the Around The Island Marathon Swim in Atlantic City is taking shape.
The 22.75-mile swim around Absecon Island, last held in 2006, is set for July 14. It will start and finish at the Atlantic City High School crew boathouse on the city’s intracoastal waters near Albany Avenue. The 54th edition of the race is scheduled for a 7 a.m. start.
Fifteen swimmers from the U.S. and abroad signed up to compete in the Marathon Swim before registration closed April 12.
The Around The Island Marathon is part of the inaugural Jim Whelan Open Water Festival. In addition to the big swim featuring the 15 individuals, the event will feature relay teams of two to six swimmers also going around the island. Three teams have signed up.
The event also will have a 2K race and a 400-meter race. They’ll be held after the marathon concludes.
The Jim Whelan Open Water Festival is a fundraiser for Whelan’s Whales, a youth swimming program named in honor of the late Whelan. The former Atlantic City nayor and state senator was a star swimmer for Temple University and the Atlantic City Beach Patrol. He was a leader in teaching kids to swim and a great supporter of the Around The Island Swim.
Whelan's Whales Swim Program
Whelan's Whales is a swimming program started by the organizers at the Brigantine Aquatic Center for Atlantic City youth. The program is held at the Martin Luther King Family Center in Atlantic City and the goal is to teach kids (K-8) how to swim, especially in a beach town to protect their safety and promote wellness. Robin Taylor, owner of Brigantine Aquatic Center, is the organizer of the program. Thursday May 31, 2018.
“It takes an incredible athlete to do this swim,” said race director Karen Bown. “The athletes do thousands and thousands of yards in the water, plus cross-training. Everyone sends in a resume, and we have a selection committee of five individuals to make sure the athletes are up to the challenge. We just had our third meeting with the city of Atlantic City about our safety plan for the race. Safety is the most important thing.”
The field of marathon swimmers includes Victoria Dolceamore, 51, of Margate, who is also the event’s ambassador; Eric Tucker, 45, of Brigantine; and Mike Gemelli, 48, of Rutherford, who spent his summers surfing in Wildwood as a boy.
Others in the field feature impressive swimming credentials.
Bill Leonard, 40, of Ottawa won the Canadian Open Water Series in 2014. Stephen Rouch, 39, of Indianapolis won the 2017 Barra Award for outstanding open water swimming and contributions to the sport. Bridgette Hobart, 56, of Lake Hopatcong, swam a 37.9-mile race in Seneca, New York, in 2015. Others include Bryan Hill, 30, a former University of Iowa swimmer, Beth Jackson, 44, of Bedford, England, Ryan McCabe, 34, of Washington, D.C., and Juan Gabriel Acosta, 36, of Colombia.
Dolceamore did the Around The Island Swim in 1991 and was part of a relay in the event in 1999.
“It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Dolceamore said. “I’ve always loved open swimming, and I’ve really excited to bring it back. I did the 30K in Morocco last year. I practice in the bay, the ocean and the inlet. The key is to have a good trainer (near you in a boat). After mile 16, you start not thinking, and a trainer gets you through it.”
Tucker has done “30 to 40” full-distance Ironman triathlons.
“It'll be fun to do,” Tucker said. “I’m not a speedster. I’m hoping to finish under the 10-hour time limit. I’ve been doing triathlons since I was 14 and first did the Ironman at 20. The swim is probably my weakest leg of the triathlon, but I’ve gotten better because if you go slow, the swimmers beat you up.”
Gemelli is an assistant men’s and women’s swimming coach at St. Francis College, in the Bronx, New York.
“I played soccer in high school and wasn’t a swimmer till I was about 30,” Gemelli said. “I was a surfer, but started getting heavy. I took up swimming to get in shape, and it took on a life of its own. I’ve heard about the Around the Island Swim for a long time. I was really excited when I got the news about it, and I got right online (to register). I’m training hard, mostly in the pool.”
Paul Asmuth swam the 22.5 miles around Absecon Island 12 times during a legendary career tha…
The event’s Festival Personnel staff has eight people, including Bown, Ray Peden, the meet referee, Sari Carroll, the assistant race director, Jeff Lancaster and Chuck Taylor, communications directors, Brieanne Lewis, the volunteers director, Robin Taylor, the fundraising director, and Dolceamore, the ambassador.