Tuset, Mangion first home in Malta-Gozo-Malta race
Same time for the top two in 5.5km swim
Swimmers had to battle hard against the strong currents and waves in the Gozo-Malta and the more daring Malta-Gozo-Malta open water swimming challenges organised by Birkirkara St Joseph (BSJ) on Saturday.
So difficult were the conditions that from the 72 who started the races, 15 had to retire in what organisers described as one of the most difficult channel challenges this past decade or so.
The 11km Malta-Gozo-Malta race was dominated by Jacques Tuset.
The Frenchman swam the distance in 3:13.34 to finish ahead of Simon Zammit, 3:24.55, and Gilbert Bartolo, 3:29.25.
Davina Mangion, the Malta open water women’s champion, was again the first to make the shore in her category on Saturday after 3:21.43 of hard swimming.
Marian Belsten was second in 4:05.05.
There was drama in the Gozo-Malta race as Robert Vella and Wayne Agius swam together for most of the distance before the sprint to the finish buoy at Marfa.
With constant support coming from their respective escort boats, Vella and Agius matched each other stroke for stroke, hitting the finish simultaneously in 1:36.13.
They were both declared winners after one of the most exciting finishes ever recorded in the 5.5km swim.
Richard Zerafa finished third in 1:41.13.
The young Hannah Pace was the first girl home in the Gozo-Malta race with a time of 1:41.19, confirming the good form she is showing in local open water championships.
Gail Sant was the runner-up in 1:59.27 ahead of Nadia Vella, 2:14.27.
Birkirkara SJ organised the races under the auspices of the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta. The main sponsors on the day were Power Bar.
The organisers also teamed up with Swim Aid in collecting funds for charity through these events on Saturday.
At the end of the races, Joe Caruana Curran, ASA of Malta head, presented trophies and mementoes to all participants of the channel challenge races.