Good weather favors bay swimmers Linthicum engineer, last year's runner-up, lands first this year

June 15, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF


An article Monday about the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim race reported that the swim started in 1982 as a way to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. The article neglected to say that for the past several years the race's sponsor and beneficiary has been the March of Dimes.

Last year, Matt Leimkuhler braved chilly water and strong currents to come second in the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim race.

This year, Mother Nature accommodated Leimkuhler and the other swimmers. With a 68-degree water temperature, weak currents, a soft breeze, a 2-foot chop and sunny skies, Leimkuhler, on his second try, won the event.

He crossed the finish line in 1 hour 27 minutes 12 seconds, to cheers from hundreds of people awaiting the finishers at the Chesapeake Bay Marina on Kent Island.

"This year's a real treat," Leimkuhler said. "Last year was my first time, and I had no idea how I'd do. So this year, I wanted to do a little better."

And he did. Leimkuhler said that his training after last year's finish helped him win this year. Leimkuhler, a 26-year-old engineer from Linthicum, beat the second-place swimmer by 47 seconds.

In the women's competition, Jane West, 32, of Silver Spring, took first place in 1 hour 31 minutes 52 seconds.

The 549 swimmers from 20 states, their ages ranging from 15 to 74, began at Sandy Point State Park and swam the span of the Bay Bridge to the marina.

Coast Guard boats patrolled the waters and rescued any swimmers in trouble.

Organizers called the event a huge success. Only eight swimmers had to be pulled from the water because they could not finish. Last year, 120 swimmers, defeated by strong currents, had to be rescued, and several were treated for hypothermia. still far from 1992, when 283 of 331 swimmers were rescued because of strong winds and tidal currents.

"The real key to this event is to time the currents when they are the weakest. Today, we set everything up at just at the right time," said organizer Chuck Nabit.

Nabit gets help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Coast Guard in predicting the safest time for the swimmers.

The swim began as a way for then-Towson State University student Brian Earley to raise money for the American Diabetes Association, by swimming across the bay in 1982 and has grown from there. For the first time, Earley, who now lives in San Diego, did not participate in the swim because he was recovering from knee surgery.

Pub Date: 6/15/98

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