Shark cages abandoned
CAGED … Townsville to Magnetic Island swimmers will no longer have the protection of cages
FOR the first time in more than 50 years, the Magnetic Island swim is going cageless.
In an attempt to open up the historic swim from the mainland to the island for all swimmers, organisers of next year’s event are abandoning traditional shark cages, which only allowed for 11 solo swimmers to compete.
Committee spokesman Bruce Muller said sharks were still a concern in Cleveland Bay – which is regarded as a nursery ground for tiger sharks – however open swimming competitions around the world had managed to operate safely without cages.
"As much as it’s nice to cling on to history, I think it’s much more important to move forward and to have the opportunity to swim to lose the limitations of just 11 cages and grow and give the opportunity for more and more people to be able to participate," Mr Muller said.
The Magnetic Island swim was one of the few remaining open swim events in the world which still operated with shark cages.
The race was born in 1954 when three young surf lifesavers swam from Magnetic Island to the mainland in celebration of the visit to Townsville by Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr Muller, who had competed in open water swimming events overseas such as in Hawaii, said safety would be paramount with next year’s event.
"I believe that open water swimming anywhere does carry risks, but the committee is assuring everyone that adequate safety will be paramount and just as it is with open water swims right around the world," he said.
"We are looking at various options as to how we will go for safety.
"The plan would be that every swimmer would have a form of escort at the minimum form of a paddler per individual swimmer."
The 54th Magnetic Island Swim would be held on the last Saturday in June, to avoid the traditional stinger season.
"This time of the year is out of stinger season and the weather is much
calmer," Mr Muller said.
The swim would need the assistance of volunteer boaties.
"In the past there were only 11 cages, so only ever 11 solo swimmers and there needed to be a dinghy or other boat attached to the cage and observers," Mr Muller said.
"The logistics are still going to be very large, but I believe they are going to be much, much easier. There’s still going to be a need for a good number of boats to be out on the field on the day."