It was all down to the wire as the fight for the Garmin BSJ Malta Gozo Malta Open Water Swim race title was a three-horse race between Robert David Vella, Gilbert Bartolo, and Simon Zammit.
The trio swam in unison throughout the race. There was no clear winner as they battled the strong currents that the channel is notoriously known for.
In the end, it was Robert David Vella who emerged as the overall winner. He completed the race in three hours, 23 minutes, 35 seconds, a mere two seconds ahead of Gilbert Bartolo. Four seconds behind Bartolo was Simon Zammit.
Seventeen swimmers signed up for the full distance, covering over eleven kilometres.
Departing from Marfa the swimmers, who were accompanied by support boats along the way, crossed from Marfa to Comino en route towards il-Ġebla tal-Ħalfa in Qala, where a buoy signalled the turnaround point for the second part of their leg. Strong westerly currents thwarted any attempts for course records as the swimmers battled to keep as much as a straight line as possible from Comino to Marfa.
Following the trio’s impressive swim, the fourth swimmer to complete the race was also the first female Veronica de la Rocha Manchon who completed the full distance in 3 hours 33 minutes, and 53 seconds. Anjelika Ruggier was the second female to finish. She was followed by Gozitan Felicienne Mercieca.
“This was such an epic race. It has been a while since we saw this kind of racing. The three swimmers kept us wondering until the last minute as to who would win the race. What was so satisfying is to see the level of sportsmanship between the three, who were obviously in contention for the top prize,” said Euchar Camilleri, secretary general of Birkirkara St Joseph Sports Club, at the end of the race.
The Gozo-Malta Race saw swimmers compete in two categories.
Category A was reserved for swimmers undertaking the distance without an individual support boat, whilst Category B saw swimmers being supported by their own crew.
The Male winner of Category A was Alistair Cook, who was followed by Michael Grima and Ben Psaila.
The female category was won by Nicol Cremona who just had two seconds to spare over Leah Satariano. In third place was Rosalia Segarra.
Category B saw Luca Vella and Maya Schembri Rodgers emerge on top.
Following Vella on the podium were Jonathan Sammut and Ryan Muscat. Whilst Nirvana Micallef and Kyra Jade Debono completed the females’ podium.
Unfortunately, the punishing conditions meant that some swimmers were forced to retire to ensure their safety.
“It is of course disappointing to see swimmers stop after months of training, however, one cannot control the elements and their safety is paramount,” said Camilleri.
Overall and Age Group winners were presented with their trophies by Mark Gaglione, representing Medcomms Ltd, agents of Garmin in Malta.
In a statement, the Birkirkara St Joseph Sports Club thanked Garmin Malta, Transport Malta (Directorate of Ports & Yachting), Armed Forces of Malta, the Police Force and LabrandaRiviera Hotel & Spa, Red Cross (Malta) and Joseph Borg, the club’s representative in Gozo for their support towards the Garmin BSJ Malta – Gozo – Malta and Gozo – Malta swims.
Garmin BSJ Malta – Gozo – Malta Results
1. Robert David Vella (3:23:35); 2. Gilbert Bartolo (3:23:37); 3. Simon Zammit (3:23:41)
1. Veronica de la Rocha Manchon (3:33:53); 2. Anjelika Ruggier (3:43:15); 3. Felicienne Mercieca (4:03:56).
Masters A: Bernard Farrugia (3:56:07). Masters B: Christopher Demicoli (3:34:17); Masters C: Hadrian Bonello (4:24:05), Isabelle Zarb (4:21:59).
Garmin BSJ Gozo – Malta Results (Category A)
Men’s category: 1. Alistair Cook (1:37:46); 2. Michael Grima (1:59:06); 3. Ben Psaila (2:04:20).
Female’s category: 1.Nicol Cremona (2:03:33); 2. Leah Satariano (2:03:35); 3. Roslia Segarra (2:27:54).
Masters A: Karl Joseph Rizzo Naudi (2:11:35); Kristina Camilleri (2:43:20).
Masters B: Mark Xerri (2:31:29).
Masters C: Joseph Zerafa Boffa (2:31:26) –
Garmin BSJ GozoM-alta Results (Category B)
Men’s results: 1.Luca Vella ( 1:37:31); 2. Jonathan Sammut (2:04:04); 3. Ryan Muscat (2:20:48).
Women’s results: 1. Maya Schembri Rodgers (1:41:09); 2. Nirvana Micallef (1:52:41); 3. Kyra Jade Debono (2:01:38)
Masters A: Ian Formosa (2:40:39). –
Masters B: Trevor De Giorgio (3:00:00) –