COLOURFUL SCENE: Competitors in the 2004 Convent Beach to Main Beach swim await starter?s orders.Photo: ADAM HOURIGAN.
COLOURFUL SCENE: Competitors in the 2004 Convent Beach to Main Beach swim await starter?s orders.Photo: ADAM HOURIGAN.

Iconic ocean swim

By TONY WHITE

twhite@dailyexaminer.com.au

YAMBA surf star Jacob Lollback is the first to admit winning tomorrow's Convent to Main Beach Classic is out of reach, but he wouldn't miss the ocean swim race for the world.

The 17-year-old, and the likes of iron man competitor Hugh Dougherty, are back markers in the 1100m handicap event and will be conceding those at the front of the pack upwards of 11 minutes.

And weaving through a swarming pack of over 300 swimmers also creates another challenge.

"We're (the back markers) are sort of handicapped out of it, but it's a great, fun race and you just try and enjoy it," Lollback said.

"It's a different race from what we normally do in surf life saving, a race that's really enjoyable.

"Getting through the pack can be interesting. You try and find a clear way through, you look for open water or gaps in the field, but if you go through the middle, you've got to be careful.

"You can get cut off and trapped. Mostly it's better to go around people out wider.

"I generally try and stick with 'Huey' (Dougherty) and drag off him a bit."

Lollback admits getting stuck in the middle of a thrashing pack can lead to a few bumps and knocks.

"It's not so bad for us (surf swimmers), we're used to that sort of thing, but for pool swimmers it can be difficult," he said.

This year mark's Lollback's fifth attempt at the Convent to Main Beach Classic -- the event, started in 1988 with 50 competitors -- now considered an icon on the national ocean swim calendar and a record field predicted for this year.

The brainchild of Yamba Surf Life Saving Club identity Barry Cribb, competitors from south to Melbourne and north to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast make the annual trek to the friendly seaside town.

Hundreds of spectators line the shoreline to take in all the action.

Cribb has swum in every Convent to Main Beach Classic, but will be missing from this year's line up after a recent operation.

"I'm handing the baton to Bill Dougherty as the event's eldest competitor," Cribb said.

Cribb is 77 and Dougherty, 76.

Apart from the swimmers a flotilla of safety craft and around 50 auxilary staff from the Yamba SLSC work in a support capacity.

"We'll have at least three rubber duckies, half a dozen rescue boards and ski's and a surf boat spread around the course," Cribb said.

"I've had calls from all over the place, even from Melbourne and Deniliquin.

"A lot of people will be coming from the Brisbane area and there's also a busload from Mullumbimby coming.

"It should be a great day."

Entries will be accepted between midday to 2pm on Monday and from 8am until 11am on race day.

The race commences at 11.30am.



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