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Meet the 60 year old with a podium finish at the Cole Classic; plus event results

On Sunday 6 February, the annual Cole Classic ocean swim took place off Shelly Beach in rough conditions. Australia’s largest swimming tournament, occurring on the first Sunday in February, it consists of 1km, 2km, and 5km open water challenges.

The 2022 Cole Classic, marking the 40th anniversary since its foundation, attracted almost 4,000 participants.

We are pleased to report that the star of our article leading up to the event placed third in the 2km swim! Lexi Harrison placed first in the 2km and Annika Fowler second. In the men’s 2km Ollie Signorini placed first, Logan Kaye second and Duke Wieland third. You can view the results for the 1km and 5km races here. 

Article from 3 February (prevent):

W also for Jen Brits 

This year, the one to watch is local lass Jeanette Brits. In last year’s Cole Challenge she placed third female and 11th overall in the 5km challenge, covering the distance in 63 minutes, 5 seconds – an easily-calculated average speed of 5km/hr. And yet she’s a surprisingly youth-like 60 years of age – double or triple the age of many of her competitors.

“2021 Cole Classic was the first time I have ever competed in a 5km race,” Ms Brits revealed to Manly Observer. “I swam in my first Cole Classic in the 2km event in 2016.”

Last weekend, on 30 January, Ms Brits participated in the annual Big Swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach. She covered the 2.8km distance in 29:39 minutes – fourth overall (men and women) and a full three minutes ahead of the nearest female rival.

She was also between three and nine minutes faster than all male and female winners from the previous four years – somewhat spritely for a 60-year-old! A phenomenal endurance swimmer, it appears she’s as much porpoise as person…

When swimming in these challenging long-distance competitions, which involve incredible physical strength and stamina as well as psychological determination, how does she attain a mental state to strive ahead and avoid fatigue and loss of willpower?

“When swimming longer distances I don’t have a particular song play list in my head or a set of thoughts to work through,” she considered, “however I do try to maintain an awareness of the scenery and conditions to avoid over-processing my energy levels. Swimming is definitely a “mind over matter” battle when competing in longer races. The body faces such fatigue and it’ll definitely try and convince you to alter your race plan!”

Any advice she can give to people thinking of taking up long-distance swimming?

“The advice I would give anyone starting longer ocean swims is to be patient with yourself. I have to work extremely hard every time I enter the water to maintain my fitness, but it’s important to be consistent and build fitness and endurance over time. It definitely is a long term investment.

“The reward for swimming on a regular basis is improved wellbeing and especially the benefits that relate to mental health. The feeling after an ocean swim can’t be sufficiently put into words as a swim in the morning sets one up for a great day!”

Drinks Express ocean swimming group enter the sea for their daily 6.30am swim at Manly Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

Bold and Beautiful

Ms Brits trains at Manly Beach at 6.30am every morning with the Drinks Express Team – named after captain Andrew Drinkwater, part of the Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad Manly (B & B) that consists of hundreds of active ocean swimmers.

“Moving to the Northern Beaches from Castle Hill six years ago,” she said, “my love of the ocean was reignited by the B & B swimmers, especially the Drinks Express at 6.30am. These folk are motivating and inspirational and I would not be swimming today were it not for this wonderful group!”

Because the Cole Classic encourages participants to raise funds for charities – swimmers raised more than $265,000 in the past two years for Black Dog Institute, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, Dementia Australia, and Leukaemia Foundation – the Drinks Express Team are seeking $10,000 in donations to support CareFlight.

CareFlight, founded in 1986 with just one helicopter, is a rapid-response critical care service that utilises a fleet of helicopters and planes with on-board doctors and nurses to transfer patients from accident scenes and between hospitals.

In Feb 2021, Mr Drinkwater’s brother Mark was involved in a motorcycle accident on the Bylong Valley Way near Goulburn River, fracturing his neck along with other life-threatening injuries. CareFlight provided vital medical assistance to keep him alive and transport him to hospital. He’s since made a full recovery and will be competing in the forthcoming 2022 Cole Classic alongside his brother.

CareFlight charity support page



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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor

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