His coach at the escort boat navigating about five meters away from him also warned him that more dolphins were crossing his way.
He felt anxious and just synchronized his strokes with the marine mammals.
The dolphins were sighted midway at the course of the race where the current was noticeably strong. It was also the same spot where champion team leader Jazz Babagonio of Koronadal 1 said his team was thrown off course, causing about 20 minutes of lost time.
Organizer Nemrad Butil said the current has always been the swimmers’ “ultimate burden” which might have also foiled the winning team from breaking its record last year of 2:54:35, a 17-minute and 59-second variance from their record of 3:10:34 this time.
Butil estimated the current strength can bring a 40-horsepower Coast Guard boat off course.
“This is how challenging the race is this time,” Butil said. “But the swimmers said they were having more fun instead.”
Butil said the erratic current was the reason he moved the mass start of the competition an hour late to 5:48am.
The sightings of the dolphins and swordfish, he said, is an indication that Sarangani Bay’s marine ecosystem “is still rich and marine wildlife is friendly and tame” which also points for another ecotourism option to be developed in the near future.
Eighteen teams enrolled for the event but were later reduced because of stringent screening measures. Some teams, like those from University of Mindanao, De La Salle University and teams from Koronadal and Cotabato cancelled due to conflicts in schedule.
Davao Merchant Marine Academy placed second this year with a time of 3:11:34 while the University of the Philippines Team clocked-in 3:12:19 in third place.
GenSan Gliders, Tinoto Team, Lagare Team, Kabacan Team, Pipay Team, Koronadal 2 and Polomolok Aqua Team ranked 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.
The bay crossing is the traditional signal of SarBay’s opening - the biggest beach festival in the Philippines. It is also the longest swim relay in Asia.
Every summer since SarBay was launched in 2006, Sarangani Bay has become a virtual swimming pool of professional and amateur swimmers craving to conquer the bay.
The champion, second and third placers got P50, 000, P35,000 and P25,000, respectively while the rest of the finishers got P6,000 cash prize aside from the “Invaders” medal and trophies. (Beverly C. Paoyon/SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)