Pinchbeck will ‘Swim Across the Sound’ to help fight cancer

Experienced open water swimmer and 48-year-old Wilton resident Greg Pinchbeck will swim 15.5 miles across the Long Island Sound to help fight cancer during St. Vincent’s Medical Foundation’s 29th annual SWIM Across the Sound on Saturday, July 30.

Each year, the event raises money to support more than 45 cancer prevention, education, screening and assistance programs, and help provide financial assistance to cancer patients and their families through St. Vincent’s.

SWIM Across the Sound helps more than 30,000 people each year and has been recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Open Water Swims by the World Open Water Swimming Association.

The morning of the marathon, participants will take a six o’clock ferry from Captain’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport to Port Jefferson, N.Y. Around 8:45, the first wave of swimmers will take off from the starting line at Port Jefferson’s West Beach and make their way across the sound, back to Captain’s Cove.

In 2010, Wilton teens Stephen Holmquist and Mason Molina swam on a six-person relay team, which raised $6,310. According to St. Vincent's Health Services Communications Manager Caryn Kaufman, as of July 7, Pinchbeck is the only Wiltonian swimming in this year’s marathon.

Although it is his first time participating in SWIM Across the Sound, it is not Pinchbeck’s first time in the water.

“I started swimming as a kid and swam through college,” said Pinchbeck, a member of the Connecticut Masters Swimming organization.

“I was out of the water for 20 years and got back in about three years ago,” he said, “and over the last three years I have done about five or so races a year.”

In the 1990s, Pinchbeck participated in Swim Across America, a Hudson River relay from the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, N.Y., to the World Financial Center Marina in Lower Manhattan.

In 2014, he swam in the USMS National Championship Two-Mile Cable Swim in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the FINA World Masters Championships in Montreal. Last summer, Pinchbeck swam in the:

  • Betsy Owens Memorial Swims in Lake Placid, N.Y.

  • Fairfield YMCA Open Water Mile Swim in Fairfield.

  • Island Beach Two-Mile Swim in Greenwich.

  • LGOWS USMS National Championship 2.5K in Lake George, N.Y.

  • Montauk Ocean Swim Challenge 5K in New York.

  • Island Beach Two-Mile Swim in Greenwich.

  • Point-to-Point Compo Beach Swim in Westport.

Just last month, Pinchbeck finished second overall  in the Two Bridges Swim Under the Walkway, a five-kilometer marathon in the Hudson River. In August, he will compete in the USMS Open Water National Championship in Lake Lure, N.C.

For SWIM Across the Sound, Pinchbeck will be on a two-person relay team called Bullets. His teammate is Boston resident and fellow Gettysburg College alumnus Gregory O’Connor.

Pinchbeck said he is looking forward to the physical challenge of the marathon, but “more importantly,” raising awareness and funds for St. Vincent’s Medical Foundation.

“I do so many races just because I like to do them,” he said, “but it’s nice to be able to race while raising awareness and funds for a good cause.”

Although Pinchbeck and O’Connor have together raised more than $2,600 as of July 8, it’s still short of their $4,000 goal, and Pinchbeck encourages anyone interested in donating to do so.

To support the Bullets team, donations can be made online here or by mailing a check, payable to “SWIM Across the Sound” with “Marathon 2016 Bullets” written in the memo section, to SWIM Across the Sound, St. Vincent's Foundation, 2800 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06606.

Although it may take longer, Pinchbeck said, his goal is to finish the relay in seven hours.

“It will depend on conditions like waves and tides, and we don’t know if there’s going to be jellyfish or anything else,” he said. “A lot of things could get in our way.”

Water temperature in Long Island Sound ranges from approximately 70 to 74 degrees this time of year, and recreational boat traffic, choppy waters, strong winds and jellyfish are not uncommon. To ensure safety, fully staffed medical boats and underwater search and rescue teams will be strategically positioned throughout the field.

Each swimmer will also be assigned an escort boat with an onboard official who will observe and monitor his or her progress.

After the race, all swimmers will be recognized for their participation during a 7 p.m. ceremony and post-SWIM party at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport, where top male and female solo swimmers and relay teams will be awarded.

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