Organizers cancel swim portion of YMCA Wrightsville Beach Sprint Triathlon over bacteria levels

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 2:32 PM EDT
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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Organizers of the upcoming YMCA Wrightsville Beach Sprint Triathlon have canceled the swim portion of the event after swimming advisories were issued due to elevated bacteria levels found in Banks Channel.

Organizers considered moving the swimming portion of the Saturday morning triathlon to the ocean but it wasn’t possible due to the layout of the course. The triathlon will instead be a “run, bike, run” duathlon event.

“Putting people in the water would be very risky for infection, gastrointestinal stuff, people that are immune compromised, we just unfortunately — we can’t put people in the water, we can’t put 1,000 people in the water when there’s a swim advisory and the state is saying do not swim,” said race director Tom Clifford.

“We understand and know this is frustrating and very disappointing. The WB Sprint swim is iconic and we made several calls to figure out if the tides would cycle out the water by tomorrow and we were told it would take up to a week for the water quality to return to normal levels. We are also very disappointed to have made this decision, but we will still put on the best race possible for you,” organizers said in a statement posted Friday afternoon.

On Friday, state recreational water quality officials issued advisories against swimming at four locations in Banks Channel off Waynick Boulevard. They believe that stormwater runoff from recent heavy rainfall contributed to the high bacteria counts.

Those locations were:

  • Public sound-side access between Snyder and Seashore streets
  • Public sound-side access between Taylor and Bellamy streets
  • Public sound-side access approximately 150 yards north of Lula Street
  • Public sound-side access at the corner of Waynick Boulevard and Sunset Avenue

A map of the proposed swimming route would have participants cross Banks Channel, beginning at a point between Snyder and Seashore streets and ending at Seapath Marina near Dock Drive.

“It’s very tough call — lotta people come here for the swim, they love the swim — I love to swim so it’s very disappointing for us just as much as it is for the athletes and it’s a lot more work,” said Clifford. “It just makes it a unique situation. Over the last 16 months or so we’ve all had to adapt and change constantly, and this is one of those times.”

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