PORTLAND — Scott Yeomans doesn’t pay much attention to who might be nearby on open-water swims. But he can tell you he was never completely alone Saturday morning when he won the YMCA Peaks to Portland swim for the third straight year.
As in past years, Yeomans, of Bethlehem, Pa., had one cousin, Beth Ansheles of South Portland, as his guide aboard a kayak. His wife, Kirsten, and more cousins waited near the finish line at East End Beach. And in the past, Yeomans would call his father, Frederic, back in New Jersey after each swim.
In April, Frederic Yeomans died at age 86.
“I kind of felt his presence throughout the whole race,” said Yeomans, who pulled on a T-shirt commemorating his father. “He was keeping me calm, keeping me focused. I know he would have been proud of what we did today.”
Yeomans completed the 2.4-mile swim in 48 minutes, 30 seconds under mostly sunny skies and an air temperature of 71 degrees. The 331 swimmers enjoyed calm seas at dead-low tide with a water temperature of 64. The winning time was nearly three minutes slower than in 2012, fulfilling organizers’ predictions that the low tide would slow the event.
Swimmers started in one of the five waves and nearly all were accompanied by a kayaker. Paddlers left shore in advance of each wave, their kayaks shining brightly blue, red, yellow, green and orange against the dark, shallow water. Kayakers, some sporting festive hats, and with balloons and flags decorating their craft, waited just north of House Island and joined their swimmers as they passed.
“It was a slack tide and we didn’t have any push so it was pretty much a straight swim,” Yeomans said. “The first quarter of the race you don’t have your kayaker so it involves more sighting. But once you get your kayaker you can get into your pace. You can keep your head down and focus on your stroke. That’s when you pick it up.”
Sam Manhart, 44, of Hampden (50:45) was the runner-up for the second straight year, finishing 2:15 behind Yeomans.
Kirsten Read of Arundel was the top female finisher (13th overall) in her first attempt at the swim, finishing in 55:08. Read, 48, edged Sarah Guerette of Portland, 32, by 1:35.
Read was pleased with her swim, given her recovery from shoulder surgery 18 months ago and the support she got from her husband, Bruce, who was her kayaker.
“It’s been a long road back from shoulder surgery so I’m really excited to be healthy again,” she said. “You keep up with whomever you can keep up with. You just go as fast as you can, have a good time and hope for the best. Whatever place you come in, you come in.”
The only surprises of the day?
“Winning was unexpected,” she said with a laugh. “And it was more painful than I thought it would be.”
Michael Leake, 35, of Bennington, Vt., swimming the event for a fourth time, repeated as the non-wetsuit class winner, finishing in 59:09. Leake’s kayaker was longtime friend Bobby Brown of Portland.
“I love this event because it helps raise money for the YMCA,” Leake said. “We don’t have a Y back in Bennington so to be able to help raise money here is a bonus.”
Carla Dropo, 53, of Beverly, Mass., was the top female finisher in the non-wetsuit class at 1 hour, 4 minutes and 33 seconds.
Japanese marathon swimmer Miyuki Fujita finished in 1:15:25, followed by hosts Yoko Aoshima of Falmouth (1:20:01) and Pat Gallant-Charette of Westbrook (1:26.46).
The field included swimmers from 14 states, the District of Columbia and Japan, and only 30 weren’t able to finish.