The Save The Bay Swim, Rhode Island, on August 13 has more than just its 40th anniversary to celebrate. The 1.7-nautical-mile, open-water journey from Naval Station Newport on Coaster’s Harbor Island, across the Narragansett Bay East Passage to Potter Cove in Jamestown, is listed by Open Water Swimming as one of America’s Top 50 open-water swims. Located in the coastal town of Newport, it was named an ideal destination swim by Active.com. It draws nearly 500 athletes and the Save The Bay Swim celebrates progress in cleaning up Narragansett Bay since the first Save The Bay Swim in 1977.

The Save The Bay Swim celebrates 40 years of open water swimming this summer, in an estuary that was once determined, by the University of Rhode Island, to be best used by the state as a sewer. In the early years of the Swim, swimmers often emerged from the water with oil and tar balls on their skin and swimsuits. Last year, swimmers reported seeing schools of menhaden beneath them.

But this swim might never have been born if not for a young environmentalist named Trudy Coxe, who refused to take “no way” for an answer. The fledgling non-profit organisation, Save The Bay, was looking for ways to highlight the value of Narragansett Bay, and Coxe remembered the time, a decade earlier, when she and two friends swam across the Bay from Jamestown to Newport on a whim (nevermind a failed attempt or two before they succeeded). When she presented the idea for a Save The Bay Swim to then-executive director John Scanlon, he said, clearly and loudly, “no way, no way, no way.” So, Coxe snuck the idea into a conversation with the editorial board of the local newspaper, The Providence Journal, and when they loved the idea, the rest was history. The very first swimmer to sign up for that very first swim in 1977, Edgar Mercado, still does the Swim today.

 

The Save The Bay 40th Anniversary Swim and fundraiser is open to up to 500 swimmers and unlimited “virtual swimmers.” You can find out more here.