Insiders insight into Vertical Blue 2016 Part 1
Dean’s Blue Hole is a Mecca for freedivers, and Vertical Blue is the most iconic competition on the freediving calendar. Now in it’s eighth edition, the nine-day competition attracts the elite in competitive freediving to the quiet Bahamian island of Long Island.
The Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands, southeast of Florida. To get to Long Island – the home of the deepest sinkhole in the world – you take an hour-long flight on an island-hopper from Nassau, the capital. Approaching the island, the plane flies over luminous turquoise seas and sandy cays, landing finally at Deadman’s Cay. At 130km long and 6km wide at its widest point, the island’s name is quite descriptive. There are several places on the island where you can see both the Caribbean and Atlantic seas at the same time.
The airport consists of a single runway and a simple one-room building. As a safety freediver for the second time, I arrived five days before the start of the competition for drills and training. The safety team, medical and media teams stay together at a little guesthouse on a beautiful creek, 20 minutes from the Blue Hole. We enjoy incredible sunrises and sunsets on the wide Bahamian skies, overlooking the calm Caribbean Sea.
Dean’s Blue Hole is located on the rougher Atlantic side of the island. But due to its unique and remarkable topography, the conditions are like that of a lake. (Which can sometimes mean poor visibility, as we have experienced on the first few days of the competition, and training days prior). The hole is protected on three sides by the beach and land, and the forth side is a shallow lagoon. Many freedivers and non-freedivers alike will have seen photographs of the hole, and arriving there for the first time and seeing it with their own eyes can seem surreal.
The island was devastated by a massive hurricane in October 2015. It has been sad to see the damage and destruction of familiar places, but it feels positive that this event is bringing business to the island. There is ongoing work to repair and rebuild properties and businesses, as people put their lives back together.
We have just completed the third act of the competition. In William Trubridge’s opening speech at the registration meeting we were informed that this is the first year that there are more women competing than men. Out of 35 athletes, there are 18 women and 17 men. This year has also been touted as the Women’s Comp, with a very interesting tournament already playing out between the girls.
We have already seen two National and Continental records by Sofia Gomez from Colombia with 93m CWT and 82m FIM. From Mexico, Camila Jaber has also taken two national records in CNF (52m and 53m). Jessea Lu from China has done the same, taking national records in CNF (60m) and CWT (70m). Alongside the many other national records that haven’t been mentioned, it’s worth noting that for the first time this competition has a local competitor. Bahamian Luke Mailis took the unusual step of doing three dives in the three days of the first act, and obtained three national records in all three depth disciplines (46m CWT, 37m CNF and 46m FIM).
Announcements for the first day of Act 2 have just been released and we have a very exciting World Record attempt in CNF from Sayuri Kinoshita. Stay tuned for part two of our Vertical Blue review to find out how she did!