Updated 8:30 am, Sept. 14
Longtime seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Mark Desautelle, 44, of Darien, Connecticut, managed to swim one mile, ride a bike 24.6 miles, and run 6.2 miles faster than 176 other men and women to take top honors in the inaugural Vineyard Warrior Triathlon Sunday.
Mr. Desautelle finished the course in 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 57 seconds. That was 7 minutes and 23 seconds faster than second place finisher Jason Snow, 41, of East Freetown.
The event kicked off at 7 am on Sunday under clear blue skies, when more than 200 registered participants between the ages of 24 and 68 plunged into Nantucket Sound for a one-mile swim from Inkwell Beach to State Beach, the first of three competitive events.
A total of 32 Islanders rose to the challenge. Todd Cleland, 42, of Oak Bluffs made a good account for the home team. He was the top Island finisher at 11th place and a time of 2:21:43.
Erin Gunn, 30, of Vineyard Haven finished second among Vineyarders and 20th overall. Her time was 2:26:54.
Edgartown fielded 13 participants, Vineyard Haven 9, and Oak Bluffs 6; 2 warriors each came from West Tisbury and Chilmark.
The swimming event proved to be the most challenging. An east wind made the waters choppy. Volunteers in kayaks assisted any swimmers that needed help.
Patrick Parker of Vineyard Haven, one of the Island competitors, said overall he thought the event went very well and received a great deal of cooperation from Island police and town officials. Mr. Parker said any problems would be worked out for future incarnations, and the event has the potential to attract many more participants.
“I don’t think you go into an event like this and think it is going to be perfect,” he said.
In the weeks leading up to the event, Oak Bluffs selectmen and neighborhood residents expressed some concern about parking, traffic and noise. Oak Bluffs selectmen discussed the race briefly at their meeting Tuesday night.Selectmen said they had few complaints and were impressed by the event. “Very inspiring,” selectman Kathy Burton said.The inaugural event had some organizational problems, and the ocean swim was rougher than many competitors anticipated. Police chief Erik Blake suggested that next year, brief road closures may be necessary.Chief Blake said race promoter Matthew Brackman had already emailed him to talk about next year.The official race results showed a total of 179 athletes. Mr. Brackman said there were 255 registered participants. About 30 were no shows. He attributed the remaining difference to a “timing chip issue” that still needs to be sorted out.
“If you don’t mind, the most important message I’d like to get across to the community is that triathlon is a sport that celebrates what it means to be an American and; that we are free to swim in the seas, bike on the roads, and run in the streets,” Mr. Brackman said in an email to The Times. “It also is a sport which we never win, for we are really competing against our mind’s conviction that we shouldn’t be putting our body through such pain. Although we may improve our times, we are never satisfied we have truly beaten our mind. That is what keeps triathletes from forever coming back to try again. That is what makes the sport so captivating.
“We’ll be back for 2012 and I expect the number of registrants to triple. Racers are going to spread the word far and wide that Martha’s Vineyard is a triathlete’s paradise.”