Turks and Caicos Open Water Swimming Event

“Race for the Conch” Attracts Worldwide Swimmers

swimmers entering water

There are neither designated lanes nor a pool.

No starter pistol fires off.

And no gold, silver and bronze medals await the winners.

But swimmers keep coming back eager to take the plunge in this highly unusual race.

The Race for the Conch is an annual Turks and Caicos open water swimming event on the first Saturday of July and takes place just off Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales. This eco-sea swim is part of the West Indies Blue Water Swim Series which includes three other races in Nevis, St. Kitts, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad.

In a video interview posted on YouTube, co-founder Ben Stubenberg says, “The series is basically four races established in the West Indies, in the Caribbean region, which have joined together. We’ve been running our races independently. Why don’t we join together, link them together in a way, and promote them together as a destination for great racing?”

Enthusiasts come from all over the world to participate in the Race for the Conch. There are three race length options, the ‘Ironman’ or 2.4 mile, the one mile and the half mile distance. Whether novice or experienced, the event is open to everyone. Even children can participate. There is a 100 metre swim for ages 11 and under. The course start is in front of Flamingo Cafe and runs parallel to Grace Bay Beach. Bright colored buoys mark the route for each distance the swimmers are racing.

race for the conch tatoo

After signing up, participants will receive a number to wear as well as a swim cap. Also, if they successfully complete the race, they will also receive a t-shirt, tote bag and a unique conch medal. Winners of the event are honored with a unique trophy made out of a conch shell which is crafted by renowned local artist, Stanford Handfield.

The conch also plays another important role in the race. A conch shell, not a starting pistol, is used to start the race which has seen an increase in the number of participants every year. But what is it that draws people each year?

In his 2011 interview with Open Water Source, Ben Stubenberg, an avid open water swimmer himself, provides some insight.

Watch the video below to learn which 4 words Stubenburg uses to describe the event, now in its 3rd year.

At 11:30 minutes into the interview, the conversation moves onto the Turks & Caicos event: “Race for the Conch”. Listeners will learn what steps the organizers have had to take to earn the Green Globe certification for the event.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are known the world over for their spectacular beaches and surrounding waters. The waters off Grace Bay are no exception. The clearness and blueness of the water captivates swimmers and provides a memorable experience.

Race for the Conch is a well-organized event, and the enthusiasm behind it is evident in the large number of sponsors contributing as well as the general warm attitude in the air on race day.

youth swimmer in open water event

This ‘feel good’ atmosphere is rooted in the purpose behind the race. Proceeds from Race for the Conch go towards three charitable organizations: Provo Children’s Home (PCH), Turks and Caicos Reef Fund and Turks and Caicos Islands Swim Foundation. PCH seeks to provide a safe, secure and nurturing place for children to grow and thrive. TC Reef Fund centers its work on protecting and preserving the marine environment of the islands. TCI Swim Foundation exists to help develop swimming in the islands through training, competition and education. All these groups focus on giving back and building up the community.

It’s a swim race like no other in waters that defy description. It’s a community event that brings people together and binds them for a bigger cause. It’s the Race for the Conch where everyone is a winner.