History of Conchman Triathlon

Ready, set, GO! Early Conchman competitors get prepared to start the beginning leg of the Conchman Triathlon on Xanadu Beach.

Ready, set, GO! Early Conchman competitors get prepared to start the beginning leg of the Conchman Triathlon on Xanadu Beach.

Looking back on the Conchman Triathlon

The Conchman Triathlon, scheduled for the first Saturday of each November, is considered a great race that got off to a good start from the very beginning. In 1986, principal organizers and founders, Ambrose Gouthro, Bert Bell and Craig Stewart saw the potential of having a Bahamian triathlon and decided to launch it after seeing the success of the Iron Man triathlons in Hawaii and Bermuda.

Mr. Gouthro and Mr. Stewart, then presidents of the Rotary Club of Lucaya and Rotary Club of Freeport, respectively, aimed to create a positive community event that would contribute to charitable organizations, which still stands in effect today.

The Conchman provided an activity where Grand Bahama residents and visitors could come together to compete, build and maintain a healthy, physical and mental body. And to raise funds for Grand Bahama Rotary Club projects, BASRA and Freeport Aquatics Club,” says Mr. Gouthro. At the time, Mr. Gouthro says the proceeds of the event also went to the Polio Plus Organisation, which was, and still is, dedicated to eradicating polio in the world.

Mr. Gouthro and Mr. Stewart can’t remember who came up with the name, Conchman, however it is generally regarded to have been Bert Bells creation. The first race was held at Xanadu Beach and consisted of the present distances, 1000 metre (half a mile) swim, 25km (15 miles) bike ride and a 5km (3 miles) run. According to Mr. Stewart, 166 persons participated with a fair number of entries from North America and Canada. There were 30 individual entries and 44 team entries that participated but of course only one winner in each category.

That year in the individual category, David Morley from Nassau, captured first place overall followed by Shalton Barr and David Bell, who also won the boys 12 and under, Iron Kids division. Among the women, Julie Ryan came first in the ladies division and 12th overall, followed by Leah Malcolm, who captured first in the girls 12 and under, Iron Kids division. In the team finals, the Freeport Rugby Club, EMR Rushers and St. Pauls’ A came first, second and third respectively.

Even Mr. Stewart had a taste of the Conchman over the years and enjoyed participating in the swim leg of the team division. Mr. Gouthro who favoured the run relays recalls fondly of participating with the Lucaya team and beating his rival, a team member of the Freeport Club. “I remember looking back (when I was running) and he (the Freeport Club member) was right there and then when I looked again he was nowhere to be found. The Conchman was a lot of fun,” says Mr. Gouthro, who credited the success of the event to the organizers and participants.

Other persons who made the Conchman possible in its early stages were Donna Long, Bernie Butler, John Bradley, Remar Sutton and Marva Munroe of the Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board. It was through the collaborative efforts of the GBI Promotion Board, and advertising in triathlon magazines abroad, that helped bring visitors to the Grand Bahamian shores, and in 1998, 180 persons from the USA came to participate.

Over the next few years, the Conchman moved from Xanadu Beach to the former Holiday Inn, now Our Lucaya and then to its present location at Taino Beach, where it has garnered a lot of support and participation.

The upcoming Conchman promises to be an exciting, challenging and fun race for persons of all ages to enjoy. With the “potential to be bigger and better”, the Conchman has come a long way in becoming one of The Bahamas’ most respected and well-liked sports, hopefully for many years to come.