The Jim Whelan Open Water Festival, featuring the Around The Island® Swim, is a 22.75mi/36.6km marathon open water swim in and around Absecon Island, NJ, which is made up of the cities of Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport.
Hosted by Green Whales, Inc., the inaugural Jim Whelan Open Water Festival successfully resurrected the historic and challenging swim for its 54th installment in 2019 in honor of the late Jim Whelan; a former NJ State Senator, Mayor of Atlantic City, member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, Atlantic City teacher, and Atlantic City High School Swim Coach.
"Honoring nostalgia in service to our community."
Through our efforts and the generous support of our sponsors, we continue to accomplish our two main goals:
The history of this legendary marathon swim began back in 1953 when two ACBP members, Ed "Dutch" Stetser and Edward Solitare, participated in a $100 bet to see who could circumnavigate Absecon Island first. It was Solitare who won, completing the grueling course in 13:30, with Stetser only an hour behind him. Throughout the following half-century, numerous international open water swimming athletes competed in the race, which was eventually called a "world championship ocean marathon."
The Around the Island® current record holder, as documented on marathonswimmers.org, remains Stéphane Gomez, from France, set in 2004 with a time of 6:37.09.
Unfortunately, conditions during the 55th Around The Island® Swim in August 2021 were not optimal, and the Race Director & Referee made the difficult decision to end the race after nearly 10.5 hours with no finishers.
Jim was a significant figure in Atlantic City and through his wife Kathy, we know he would love that our event benefits Green Whales, Inc.—a non-profit that supports swimming & water safety programs in Atlantic City and the surrounding communities.
As a young swimmer, Jim was inspired by the original Around The Island® Swim and as an adult he wanted to revive it. He did a solo swim to raise interest and then took the family, including the dog, on a six week journey to Canada where he entered various marathon swims: to meet the swimmers and organizers, and invite them back to Atlantic City the following year, making many more life long friends along the way. With the help of local friends, enthusiasts and volunteers, the Swim was started again. With the swim in capable hands, he started a new adventure: politics. He was elected to Atlantic City Council, the Mayor's Office, NJ State Assembly, and NJ State Senate.
Along the way he accumulated many awards and titles: Atlantic City Beach Patrol Swim Champ, SJ Championship, West Catholic Hall of Fame, Temple Hall of Fame, and International Swimming Hall of Fame--just to name a few. His political career took him all over the U.S. and the world, but his heart was always in Atlantic City. He found pleasure in the big accomplishments, but the closeness of family, lifelong friends, and Atlantic City school kids were dearest to his heart. He loved it when someone would come up to him and say, "Mr. Whelan! Remember me? Your were my swimming teacher - you taught me how to swim!"
Jim had three simple rules for life that he tried to live by and repeatedly offered to anyone who would listen: Show Up - Do Your Job - and Be Nice To People.
Jim Whelan (1948 - 2017)
The Organizing Committee of the 2nd Annual Jim Whelan Open Water Festival, featuring the 55th Around the Island® Swim, is proud to announce that Marilyn Bell DiLascio, O. Ont., will be appearing as a special guest and official Starter for the legendary open water marathon swim taking place on Sunday August 1, 2021.
Marilyn cemented her place in history in September 1954 as she set a world record for being the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. But it was a few months earlier here in Atlantic City competing in the first organized Around The Island® Swim where she started her marathon swimming career. She became the first woman to complete the course, and at just 16 years of age, shocked spectators as she beat out over half of the seasoned male competitors. Marilyn’s ties to the Around The Island® Swim go even deeper. It was during this race she met her future husband, Joseph “Chip” DiLascio. Chip was one of the ACBP lifeguards she encountered as she was training for the race.
“I’m thrilled that the organizers of the Jim Whelan Open Water Festival have invited me to be a part of the Around The Island® Swim again,” says DiLascio. “This race holds a special place in my heart and it’s a wonderful thing to see it still going strong 67 years after I swam it.”
Marilyn’s numerous awards and honors include induction to Canada Sports Hall of Fame, Ontario Aquatic Hall of Fame, International Marathon Swimming Hall Of Fame and, most recently, the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of the Order Of Ontario and some years ago Toronto, the city of her birth, welcomed her to Marilyn Bell Park on the shore of Lake Ontario, where she completed her swim in 1954. Marilyn continues to mentor and encourage open water swimmers from around the world, always emphasizing the importance of safe swimming practice for the swimmers and their support teams.
“Our motto for the race is ‘honoring nostalgia in service to our community.’ What Marilyn’s accomplished during both her swimming career and personal life certainly embodies this and we’re so honored to have her join us,” says Green Whales, Inc. trustee Melissa Peticolas.
Marilyn Bell DiLascio, O. Ont.
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