The Lorne Surf Lifesaving Club has made the 11th hour decision to switch this weekend’s Pier to Pub race to a virtual event.
Organisers announced the decision to cancel the physical event on Tuesday afternoon and instead return to the virtual format held in 2021 due to the developing COVID-19 situation.
Pier to Pub race director John Takac said the decision would take pressure off volunteer lifesavers in Lorne, who were already feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With our focus on health and safety and the potential impact on our community, competitors and volunteers, we have arrived at this difficult decision out of an abundance of caution,” Rakac said.
“Our event has a proud history of volunteerism and community support. With case numbers across our volunteers rising in line with the broader community, we feel we will not be able to properly support the event to maintain safe conditions for all.
“Like many other parts of Australia and the world we are seeing an increase in cases in Lorne at the moment, and this is having a significant impact on the local health system, traders and the wider community.”
The Mountain to Surf Run has also been switched to a virtual format.
All entries for both events have been transferred to the virtual events, with competitors having until the end of January to post their times.
Event organisers had previously announced the 2021 Pier to Pub swim would see a slight change to its format, which would put a spotlight on the best female swimmers.
The event would have seen the introduction of a women’s Superfish wave, with the best men and women to be split for the first time in the event’s history.
The change meant the women would no longer have to fight for space in the water with the men and will have clean air when they cross the finish line.
Lorne Surf Lifesaving Club captain Jess Sinnock said it was an exciting change that hopefully would empower more women to take part into the future.
“The surf club is super excited because usually it is combined men and women, but we are moving forward with how we look at everything,” she said.
“We are trying to empower up-and-coming females in the club and also the aquatic industry.
“We do what we can see and by having the opportunity to see strong women doing this by themselves it will definitely encourage other swimmers to do it and be less put off.”
Rising swim star Sophie Thomas, who has two top-three finishes in the race, said she was looking forward to the new format.
“It is really exciting,” she said.
“I am someone who is on the smaller stature side so I do often cop a belting from the men, and I remember the first time I did it I nearly cried after being belted the whole time, so it does take that element out of it.
“It makes it exciting being just female based and it puts the focus on the girls rather than it just being on the first Superfish crossing the line.”
Nearly 5000 swimmers were expected to take to the beach for the Pier to Pub this weekend.