NOT HERE FOR A HOLIDAY: British athlete Jacqui Slack is one of many competitors from far and wide who will compete in Sunday’s Byron Bay Open Water Classic.
NOT HERE FOR A HOLIDAY: British athlete Jacqui Slack is one of many competitors from far and wide who will compete in Sunday’s Byron Bay Open Water Classic.

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THEY are coming from Fannie Bay in the north, Klemzig in the south and from the furthest reaches of Western Australia.

There is even an entrant from Vancouver but none will be as far from home as Jacqui Slack when the swimmers hit the water for the 22nd Byron Bay Open Water Classic on Sunday.

A 26-year-old from Staffordshire, England, Slack is an elite triathlete on a training holiday down under.

And loving it too.

“This really is a lovely place to train,” Slack said.

“Back home I am used to dealing with water temperatures down around 10 and 12 degrees.”

A far cry from the brilliant 20 degrees-plus temperatures still on offer along Australia’s mid-east coast.

Slack set up base four months ago in Noosa, where it is almost as nice as it is here on the Northern Rivers, and her athletic journey will end with the Winter Whales Classic as she flies home on Tuesday.

And how did she come to know of the Wategos-to-Main Beach swim?

“We (Slack came with her coach) drove up to Noosa from Sydney and passed through Byron on the way,” she said.

“Then I heard about the Byron swim through friends and thought I’d be mad not to give it a go.

“Its such a beautiful location.”

And although Byron Bay is more than 16,000km from England, Slack will be right at home when the heat comes on as the swimmers jostle for position entering the water – she is a fire-fighter by day.

“It is an interesting profession,” she said.

“Obviously, you have to be fit and healthy to be in that job so it fits right in with being an athlete.”

And in some respects, she can lay claim to being the fastest fire-fighter in the world.

In 2008, Slack competed in the World Fire-fighter Games in Liverpool winning the triathlon and open water swim.

In 2009, she won the National Emergency Service Triathlon Championships.

But she doesn’t just race society’s heroes. Last month Slack raced in the Mooloolaba leg of the Triathlon World Cup where she placed 25th among the elite women.

“It’s a high-class event at Mooloolaba,” she said.

But soon she will be kissing goodbye to the sandy, sunny stretches of the Australian coastline – bound for the brisk and baron breaches of North Western Europe.

“It’s straight into training when I get home as I have a mountain-bike race the first weekend,” she said.

“Then on May 23 I will race in Scotland where the water will be about 11 degrees.”

So why doesn’t Slack just stay in Australia?

“There aren’t enough races for me here,” she said.

“It has been great but I like to race as much as I can – up to 20 races a year.”



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