January 12 2003
The 23rd annual pier-to-pub swim went ahead with little disruption at Lorne yesterday, despite loggers clogging Geelong Road in a protest against the Bracks Government's decision to phase out logging in the Otways Ranges.
Organisers said they were delighted with a crowd estimated at more than 20,000, which saw a record 4000 competitors attempt the 1.2-kilometre swim.
"There was some disruption but it wasn't that bad," said event spokeswoman Samantha O'Brien. "People went by the back roads or left early. The day has been really successful and we're extremely pleased."
Three convoys of logging trucks left Geelong hourly starting at 8am, clogging lanes on the Geelong and Great Ocean Roads as they crawled toward Lorne at 40 kmh.
A police spokeswoman said last night that no arrests were made and the protest had been peaceful.
The loggers were protesting against the State Government's decision to halt logging in the Otways Ranges by 2008, a key part of the government's re-election strategy.
Organiser Peter Dynes said despite timing the action to coincide with the race it had never been the loggers' intention to stop the event or cause problems for the surf lifesaving club, which runs the race as a fund-raiser.
"I don't think we disrupted the event and we didn't want to do that," he said. "We just wanted to get some attention and tell the public about the situation we are in."
Mr Dynes accused Premier Steve Bracks of misleading loggers about the future of their jobs.
He said that forestry workers and their families were already suffering as logging scaled back before the scheduled finish date. About 150 loggers travelled through Lorne, stopping for a barbecue while the race went ahead. A second planned blockade in the afternoon was cancelled as the protesters took up a collection for the lifesaving club.
For the record, Nick Hinsley won the event in a time of 11.49, the third consecutive occasion he has led all comers in the race to the beach in front of the Lorne Hotel. Naantali Marshall was the first woman home for the fourth consecutive year in 12.16."