The Cape May-Lewes Ferry will literally serve as the jumping-off point for the inaugural Escape the Cape Triathlon & Aquabike event in the North Cape May section of Lower Township on June 2.

The races will begin with approximately 1,000 competitors making a 10-foot leap off one of the boats into the Delaware Bay and swimming to shore to start the bike portion of the race.

"This is not an original idea, but it's new to the East Coast," race organizer Steve Del Monte said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I'm actually doing the Escape from Alcatraz (Triathlon) in San Francisco on March 3. You jump off a boat to start that one and it's been going on for 33 years.

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"We have a boat, a beautiful body of water and the perfect venue. Once the other entities saw what I saw, we were able to put everything together. This is not only going to be the premier event in southern Cape May County, but it's a one-of-a-kind event for the East Coast. We're capping the entries at 1,000 and I'm expecting it to sell out within 30 days."

The event will consist of three separate events: a sprint triathlon, international triathlon and aquabike.

The sprint race will feature a .35-mile swim, 10-mile bike and five-kilometer (3.1 miles) run. Competitors in the international distance will swim one mile, bike 20 miles and run five miles. The aquabike is a one-mile swim and 20-mile bike. There is no run.

"Triathlons have been around for over 30 years, but the aquabike is relatively new," said Del Monte, who also runs the Atlantic City International Triathlon and the Tri the Wildwoods Triathlon & 5K Run. "It was actually started by 'Baby Boomers' who aren't able to run anymore. You can swim and bike forever, but sometimes it gets to the point where your knees can't take running."

Del Monte said he originally hoped to stage a triathlon at the Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May Point before Lower Township officials suggested the ferry.

Director of Ferry Operations Heath Gehrke, ferry marketing manager Mike Porch and township officials Mitch Plenn (superintendent of Parks and Recreation), Mike Voll (Township Manager), Mike Beck (Mayor) and township council worked with Del Monte to make the event happen.

"We're eager for this opportunity to partner with DelMoSports to host this world class event," Gehrke said in a statement. "It emphasizes that the ferry is not only a fun, relaxing trip across the Delaware Bay, but also that we are a spectacular waterfront destination. If you're looking for a unique, exciting experience, the ferry is the place to be, especially on June 2."

Registration opens today on the event's web site, Costs range from $119 to $189.

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