THOUSANDS OF swimmers will flock to Manly Beach tomorrow to compete in the Cole Classic, Australia's foremost roughwater swim.

The Cole Classic is split into three challenges. The 10km North Head challenge sees swimmers start at Manly Cove, swim out to the Sydney Heads, before finishing at Manly Beach. The 10km race is an invitation-only event featuring Australia's best roughwater swimmers. The male and female winners receive the princely sum of Aus$1000 (pounds 430), plus a return trip to Honolulu to swim in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

The 1km Nippers and Novice Challenge is an entry-level race for youngsters over the age of nine. The final event is the 2km Classic Challenge and is open to all swimmers aged 13 and over. Last year's Challenge attracted over 2000 swimmers - the oldest 80 years old - and gives competitors a unique opportunity to race alongside some of the swimming world's elite athletes, past and present.

The race bears the name of Graham M Cole who first suggested it in 1982. He saw the event not as a race, "but a challenge to all persons to stretch themselves in body and mind to swim a reasonable distance through surf. It will, I hope, be an incentive to persons to involve themselves in the self-discipline required to get fit and to obtain confidence."

The first Cole Classic was held a year later at Bondi Beach with 189 competitors. This year sees its first outing at Manly, following a disagreement over sponsorship with the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club.