The voting for the inaugural Global Marathon Swimming Awards closed at the New Year and early last week the winners were announced. There were three categories of award for the first year, 2012:
Female Performance of the Year
Male Performance of the Year
The Barra Award for the most Impressive Overall Body of Work for the Year
Who was nominated?
Category: Solo Swim of the Year (Female) – the single most outstanding solo marathon swim by a female in 2012.
The nominees were:
Annaleise Carr – Lake Ontario crossing
Chloe McCardel – two-way English Channel crossing
Tina Neill – San Clemente Island to California mainland
Category: Solo Swim of the Year (Male) - the single most outstanding solo marathon swim by a male in 2012.
The nominees were:
Trent Grimsey – English Channel world record
Craig Lenning – Tsugaru Channel crossing
Bill Shipp – Lake Memphremagog crossing
Category: The Barra Award – the marathon swimmer (male or female) with the most impressive body of work, considered as a whole, in 2012.
The nominees were:
Grace van der Byl
Why were these swimmers nominated?
Links to all the nominations can be seen here which includes links to the individual nominations AND the reasons for those nominations.
Who could vote?
Actual members of the forum can be assumed to be either marathon or aspirant marathon swimmers, or involved in the sport somehow. We believe peer recognition and the voting methods outlined below are the strength of the awards.
Why is voting restricted to Forum Members?
These awards do not have the reach, publicity nor media recognition of other awards. But those nominated and winning do have the knowledge and recognition that their efforts are respected and validated by the only people truly capable of appreciating their accomplishments; marathon swimmers, aspirant marathon swimmers, and those specifically interested in the sport, from around the world.
In most votes, voting is restricted (such as in national election where it is restricted to citizens) to those with interest in the specific subject. Otherwise vote rigging and vote-brigading for nationalistic or personal reasons, often not by the nominees become the dominant motive.
How was voting run?
Initially the awards were opened up to a nomination process. This allowed the possibility of any swimmer worldwide being nominated, the only criteria being that they followed accepted marathon swimming rules. Private nominations could be made to the Administrators (Evan & I) who subsequently published those nominations.
The nomination process was open for four weeks.
The process then moved to a finalist short list which was open from November to the end of the year.
Only signed up members of the forum could vote. Every forum member had one vote per nominee and these were cast by “liking” the nominees. At the close of voting tallies of likes were taken and panel consisting of the Administrators and members of the forum agreed on the winners.
What precautions were taken to insure the integrity of the Global Marathon Swimmer Awards?
Care was taken to determine that no vote-brigading was carried out through any sudden influx of members.
No ongoing tallies of votes were published during voting. Letting potential voters know of the state of the voting during a vote, is one the oldest and greatest flaws of any voting process.
Multiple voting by members by using different devices or IP address was not possible as voting was per Forum Membership ID. Vote early, vote often may be a joke, but with the above two is the other greatest flaw of online voting.
Who were the winners?
Female Solo Swim of the Year
Tina Neill – Unprecedented 52-mile swim from San Clemente Island to the California mainland
Male Solo Swim of the Year
Trent Grimsey – English Channel world record (6 hours, 55 minutes)
The Barra Awardfor most impressive body of work in 2012, considered as a whole
Grace van der Byl – New Catalina Channel overall world record; new records in all 7 stages (plus overall time) of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim
We would like to note that the Barra Award voting was extraordinarily close. Stephen Redmond was the runner-up to Grace by a margin of only two votes.
What do the winners receive?
Unfortunately, there is no physical award, Evan and I are just two guys, we wish we had physical awards to bestow. What the winners receive, for what it’s worth and along with all the nominees, are the respect and admiration of their peers and a significant number of the global marathon swimming population for their excellence and commitment to the marathon swimming tradition.
These are true swimming icons for us all to recognise, to celebrate and where possible, to attempt to emulate. They each embody the ethos of true marathon swimming, as indeed did all the nominees.
We congratulate them all, and thank the Forum Members for participating in the inaugural Awards.
(We are open to improvements and suggestions for next year).
If you are in Ireland, you know Steve is getting pretty great coverage and reception here in Ireland, as it should be. Many interviewers don’t really get it, you can hear the bemusement in their voices. But in fairness to them, those of us who are swimmers have trouble wrapping our heads around it.
For most of the world, to swim ONE of those swims is only a dream. Only the tinyest percentage of people complete one or two.
Steve, for now, is the only person, ever, to complete all seven swims and will always be the first.
Just pause there for a moment: Three years, seven Channels, eleven swims.
Hundreds of people met Stephen and Noel Browne, one of Steve’s most trusted friends, Tsugaru crew and significant organiser and behind the scenes powerhouse, when they returned to Cork, the Rebel County, and the real capitol at Cork Airport last night. They had spent almost all the time from immediately after finishing Tsugaru on Sunday travelling home.
Many travelled in convoy back to West Cork through Clonakilty with car horns honking toward Ballydehob, with bonfires blazing on the hills, a Celtic tradition thousands of years old. “Home is the sailor, home from the sea”.
There were special greetings and homecomings in Cork. Steve’s wife Ann was at the airport, as were his two kids, little Stevie and Siadbh, family, friends, supporters and swimmers.
If you’ve read Steve’s previous accounts of swims here, you will know that his mantra while swimming is to repeat his children’s names, and as Ann said last night to Sandycove Island Swim Club Chairwoman Liz and myself, when things get tough he adds her name!
Stephen was grabbed by national TV on exiting the gate to much cheering, but he moved to grab his family and close friends, including close friend and Lough Ine training partner and Sandycove Island Swimming pioneer and Channel swimmer Steven Black.
We waited around, talked a lot of swimming, and then the man himself came over, lots of manly and womanly swim hugs and we got time to talk with him, and he shared some details of the Tsugaru swim, that made all us swimmers feel like we were there. As Liam said, that moment alone was special. Stephen said to me he’d already written up the Tsugaru swim report for me, and I hadn’t even asked this time, I figured he had more than enough professionals hanging on his time and every word. We were there because we are all open water swimmers and admirers and he is one, in fact right now he is The Swimmer.
We took a picture with the members of Sandycove Island Swim Club who were able to make it.
Being an unashamed fanboy, I of course got his autograph, not for the first time.
Welcome home Steve. You make us all proud to be Irish, proud to be swimmers, and proud to know you. Arise Cork, and take your place among the nations of the world.
So, Stephen’s Tsugaru swim report, coming in two days!
Stephen Redmond today made swimming history by becoming the first person to complete the Ocean’s 7 swim challenge after 12 hours 45 minutes.
Around the world thousands were following Steve’s fourth Tsugaru Channel swim to complete the challenge, including a bunch of tense Sandycove swimmers at Communications Central in Sandycove-on-Sea (aka Dover).
And along with Stephen, we were all remotely following a heroic English Channel swim by a very close friend of ours.
It’s hard to explain what these swims mean to us all. Both men are heroes, both men are personal idols, and we’re proud both men are our friends and inspiration.
Be awed and inspired by these two men. And yes, I know the name of the second swimmer isn’t on this post, but those who need to know, already know who he is.
Edit: sorry I didn’t update this earlier, I figured all those interested would know but a lot of people are still checking.
Stephen was pulled out after 12 hours on his second attempt due to being stuck in an adverse current. Those of you who have read the blog for a long time will know I DON’T write about unsuccessful swims of friends.
Steve will be starting about 9PM MT tonight. He “is likely to start near the village of Sai on the main island [then] he will swim North West to try and catch a current that runs through the strait. This current should push him towards the north island and the village of Toi.“
Tsugaru is noted for fast currents and Steve has been working on increasing his stroke rate. The big man will throw everything at Tsugaru to ensure his place in swimming history and we are all behind him.
EDIT: Steve started just after 11PM GMT, but due to bad weather, the swim was called off after 5 hours. Let’s hope he gets another better shot in the next few days.
Edit: Due out Sunday night: 9 PM. Best of luck Steve!
This event is a fund-raiser for Stephen Redmond’s 7th Great Ocean swim ! He hopes to be the first swimmer in the world to complete the Ocean 7 Swim Challenge. If you’d like to support him come along to the Aquathon on the 29th, will be a fun day!
Date: 29th April 2012
Location: Gary Lucas Beach, Garretstown ,Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork
Distances: Swim: 650m Run: 6.5km
Start Time: 12.00
Registration Location: Speckled Door Pub
Race Director: Anders Ingelsten (+353)0879195421
Sponsor: The Edge Sports Shop
Organising clubs: WEST CORK TRIATHLON CLUB & SANDYCOVE SWIMMERS
Entry: Single €30, Relay €45 (includes food after the race at the Speckled Door pub)
This is the only AQUATHON run in Munster 2012 and it’s a FUNdraising event for Stephen Redmond’s final swim. All proceeds of the event will go to supporting Stephen. Therefore this race will be run on shoe string budget with no fancy prizes or goodie bags. The focus of the event is to have FUN and raise money for Stephen. All competitors need to either be a Triathlon Ireland Member or have a One Day License from Triathlon Ireland.
Note that registration can be done on the day and One Day Licences also can be bought on the day. The cost for a One Day License is €5.
Registration and the free after event meal is at the Speckled Door pub.
Given some questions that have arisen though, it seems we haven’t covered enough of the subject. It struck me that we hadn’t covered mechanics and some of the complicating factors.
Let’s start with a reminder:
The most important thing is: Feeding is different for everyone.
Feeding is not diet or general nutrition, but the process of taking in nutrition/food for energy during a long swim. It’s a long and complex subject which entertains and causes endless discussion amongst marathon swimmers.
The next most thing, the marathon swimming motto: Practice everything.
First, when do you have to feed?
You can generally assume that you have enough glycogen in your body to last from two to three hours. (Contingent on not having depleted it in training or recent exercise).
So for a swim or race under two hours, you probably don’t need to feed.
Swims where feeding is necessary dictate practice and experience.
FINA marathoners will probably feed small amount every 10 minutes from a plastic cup. This technique was pioneered by Peggy Dean and the US team in the 80’s. The rest of us tend to feed at intervals from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. (I feed at thirty minutes). But this MUST be tested, everyone’s requirements are different.
Also, you may not need or want to start on intervals right from the start of a marathon swim. it’s quite common that swimmers will feed hourly for the first two OR three hours and then switch to their shorter interval. Once again, I cannot tell you what those times will be for you. The four to eight-hour swims that we do in Sandycove give us the advantage to test these factors. It is another reason faking a qualifying swim makes someone a fool to a more experienced swimmer.
Second – what do you feed on?
For most swimmers, the primary fuel is maltodextrin, pure carbs,, as Evan has covered in detail. (Not however glucose). The product name isn’t important though Maxim is by far the most popular for distance swimmers as it has no taste and can be added to any food or drink. It’s a 100% maltodextrin. High5 or similar are carbs with a protein mix in a 4:1 ration, scientifically shown to be more effective in metabolization but has proven to be a problem for many swimmers (e.g. me) in distance sea swimming for a few reasons: (salt intake, prone position, soya protein metabolization).
Again, there are many exceptions. Some swimmers like gel pack (like GU) others won’t touch them, as they can be useless because they require a separate liquid intake, and the salt intake during a swim can make them useless or cause exceptional bloating or vomiting. Some English Channel Pilots only believe in/use Maxim. Many swimmers have no problem with a 4:1 protein/carb mix, (I am not one, like a lot of swimmers, I found after about four to five hours with it I am no longer able to digest). Some swimmers forego these methods and swim on solid food (Penny Palfrey used dilute porridge).
How do you feed?
For myself for swims, I attach a D-clip to the bottle itself (whether by tape, string or lid attachment), and then the line attached to the clip, rather than tying a line to a bottle directly, as having multiple changeable bottles allows more flexibility.
Feed (dolly) poles (typically a wooden brush handle … ) have a hook or holder on the end, which hand a cup or bottle to the swimmer. The one on the left is one used by Alan Clack on a 10k Lac d’Archambeau swim last year. Poles are good in flat water but they are less flexible in bad weather as they require a fixed distance to the swimmer. If using a pole the swimmer must not grab the pole itself. I’ve also seen (and used) a telescopic fishing pole but the line is too light and too easily tangled.
Or simply a bottle dropped on a rope. The problem with this is knots and retracting the line (this was a mistake I hadn’t considered in the Channel). A solution I’ve seen and really liked is a simple traditional-type kite reel (usually made of plastic).
My subsequent solution … A retractable dog-leash, my choice for future swims. So much easier for the crew.
Many experienced swimmers will often only use a container or bottle with particular features. I’ve written before about the God Bottle. This is not necessarily a minor concern as using a wrong bottle type for a swimmer can lead to salt water or air ingestion, both significant is you are swimming for more than 6 or 8 hours. Gábor used a narrow neck squeezy sports bottle, as that was what he used in training and practised with. (I must have a wide neck bottle… However some swimmers just don’t care or don’t have an issue).
Mike Oram, famous English Channel pilot, prefers plastic milk cartons, which have a wide neck and a handle to attack the line, and are easily replaced. Liam Maher added the point that it might be good idea to collect your milk lids for a week before hand, so the crew have more lids than bottles, that way the swimmer isn’t focused on trying to replace the lid.
Stephen Redmond uses a twin bottle approach to swimming: A standard squeezy bottle and a shaker bottle, taped together but in opposite directions for easier access!
Is it a cold water swim?
You must consider the water temperature: Should the food be warm or cold? Most Channel swims are cold or cool water so warm feeds are essential. But that can require a lot of warm water. Your pilot may have a galley where water can be heated, but in rough weather this isn’t easy. One solution to this, just in case, is to bring a thermos (or many) of hot water. Pre-mix the feed to double concentration (half volume) and top up with hot water. The crew MUST be careful not to burn the swimmer, which can happen easily as the swimmer’s mouth will cool down during a swim. Bringing a thermos also frees up the crew to look after you.
Will you need/use electrolytes?
In a sea swim, the best swimmers will still ingest salt from the air. So the actual salt requirement is low. One misconception I run with swimmers into all the time, is the bodies need for potassium. How many times have you seen/heard someone have a cramp while pool swimming and someone tells them to eat a banana beforehand “for the potassium”? But usually that’s just simple dehydration. Bananas also provide magnesium, another essential salt, used for ATP synthesis, but we do not need huge amounts of either and deficiencies are rare, and in fact too much potassium in a 24 hours period will slow digestion and cause vomiting. That said, scheduling in an electrolyte is not uncommon for long swims, and allows the body a respite from the carbs.
Do you have a feed plan?
An hourly feed plan give a swimmer confidence their requirements are being met. Just as importantly, if the primary crew person goes down with sea-sickness, a feed plan that can be handed onto the next person means continuity in feeding. Feed plans can include extras. For example mine includes an asthma inhaler drop on four hourly breaks, just in case. The plan can also be used to schedule in special treats or prophylactic pain-killers.
How long do you expect the swim to last?
Do you have enough supplies if your swim runs over expected time? If you are Lisa or Stephen and are out in the water for 24 to 36 hours, do you have enough water and carb to keep going, all other things being equal? Are there enough supplies … for the crew? Better to take 40 litres and throw out 20, than take 10 litres and need 12. (I know this is not environmentally sound, but there is no way around it).
Finally, do not assume that knowledge of feeding in other endurance events will transfer to sea-swimming. It most likely will not, for example the gel packs beloved of tri-athletes, the extra salt intake and the prone position, are all complicating factors in sea-swimming.
Remember, practice everything. Which means consider and think about everything.
It’s been a stressful two days for Stephen (and his supporters). A question was raised over the completion of his Molokai swim, which Stephen addresses below. The assertion was that Stephen might not have cleared the water and hence might not have completed the Molokai Channel swim.
I could write a whole post on this issue, (and probably will) but essentially the rules specify that generally the swimmer must stand clear of the water (there are exceptions for possibility and safety in different Channels and locations).
For those not familiar with the rules, the rule exists primarily to make sure the swimmer swims the full distance, as Evan Morrison succinctly put it in a private discussion, “The reason for the “clear the water” rule is so swimmers don’t do a shorter swim than the official distance. [...] while swimmers can always choose where they start, they can’t always choose where they finish.”
In Stephen’s case, he swam further than the minimum distance, and there is NO doubt he swam Molokai Channel.
Stephen’s initial report was written after the swim to get a quick report out so he could get to bed. He wants to give some fuller details. I just received the report below from him, and he’s asked me to put it out as soon as possible and I am delighted to do so to address the concerns.
[T]his is my exact account of finish.
Skipper Ivan Segaki directed me to swim with tide towards a point around 2 miles away. I Followed [the] boat all the way to the China Walls where a large group of people who had been following the swim had gathered to see the finish.
These included my wife Ann and the Hawaii channel swimmer Linda Kaiser who observed that i completed the swim properly.
I approached the wall and asked how i was to finish the swim . I was told i needed to come right up out the water on the ledge which I did three times with my complete body out of the water.to finish
I asked them both was this ok as i intended to swim back to the boat as the walkaround china wall to change was too far and uphill. I have 20 witness to this effect .
I swam back to the boat and got on steamed back to the landing slip to change . hope this clear things up sorry about the description I sent out. I followed the rules and did what was required of me to finish I was hardly going to make a mistake like that after that swim sorry about this I do not want any one saying I did not complete properly I am not in this to cheat strange world we live in.
If you can put this out I would appreciate it thanks for all your help
kind regards Steve Redmond
I’ll finish with the same thing I said to Steve:
NO-ONE is in any doubt that he swam the Molokai Channel. Stephen Redmond is a swimmer of the highest integrity and he has the full support of every Channel swimmer that I know. This should be the end of the matter.
Please give him as much support as you can, in any way.
Another week, another swim and another swim report from Stephen, to whom, as always, I am indebted for sharing this with me and therefore you. Untouched as last week, (Stephen writes this stuff on his phone always). I still can’t get over Stephen doing both these swims only 8 days apart. If you don’t have tears in your eyes reading this … well, all I can say is I did.
Aloha from Hawaii where what happened over the last few days is just sinking in. thanks for your support sir . 1100 27/2/12
There was always huge doubt surrouding this swim. I weighed up and discussed all the pro and cons with my Friend Linda Kaiser in Hawaii a lrgrndary cross channel swimmmer who lhas lived here all her life. Was it conceited of me to thinks I could accompish 2 of the worlds toughest channel in a week of one another.Ariving In Hawaii the weather and my body being in bits after the cook sraits swim put every thinh in doubt.
Linda advised me to take a couple of days rest carefull high protien diet and some deep tissues massages from Mati Sapolu-Palmer another legendary triathelete in Hawai the heat and the preeration worked wonder and along with daily 2 miles swims at 6.00 am my body came back very quickly. The weather improved for the weekend and the swims was defintley on. AS always the hardest things is getting in the water and finishing so much has to work out. My wife ann was due out on Saturday but missed the swim so we enlisted another Ironman to do the worst job which was support and feeding me
eddie was quite incredible never a cross word and constant suppport.
Saturday dawned after carb loading all day friday I felt terrible with the combination of nerves and would the weather hold I was a wreck. We launched the boat with my Skipper Ivan Shigaki. watched him steam out towards Molokai on a calm sheet of water breathtaking place. i tried to rest till the short flight over to Molokai no good so just kept repeating the shot mantra i would use durung the swim. Never give up too far to fail swim molokai which i must have said millions of time to myself in tandem with my strokes during the swim along with many prayer to St. Jude. I was Lucky .
Molokai isalnd is a strange place lonely and sad compared to the other islands with bright red clay anothet friend of Lindas Hellen drove us to the west beach were we would meet the boat no piers here just an old hotel and holiday homes . the water looke calm and as we ferried out gear out the boat in dry bags I lefy a small offering of a pice of quartz a frien had given me into this i put all my doubts about my body lasting ther weather and left regret on the sand in Molokai. This is a Hawain tradition and some thing they take very seriously the skipper would not leave till it was done.
Greased up and ready i said a couple of prayers for protection and plunged into the channel. We made great headwaty for the first 2 hours covering around 6 miles water warm and very salty. we were swimminginto the night another first for me i have swam in the night but started with that intention.as darkness came on stars in the sky and if you can imagine the scene beneath me in the sea the mermaids were singing (Humpbacks Whales) and when my light caught the Phospherence in the jellys and other sea creatures beneath me was like a scene from a star wars battle scene you could not tell what was with you what was near you just block the fears out and swim. Feeds went well and as we got out the weather changed our worst fears came calling I could sea the boat being flung from left to right. Ihave come to the conclusion that the Moloaki does not like me as this happend the last time as well. nothing could be done it is what it is.
Through the night mantras and prayers in a highly lit world of my own whales very calming. The longest night of my life i thought had been the night my first child Siadbh had been born this was rigtht up there .Praying for Dawn and a glimpse of shore I kept going.No shore just 20/25 miles wind and swells jesus it was grim stuff. It was just get to the next feed and using every trick i could think of breathing in sixs on one side kicking cosistantly any thing .
I do not nrmally want to now the time but after a few hours in daylight I asked my skipper how we were doing cool as a button the skipp told me I was fine and to keep going we had been in 13 hours and still had 8 miles to go heartbraking soul destroying Moloaki was exacting a huge demands from my body.
I realy thought this was the end but how can you give up and let Linda kasier down after all the work of the week before. the positivity of the skipper and his crew Charles an ex marine telling me we were heasding for the promised land these are things that keep you going to the other side Knowing my wife ann was waiting on shore and worrying was hard you wonder why you do it stop and go that little bit futher over the edge and discover the will to complete.
hour after hour we grinded it out sometime only making 3/4 of a mile tide ands wind will kill you in the end .I thought of my proposed landing on sandy beach not as nice as it sounds in my condition I did not stand a chance of landing there the rip tide and the wave rigth up to shore catch you and spear tackle you head first into the beach. it hold the highest accident rate of any beach on hwaii for broken limbs and collarbones scarey place. Shore seemd to get close then futher as we tried to get over the ledge where the tide is at its strongest. Jesus i was dead dead dead just keep going crawl long times without seeing the boat in the swells meant it was very diffiuclt to know where i was going. At last ht e skipper made a descision to let me go with the sceaminfg tide which washed me around the by the blow hole and the keyhole towards the china walls. any were would do at this stage.
no one had ever landed there as is is a wall of razor sharp stone i some how managed to touch it and in my deleroius state tried climbing out and got hammered of the wall by the sea. I manage to swim back to the boat and was pulled aboard more dead then alive no joy just hatred for that mean strech of water that had kept me in it grips for 22.30 swimming 44 mile the longest ever crossing and the first by an irish person. Shock set in quickly Dry Retching pucking shaking crying all in one not pretty.
Today as i write this i think it realy happened but am not usre till i see the cert signed by the captain and Linda. A usual the whole community in skibbereen
ballydehob and my home townof castledermot kept me afloat with prayers and positive thoughts Linda Kauserand the Hawaii Master swimming association who i could have done this without. The trip has made me understand that no one is alone and the are amazing people every where I look The irish people in other countrys are example to us that we can get on get up and overcome any thing . I hope this makes sense and is not to silly got to go now as tears are coming again strange shit but the thiught of the pain in not finshing this swim last october and my brother Anthony pain came back to keep me going and this swimis dedicated to him.
I find a lot of similarity between Stephen Redmond’s fantastic Molokai Channel and Lisa Cummins’s two-way English Channel.
Waiting for news and updates all through a Sunday afternoon and night. The trackers working intermittently or not at all, and hoping for more updates from the boat through third parties. The agonising last 10 hours, wondering where they were, imagining ourselves out there in the water with them, wishing there was some way we could send out some mental help to them, wanting so hard to be able to send them our best, knowing that these two extraordinary people were making you really proud to be Irish and to know them even slightly is a privilege.
Stephen and Lisa both getting swept past the normal finish points and ending up in locations where no-one has ever previously ended a swim, Lisa on Dungeness and Stephen on Oahu’s Chinese Walls.
Finally, tired when the swims were over, trying to sleep, and lying there in the dark, thinking it all over, thoughts and imagination swirling around your head, knowing how difficult it would be to explain to others just how extraordinary these achievements are.
Another great moment in Irish and global sport, spent at home in front of a computer and a phone, connecting with friends also awake doing the same thing, done by two ordinary people, with nothing but dreams and extraordinary determination propelling them. In some way the loneliness of the watcher mirroring the loneliness of the swimmer, the empathic bond that distance swimmers feel with each other, purely through being the few who can understand.
First thing on different Monday mornings, listening to each of these extraordinary athletes on Irish radio, sounding like they hadn’t been through hell, my eyes tearing up just listening to them.
I thank them both for these unique moments and memories and making me so proud.
Stephen’s Ocean’s 7 attempt is very expensive. He is getting a lot of support from friends and supporters in Ballydehob, but it’s a small town. And some people have asked here and elsewhere for fundraising links for Stephen.
(I accidentally sent out a brief version of this post yesterday to subscribers, sorry about that).
Some of you will have already seen Stephen’s own post-Cook swim report. He emailed me on Saturday night so I can put it up here. He titled it a “Widowmaker swim”. Stephen is not prone to exaggeration so for him to say this, well it’s a sign of extreme conditions. I’m leaving his report untouched, as you get a better feeling for his exhaustion and elation. His time was just under 13 hours.
He was on his way directly to Hawaii yesterday for the very slight chance he’s get a weather window, but the pilot wasn’t very optimistic. We all have our fingers crossed for him.
In yesterday’s (deleted) post I mentioned the horrendous cost (especially Tsugaru) for Stephen. I’ve asked one of the team if they can give me any details for an account or fundraising page that people who wish can contribute directly to. I’ll update as soon as I have anything.
The Philip Rush mentioned is a famous English Channel swimmer (single, two-way AND three-way), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, organiser and head of the Cook Strait Association.
His old man Just an update on the cook strait swim. Has been a great trip to new Zealand meeting incredible people once again Coming to the other side of the world I thought it would be very lonely as I traveled alone but the Irish in Wellington have been incredible and looked after me and helped all week Dermot in the D4 bar fed me all week and Roslyn Murphy and Marie came on the boat as support team. The positivity was overwhelming and the swim is more theirs then mine as I could not let them down. We got in on Friday after an aborted attempt on valentines day where we steamed out had a look and Philip rush the swim coordinator and head man makes the call he supply’s a five man team who’s only mission is to get you across very professional and all I have to worry about is the swim which is enough. The call came through on Thursday that we had a chance on Friday after 3 Days of gales I was delighted had been training all week in Wellington harbour and this was our only chance this week as tides would be gone and I was due to fly on Sunday 19 no pressure then. Friday was flat calm with sun shining as we steamed over to the south island to start swim so could not be better was well prepped and rested after flight down passing the brothers which are two rock near south island Philip gave me the ok to grease up stretch and get ready it is so unpredictable here but until you are getting in the water you do not believe its happening on this swim Philip is right next to you for the whole swim In a small rib and the larger boat lays off in support for any thing that you need . Finally into the water which was surprisingly cold I swam into the rocks and the guys guide me to a small beach I managed to stand up quick pictures and clocks started Ann’s away huge relief to be swimming. First 4 hours was heaven screaming along in the water at 54 strokes per minute perfect conditions. Stomach fine feeds great smooth and quick good communication with Philip and following his directions was simple . We had tracker on for this trip so people could watch it live on their computer in the fifth hour the northerly wind starting to come up sooner then forecast this worked against the tide which was coming southerly to create 6-8 swells and the wind kept me cold in the water even though sun was shining. We swam on through say encountering only a couple of shark which I never seen but Philip and crew spotted they stayed for about an hour inquisitive I guess . The weather continued to deteriorate through the afternoon the poor girls on the large boat being seasick but still updating everyone with texts and Facebook and recording my stroke rest throughout the day great people. The tide was just trying to kill me we had to cross over it so when it changed we could use it to bring us in god was testing us to the limit for long Periods it felt as if I was not moving at all but stroking harder then ever prayers and mantras were used over and over never looking forward just at Philip breathing every six strokes due to the swells now tough stuff no point moaning this is what i wanted this is My swim do I give up and spend the rest of my time in regret no. Just cannot happen . We are sweet around the point by tide and miss landing. Ending up in another bay where god seemed to be moving furniture Jesus it was rough darkness fell lights on mask and trunks we carried on wishing to get out every time I stopped in despair I lost 50 metres cruel water Philip explains that I only have 1 k to. Do I can make out buildings on shore where a electric power line runs comes ashore from south island so close now close I keep telling my self Philip fucks me out of my doubts and keeps me going as I am exausted and close to death. It take3 hours just to swim 1.5 k In the end and when I touch rock there was no joy i just cursed that piece of rock and grabbed hold of it swim done I had to get back to rub which was being covered in waves guys soaked and freezing from the day incredible people who got me over the cook straits I clamber he’d first into bottom of the boat telling the to get the f—k out of there back to main boat in shock now pucking and hypothermic after swim they clean lanolin of as best as can be done and get me dressed as quick as possible huge joy and relief all round I had been very lucky Philip explains that they had never had a swim finish I such rough conditions down on the floor of the boat for the steam back safest place to start recovering dry retching and puking acid all the way back everyone in high spirits how could I have let these people down truly a team effort very rough slow steam against 24 knot northerly wind . At last we come into are berth o be meat by over 100 irish people draped in Tri colours who had waited hours for us I was overcome and in tears at this these guys are are loss but new zealand s gain and it is great to know they are here as the Irish never give up adapt overcome and succeed . Huge community help and involvement back home with no one sleeping in Ballydehob and castledermot all of this I used to get over thanks to everyone for prayers and belief . Post swim badly badly burnt on backs of legs and face shoulders good freeing up getting ready to fly to Hawaii tomorrow very tired but delighted to be alive told death to get lost in the end we Prevailed. I have no word for how great the people and new zealand has been to me I am humbled. By it all thank you all I can never repay the debt I owe Kind regards Steve redmond Hope this is not too Crazy sir
Irish Water Monster, Stephen Redmond rescheduled his remaining Ocean’s Seven swims during the winter. (I’d been meaning to ask him to write again about them).
But anyway, he is currently in New Zealand for his first big swim of this year hoping tackling the Cook Strait hopefully starting at 5pm GMT tonight. Open water swimmers worldwide but especially the Irish swimmers are all behind him wishing him success.
Update: Well the tracker looked odd. According to Lisa, the swim was called off for tonight. Let’s hope there is a weather window tomorrow. I think only marathon swimmers and climbers understand this pressure.
The 2012 Olympic Open Water 5 & 10k event which will once more bring open water swimming to a wider world.
And from a personal point of view, I will have friends swimming many marathon swims including the English Channel, Jersey, Rottnest, Catalina, Zurich, Windermere, MIMS, and more. (I might even swim something myself).
And that’s not the whole list. Many of you will be aware of other swims not yet spoken of publicly.
There are swimming legends around the world. Little known outside our sport. Some past, some current. In a country with a very small population of only four million, Ireland is only occasionally successful in International Sport, and we celebrate our sporting heroes as a consequence.
But in Open Water Marathon swimming, we excel.
World Open Water Woman Swimmer of the Year for 2010 was Anne-Marie Ward. Lisa Cummins was nominated for the same for 2009 for her astonishing Double English Channel. Julie Galloway-Farrell, whom we’re happy to claim as our own, is nominated for Performance of the Year and Ned Denison, (Irish to all intents and purposes, don’t let the accent fool you), is a 2011 Inductee of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
And in this group is Stephen Redmond, from West Cork, currently pursuing the Ocean’s Seven, with the Gibraltar, Catalina, English and North Channel’s already behind him and an unsuccessful Molokai also. (Irish Open Water swimmers respect the North Channel above all others). This year Stephen ALSO soloed Fastnet Rock, never previously done, (Ireland’s Teardrop, so-called because it was the last shred of Ireland so many emigrants saw as they left for the shores of America).
Sailors the world over know of Fastnet, notorious for its winds and rough water, the turning point in one of the world’s toughest yacht races. (This year, a group of us, all serious and experienced open water swimmers, were to attempt a Fastnet relay, and in four periods of waiting, we never got weather that would a relay could swim, which can tolerate much rougher water).
Stephen writes below about his incredible year. I feel humbled and proud to just be able to read this and share it with you.
2011 has been a serious and busy year. Looking back, I have met some incredible people who have helped me get this far. I have worked with and sought the advice of people around me who have shared, encouraged and kept me going when I really thought I could not go on. My wife Ann, my kids Steve and Siadbh, Ann’s mother Delia, my brother Anthony and my family, are the rock where it all starts. These are things we all rely on and fall back on when we have nothing left and they have gotten me through to the other side every time.
My first swim of the year came suddenly in May when a slot opened in Gibraltar. A friend of mine had a slot for early May and the Gibraltar swim association had agreed that I could also swim the same weekend. Doubts whether we had enough training put in and very little open water swimming done, all had to be put aside as we entered the water in Tarifa in Spain.
Dave Williams was Feeder/animator for this swim. With one swimmer of either side of the Rib we only had a five or six-hour window of opportunity for this swim. The wind had blown a steady Force 4/5 since we set foot in Tarifa.
You all know the drill. Being so early in the season we were the first to attempt Gibraltar this year.
Factors that made it a really tough swim were that this was Ivan Holloway’s (also from Stephen’s home town of Castledermot, Co. Kildare) first Channel swim, time was short, we both stroked at different rates, and every time we stopped for feeds the boat asks us to go faster. These all eat into you until you think you are swimming like a beginner, sighting constantly for the point boat, and a false sense of security, with the water being so calm.
We soon realize that the reason we are being forced to swim hard is the mental (Editor’s note: crazy) tide and currents that greet us when we get closer to Africa. I seriously think we are going to have to get out, as we cannot see the point boat or Ribs for long periods, and tanker traffic is constant. Miraculously we get in in five hours. Dave joins us for the swim into the shore and we all realize how lucky we are to have made it.
I KNOW NOTHING – Home & Fastnet
We regroup at home. Friends Dave Williams and Noel Brown are incredible, shouldering the organisation of the next swims. The logistics of getting to these distant swims weighs heavily, and much of my time lapping Lough Ine (above) is taken up with this.
Steve Munatones has a lot to answer for, putting this mad crazy idea into my head after we completed the North Channel. A lot of work goes into trying to make the swimming effortless and efficient as possible. Time is also given to the mental aspect of the swims as I find this a huge part of the swims. If I allow doubts into my head they tend to block out the positives and build momentum like a chemical reaction. I try to put my head in a freezer, locking down all ideas except; the finish of the swims, what will it be like?; what will be the taste and temperature of the water?; what kind of beach?; making the last stroke that propels your hand into the land; and the blinding clarity that it all makes sense for a second before you realize that it’s over.
A lot of experimenting with kicking, feeds, gels, and kit. All take time, and training is like a war as much as possible when I have time then work, and home, FAMILY. Then start again.
We decide to go for Catalina in October if I can get a slot. So the summer is very busy. I need to get a decent build-up swim and my old obsession swim come back to me of swimming around the Fastnet Lighthouse, either from Schull or Baltimore.
We eventually decide to try Baltimore around the Fastnet and into Schull. Taking advice from Denis Griffin, a local fishermen who tells me I am crazy. But we already know that his knowledge is beyond belief, advising that it can only be attempted on slack tides and that we have to reach the Rock at a certain time or we can forget about completing, the tides being so strong and weather so quick to change out there. The shortest distance for the swim being 24 miles, it is a monster. But I need to test myself so we know we can face Catalina. Questions about whether it is to close to the swim are there always.
As I train another insane idea come to mind and I wish they would stop but it seems to be the way.
Could we ever go onto Hawaii and Molokai and attempt it if we are successful in Catalina?
I know forcing swims is a recipe for disaster but having discussed with my doctor and support team and looking at the possibility of completing the Seven Channels and making it a Irish and World First and competing with some of the best elite swimmers in the world is bloody daunting but worth a try. (I will have to stop listening to the voices, I think they are trying to kill me).
We attempt the Fastnet swim on the morning of the 17th of October 2011. Calm weather and sun greets me and seeing as this is the fourth attempt since July, just to get in the water, I thank the gods. The Fastnet Yacht race is still in full swing, it being only two days since a multi-million yacht lost its keel and over-turned at the rock, so we have to be careful to keep out of the way of traffic out there, as if there was not enough problems.
My support team are friends who have all completed Ironman Triathlons but as we have the briefing for the swim and I describe what is going to occur, and what they may have to do, they all realize this is a daunting task. When I tell them that they cannot let me back onto the boat unless I am dead, they realize that it is going to be a long day.
Long eventful puking, sick stomach, begging to stop, but they never once panicked and were brilliant in the extreme. We ended up swimming 26.5 miles in thirtenn hours and thirty minutes in water temps of 12 to 14 Degrees Celsius, (53.6 to 57 Degrees Fahrenheit). Never had so many prayers and deals been made to never swim again if we got this swim. And utter disbelief as I rounded the pier in Schull to see Denis Griffin on the pier.
Through the tears in my bloody mask we had both waited a long time for this moment and still I wonder how we did it.
I KNOW NOTHING – Catalina
Training goes on as we approach Catalina with great fear. Getting to these places is the hardest thing of all.
And as we finally get into LA. we realise we are on the edge. The hotel is right on the water, near our boat so meal and bed. In Los Angeles another Irish contact Brian Carmody helps with the hotel and our recovery strategy if we intend to go onto Hawaii.
One day’s rest and prepping and it’s onto the boat for a steam over to Catalina Island, to start the swim at 1.00 am. I am in denial as this is the first time I have ever got on a boat to swim at the time booked for swim. Normally the wind follows me wherever I go and we are always hanging around waiting. I’m shocked. So little time to rest after flight, preparing kit and gathering stores for the boat.
We have an engine starter problem which is fixed and we are not delayed too long, nerves jangling jangling, thoughts of “have we taken on too much, so far away from home?”. Enough. We try to sleep going out. It seems a long way. Jesus, nerves. Given a shout up by Anthony, my brother and my traveling companion. The poor bugger is suffering with sea sickness. A long delay at the start trying to get us in close to shore. It’s really really dark. At last we are in.
I got pretty cold standing around and try to swim in over a kelp forest. In the end I swim/roll over them. After jarring my shoulders in the kelp I reach land exhausted and this is only the start! Not a good feeling.
I swim with a paddle-boarder next to me from the Catalina Swimming Association, which is new to me, and awkward and hard to see and avoid the board. Gracie is talking to me which I am not used to and I feel she is trying to tell me something or I should stop. Stroking at about 54 strokes per minute but the phosphorescence is like a welding arc under the water. Jesus, bad news. First feed down is a bit slow as it’s done off the board, I’m not enjoying this. The doubts, the doubts. This is their golden time. After hours Forrest Nelson (Editor: another Nominee for World Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year) comes in. I am amazed by the care taken by the Catalina Swimming Association. It is humbling to come half way around the world and meet strangers who will do anything to see you succeed and indeed Forrest, and Marta my observer got me through the monster.
I can only assume the journey and the quick lead into the swim affected me but my stomach locked up and six hours in, I treaded water for 15 minutes pleading to stop….
Never a ladder down, nothing. In the end Anthony pushed the one button that he knew would stir anger and a refusal to quit in me. He explained to Forrest to come out to me and quietly tell me that my kids had just called to see how we were and they had said that I should not give up. The tipping point of the swim. How did Forest know this?? Middle of the channel cursing them all, abuse flying, it was such a surreal moment that I had no other choice. A Milky Way was flung to me and I just put my head back in the water and got going again.
Utter joy and humility are what we should all feel . This swim bought them. We finished in twelve hours and thirty minutes to cheers and much laughter. At this point I did not want to see water again for a long long time. No way was I going to Hawaii!!
Great to meet the man who was a huge help to us in LA and with the rest of trip and future swims as well. We stagger back to room and collapse to black sleep for six hours.
I KNOW NOTHING – Molokai
Waken early to texts and calls from home. I feel neither here nor there. A call from home tells me to try one day of recovery before deciding to come home. After all we are so close and have our deposit paid on boat. Discussions with Anthony and Steve Munatones and support team at home. By the end of the day I feel pretty good. The warmer water has not taken as much as the cold water does out of my shoulders. Next morning we decide to go onto Hawaii and arrange flights and accommodation. I have to cancel Catalina thoughts for the time being and begin a blank page for Hawaii. It’s pretty hot here. We get into the hotel very tired from flights but realizing we have three good days to prepare for the swim.
These days go well and I feel strong and recovered. I swim in the sea every day. It’s very salty and the waves have incredible power. The Skipper is okay for Wednesday so off to Molokai on Tuesday. Nerves in overdrive again. You are even further from all we know and are the phones are not really working here, so little contact with home. I tell you the hardest jobs are the support team. Remaining positive and getting me through swims and airports is an unenviable task. We get to Molokai Island and the hotel. We are in the wilds now, that’s for sure.
We meet the skipper and steam around the island around five thirty A.M.. I start greasing up. Dark, dark, dark again. Into the water after a briefing and into the island over reefs. I get taken by waves and slammed. Spear tackled and scratched badly. A disaster, I lose my goggles and cap. Violent stuff,a bad start. On the beach, I scout around to see if there was anyone up. Nothing, so I signal boat and start to swim out to get spare goggles and cap. The first two hours go in a flash, the water great and warm as a bath, the feeds are great, this is good. My left eye got a fair doing from the water and is closing up. But time to get on. I swim just under eight miles in the first two hours. Great.
Then gradually the water and swell starts to get a lot rougher. Anthony tells me on the next feed that we are getting hit by a strong head current and large waves. Molokai was having fun with us. This swim was different again. Jesus, I shorten strokes to deal with swell and increase rate. The boat is a fair distance away looking for better water to see if we can get away from this awful current. The first shark wander into view. Nice clear water, I can see them a long way off. Bugger. What is it? Why it is that it is smiling? Bloody film’s bloody music. In the end it has no interest and wanders off. Lots of small jellies, stinging away. Amazing clarity in the water but the waves are like being caught and thrown like a stick and we are up to our necks in it this time. Feeds continue great, I feel much better than Catalina and full of energy. After around nine hours, which I judge by the sun on my left, the skipper is having problems holding the boat as I feed with waves coming over the side of the boat. Poor Anthony is soaked. He tells me we are nearly half way but making very slow progress against this current. More sharks and tuna all day. I’m long getting used to it now.
We carry on, constantly sighting the boat. You are on your own with your own thoughts but my head is very positive. We know nothing about pain really or how far we can really go any way. On to darkness now and still in huge swells. The next feed and the Skipper delivers an ultimatum that we are just over half way. Eleven hours into the swim and have another fifteen hours to complete , he is not happy that they are losing sight of me on the boat for long periods of time, which I did not realise. I decide to swim on, to see if we can get out of this cursed current.
At the next feed, we talk again and he tells me that he has never seen a current like this in the Channel. Anthony is distraught, knowing that we must come out on safety grounds. There have also been a lot of sharks scouting around for the last few hours or so.
Terrible to be honest , the Skipper tells me he cannot guarantee that I will not be lost, even with a shot of glow sticks on, and advises me to come out after eighteen miles and eleven hours and thirty minutes. The steam back is very long and very quiet. We clean up and chat and realise the water beat us and we could have gone on for many hours.
A steep learning curve indeed and we have learned so much for when we come back. Which we will.
I KNOW NOTHING – 2011
The whole year has gone so quickly and we have met great people and learned so much. I am delighted to be nominated for the WOWSA swim award I hope you will vote for me and we will complete the remaining Channels next year. I hope for your continued support and realize how lucky I have been. Great people, great water, great swims and so many great swimmers . We have all come too far to fail. Thank you for your support.
Stephen continues his extraordinary journey toward the Ocean’s Seven, after swimming Catalina Channel only last week, with the Molokai Channel, between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii beckons. It’s 26 miles wide. Go all the way Stephen!
Molokai will be warm by our standards, but is known for jellies, sharks, winds & currents and big swells, especially at this time of the year and potentially large breakers at start and finish. Logistically it’s more difficult. Here’s a good description of it from the record breaker Darren Miller last week on The Daily New Of Open Water Swimming.
I really wish we had a tracker.
EDIT: Update from Facebook via Lisa …
He's got 14k done, 3hrs 15mins in. Stomach and feeding all ok so far. 32k to go.
All good so far. Go Stephen.
EDIT 2: Morning Update from Ossi:
Morning all…unfortunately Steve was pulled out of the water on safety grounds! He swam 5 miles in the first 2 hours and then hit a brick wall in the form of the ‘el nino’ current something that normally appears once every 10 years. He was basically swimming onto a vicious head current that was creating 8-10 foot swells.anthony and the skipper couldn’t keep sight of steve any longer as it was dark and so they had to pull him. At least he gets to fight another day! Thanks for all ‘the good wishes.
That’s a tough one for Stephen. He only completed Catalina last week, and I doubt any of the Irish swimmers think this will stop him, but the main problem that all swimmers have who aim so high, is finance, particularly for the remoter locations, like Molokai and the Cooke Strait. I look forward to meeting Stephen at the Channel party!
Oahu (top left) and Molokai (long island off centre)
The Rotary Club made an announcement about its Global Swimarathonwith a bit of additional news on the open water swimming front. According to the press release issued on World Polio Day, Penny Palfreyis going to attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida sometime in June 2012.
The past 22 years, the Rotary Club of Grantham, England has held a highly successful RotarySwimarathon every February that has raised over £500,000 for local charities and deserving causes.
In 2012, the Rotary Club will also hold an extra event – the Rotary Global Swimarathon – that will attempt to break the world record (presently 2,533) for the most number of people swimming at the same time anywhere in the world. So far, swimmers from New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Hong Kong, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Phillipines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Wales and the USA have registered in a charity event to eradicate polio.
Penny was named the official Ambassador of the Rotary Global Swimarathon in their ‘End Polio Now’ campaign. Concurrently, Penny will be in training to attempt the 168K channel between Cuba and Florida.
The Rotary Global Swimarathon will take place on February 25th 2012 at 1:00 pm GMT. To qualify for the World Record attempt, swimmers will have to swim just 100 yards without stopping within the hour. There will be a nominal entrance fee which will all go to the Rotary Foundation and help in the campaign to rid the world of polio.
Contribution received will help Rotary raise US$200 million to match US$355 million in challenge grants received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting US$555 million will directly support immunization campaigns in developing countries, where polio continues to infect and paralyze children, robbing them of their futures and compounding the hardships faced by their families.
Two big items there:
1. The global swim itself, something everyone can do, which will probably do more for open water swimming than that Ronan Keating nonsense.
2. Penny Palfrey to swim Cuba to Florida. If there was rating system in non-professional open water swimming, Penny would certainly be recognised as the current world’s best marathon swimmer and someone I’d LOVE to meet, maybe some day I’ll be lucky.
He had a tough swim apparently, (those who know of Stephen know those words seem unusual together). Stephen is the first (and only) person to solo Fastnet Lighthouse. Fastnet might mean nothing to you, unless you are a sailor or Irish, but it’s some of the most fearsome open water in Atlantic coastal waters due to huge swells and wind.
Don’t have a time yet. That’s English, Gibraltar, North and Catalina Channels from the Ocean’s Seven done!
Next he’s off to Hawaii for Molokai. Go Stephen! With the North Channel already done for him, and if he can find the funds, he might catch up with Penny Palfrey in the chase. Or maybe first woman, and first man? Wow, this is exciting. Really looking forward to this year’s Irish Channel party in three weeks.