101 Greatest Open Water Swims In History - Part 1, Fresh Water

101 Greatest Open Water Swims In History – Part 1, Fresh Water

This week, Open Water Source is presenting a four-part series of the Greatest Open Water Swims In History.

The Greatest Open Water Swims in History is a list of 101 historic open water swims, relays, professional marathon races, match swims or events in all seven continents on Planet Earth (as of 2011) that were unprecedented, demanding, unique and extraordinarily difficult.

The list includes Part 1: Fresh Water Swims, Part 2: Ocean Swims, Part 3: Channel Swims, and Part 4: Marathon Swims.

The swims range a variety of distances from 1 kilometer to thousands of kilometers. The list includes swimmers of various eras and competitive racers and pioneers as well as solo swimmers and relays. Part 1 is below; the swims are listed by date (earlier swims are posted first):

1. James Foster‘s 1911 swim across Windermere in the Lake District in England. His 11 hour 29 minute crossing was not replicated for 22 years.

2. Ernst Vierkoetter‘s 1927 victory in the first Canadian National Exhibition race. Over 35,000 spectators witnessed his 21-mile swim across Lake Ontario in 11 hours 45 minutes. The English Channel world record holder of that era won $30,000 for the first swim across Lake Ontario in water that ranged from 6.7-8.9°C (44-48°F).

3. Pedro Candiotti‘s attempted 300-mile (482K) swim down the Rio Paraná in Argentina in 1935. After 84 hours, Pedro was pulled from the water after covering 281 miles (452K). The solo river marathon was his longest of 20 attempts, none successful that ranged from 1931 to 1943.

4. 16-year-old Marilyn Bell‘s 1954 crossing of Lake Ontario captured the hearts of Canadians. Her 32-mile (52K) effort took 20 hours 59 minutes in the turbulent 21°C (65°F) waters and resulted in a $10,000 cash prize.

5. Cliff Lumsden‘s victory in the 1955 Canadian National Exhibition swim. For his 19 hour 48 minute marathon swim of 32 miles that was covered extensively by radio, the 5-time world professional marathon swimming champion earned $84,000.

6. Greta Andersen‘s victory in the 1958 Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean when she became the first woman to win the prestigious 26K professional marathon swim outright with a 8 hour 17 minute victory.

7. Greta Andersen vs. Ted Erikson in the 1962 50-mile Lake Michigan Swim Challenge. Greta finished in 31 hours over Ted’s 35 hour 45 minute swim from Chicago to Kenosha across Lake Michigan. They were both forced to swim an extra 14 miles after placing behind to Dennis Matuch in the original 36-mile course.

8. Abdul Latif Abou Heif vs. Ted Erikson in the 1963 60-mile Lake Michigan Swim Challenge from Chicago to Benton Harbor-St. Joseph. Abou Heif won US$15,000 for his 34 hour 38 minute victory, only days after winning the 15-mile Canadian National Exhibition pro marathon swim. Ted finished in 37 hours 31 minutes and joined his rival in the hospital.

9. Judyth de Nys‘s overall victory in the 1966 Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean when she beat male superstars as Régent Lacoursière, Herman Willemse, Abdul Latif Abou Heif and Cliff Lumsden in 8 hours 38 minutes.

10. John Kinsella and Sandra Bucha‘s dual victory in the 1974 24 Heures La Tuque relay in Quebec, Canada where the Hinsdale duo set the world record of 194 laps or almost 65 miles total during the 24-hour race.

11. Des Renford vs. Kevin Murphy in Loch Ness, Scotland, the third-and-final race of their match race series. The 38.4K was attempted only a few days after their mano-a-mano race across the English Channel. Des lasted 6 hours 37 minutes while Kevin was pulled out after 9 hours in the 5°C (41°F) water in the epic 1977 series.

12. Christine Cossette became the first person to complete a double-crossing of lac St-Jean. With her 1984 swim, she issued in a new era at la Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean. During her 64K two-way crossing, she negative-split her 18 hours 27 minutes swim (9:29 in the first leg and 8:59 in the second leg).

13. Claudio Plit vs. Philip Rush in the 1986 double-crossing of lac St-Jean. Claudio out-dueled Philip in the 64K cold-water swim in Quebec, Canada that saw the rivals swim stroke-for-stroke for nearly 17 hours. Claudio won in 17:45:29 over Philip’s 17:46:29.

14. Vicki Keith‘s unprecedented two-way crossing of Lake Ontario in 1987. The 95K (59 mile) non-stop double-crossing took the Canadian marathon swimming heroine 56 hours 10 minutes. Only 3 weeks later, Vicki completed the first one-way crossing butterfly in 23 hours 33 minutes.

15. Claudio Plit vs. Philip Rush in the 1987 double-crossing of lac St-Jean. Claudio edged Philip in another one of the four mano-a-mano duels in the cold-water lac St-Jean, winning in 17:46:41 over Philip’s 17:51:08.

16. Lynne Cox‘s 1988 swim across Lake Baikal in Russia. Her 7-mile course from one cape to another took the aquatic adventurer 4 hours 19 minutes in the world’s most voluminous body of fresh water.

17. Vicki Keith‘s 1989 butterfly crossing of Lake Ontario. The renowned butterflyer took 31 hours to double-arm her way across 51.5K (32 miles) of the turbulent Lake Ontario.

18. Lynne Cox‘s 1992 swim across Lake Titicaca from Bolivia to Peru. Swimming at 3,812 meters (12,507 feet), she swam 10 miles from the resort village of Copacabana in Bolivia to the village of Chimbo in Peru, in 3 hours 48 minutes in 13-14°C (56-58°F) water.

19. Lewis Pugh‘s swim across the geographic North Pole in 2007. His unprecedented 1K swim across an open patch of sea, in minus -1.7 °C water, took 18 minutes 50 seconds to complete as he called attention to global warming and incorporated many scientific, technological and safety breakthroughs.

20. Natalie du Toit‘s fourth-place finish at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships. The only amputee to have qualified for an Olympic final, the South African icon proved became one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors and heroines with her Olympic 10K Marathon Swim performance.

21. Larisa Ilchenko‘s gold medal performance in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Latching onto the British pack leaders, the Russian open water swimming superstar waited until the last 50 meters to pull out an Olympic victory with her trademark Ilchenko Move.

22. Maarten van der Weijden‘s gold medal performance in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As the only leukemia survivor to win an Olympic gold medal, his comeback, training, preparation, race strategy and finishing kick are legendary.

23. The Camlough Team of 220 open water swimmers collectively swam non-stop for 232 hours and 52 minutes (over 9 nights and 10 days) to traverse a total of 685.5K (426.5 miles) in northern Ireland in 2009.

24. Lewis Pugh‘s 22 minute 51 second swim in 2010 where he swam 1K at 5,300 meters (17,388 feet) in 2°C water in Lake Pumori, a glacial lake on Mount Everest, to highlight the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and the impact the reduced water supply will have on world peace as part of the Clinton Global Initiative.

25. Speedo Ice Swim in Nuwedam in Fraserburg, Northern Cape, South Africa where 16 cold-water swimmers braved the 5°C water in “absoluut malligheid” (absolute madness) in the inaugural International Ice Swimming Association event. The event also included a 600-meter qualification swim for those who will to enter the Ice Swim in the future.

26. The Windermere 12-way Warriors (Liane Llewellyn, Thomas Noblett, Keith Bartolo, Michelle Lefton, Michelle Sharples and Dee Llewellyn) swam 12 lengths of the biggest lake in England in 2011. The 126-mile non-stop journey took 75 hour 32 minute in unseasonably cold water and strong winds.

Photo above shows Ernst Vierkoetter and Cliff Lumsden.

Readers can submit their favorite historical swims and suggestions to Open Water Source here (headcoach@openwatersource.com. Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones