320 km Relay From Sochi, Russia To Giresun, Turkey A 6-Day Success

320 km Relay From Sochi, Russia To Giresun, Turkey A 6-Day Success

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Wind, waves, currents. The Rusya – Türkiye Uluslararasi Karadeniz 320 km Açik Deniz Yüzme Maratonu was not meant to be easy – and it most definitely was not.

Hamza Bakircioglu forecasted the relay would take approximately 90-120 hours (or 4-5 days) – but it lasted even longer. The famed ice swimmer recalls the 320 km Russia – Turkey International Karadeniz (Black Sea) Marathon relay from Sochi, Russia to Giresun, Turkey, “It was very windy. There were high waves. We had countercurrents for over 2 days.

The 23-person relay team were together for six days from June 14th – 20th. Swimmers Kürsad Tüzmen, Ahmet Nakkas, Tarkan Tuzmen, Faruk Ilguy, Kubilay Cimen, Hamza Bakircioglu, Nurettin Unal, Burcak Tumay Pekel, Deniz Kayadelen, Zhanna Zelenskaya, Pavel Kulinich, and Anton Vetrov were supported by Dr. Ugur Cancel and Dr. Niyazi Kiyoglu with psychologist Dr. Cengiz Karagozoglu, translator Dilek Yalcin, FINA observers Volkan Unutmaz and Tuncay Bayram, and Turkey Swimming Federation’s Ibrahim Burak Goral that was documented by a television crew from TRT including Suleyman Cil, Mert Gungor, Murat Eksi, Burhan Torunlar, and Ismail Burak Aykin, and organizers Mustafa Ozer and Ali Rahim Simsek.

Bakirciouglu explained the purpose of the unprecedented relay, “The motto of this marathon is defined as ‘Strokes in the Black Sea for the World Health Employees and for Friendship’. Swimmers and escort crew members from Russia, Germany and Turkey met for the first time face-to-face on June 12th when everyone arrived in Giresun, Turkey and met at Hotel La Quinta by Wyndham Giresun. They all took a COVID-19 test while following other preventive measures and COVID regulations.

On June 13th, the team left Giresun with the coast guard ship TCSG-DOST and headed to Sochi. On June 14th at 9:00 am, Kursad Tuzmen led off as the first swimmer. The marathon swim from Sochi to Giresun had started. The swimmers swam accordingly to the prior planned schedule, continuously swimming all day and night. Each swimmer was followed by two escort boats which were approximately 20-30 meters from the swimmer. At night, the swimmers used lights while being followed from the ship with thermal cameras.

Every time a swimmer went into the water and came back out, their teammates supported them with cheers. The swimmers swam for one hour, varying in distance between 3 – 5 km.

The order of the swimmers, the planning of the event, the decision who will be the next swimmer, the decision for the swimmers who will swim at night, the positioning of the swimmers against the elements were adhered to the decisions made at the technical meeting before the start of the marathon. Before and after each swim leg the blood and saliva of each swimmer was taken. The blood values, the lactic acid amounts, the body mass index, and the body fat were measured. Marmara University and Giresun University will write an official report about the physical and psychological effects of the marathon relay on the swimmers.

The weather conditions of the Black Sea made this marathon very difficult. There were continuous flows in different directions. On the surface of the water, there was a different flow. Under the water, an opposite flow made it very difficult for the swimmers. From time to time, the height of the waves was 3 meter high. The team also endured a storm with winds of 58 knots per hour.

On board, there were more than 100 officers who worked for us. They prepared delicious meals and made sure the
swimmers get sufficient carbohydrate and proteins. After 2 hour from leaving Giresun, there were no telephone connection, so the mobile phones could be used only as cameras. This brought more connection between the people on board.

As we got closer to the finish, all the swimmers swam together in the last 500 meters. It took us a total of six days, between June 14th and 20th to arrive in Giresun.

In the evening, the team were greeted in a welcoming ceremony where the Governor, the Sport City Director, the Swimming Federation from Giresun, the Giresun University dean, the provincial sport director and deputies from Giresun. It was more difficult than we thought, making it especially meaningful. We are full of memories and created new friendships. The event was held in the name for the healthcare employees because they have had a hard marathon of one and a half years where they worked day and night. Our swimming relay also worked continuously, swimming at day and night. Our team wanted to say thank you to all of them and they wanted to do this also in the name of friendship.”

Copyright © 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones