Albert Is A Larger-than-life Coward

Albert Is A Larger-than-life Coward

Courtesy of Dr. Chris Stockdale.

Alison Streeter is most closely associated with the English Channel with her 43 Channel crossings.

Theodore Yach is closely associated with Robben Island as is Nino Fazio with the Strait of Messina, John York with the Catalina Channel, Lynne Cox with Antarctica, Linda Kaiser in the Hawaiian Islands, Kristian Rutford around Manhattan Island, and Petar Stoychev with the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean.

These athletes are larger-than-life personalities and luminaries in the sport who tackled particular stretches of open water – repeatedly – in ways that had never been done before. Similarly, British open water swimmer Albert Coward – an Englishman born in Halifax, Yorkshire – who has been permanently domiciled in Naples since 1978 and is seen as the pioneer in marathon swimming in Italy’s Bay of Naples (Italian: Golfo di Napoli).

Coward met Giovanna Raffone, his future wife, in Oxford, England in 1966. They were married in 1967 and moved to Naples in 1974. After finishing his Masters Degree in England, he and Giovanna returned to Naples permanently in 1978 – where they set up a beautiful, swimming-oriented bed and breakfast (Posillipo Dream). Meanwhile, Coward gradually set the stage for a history of open water swimming in the bay in his adopted country – and Raffone was on many of his marathon swims.

In addition to swims in his native country (14 times across Coniston Water, 7 times across Ullswater, and 6 times across Windermere). But his most enduring legacy is his many pioneering swims in the Gulf of Naples where he swam around Ischia 4 times, around the Isle of Procida, and between Torregravata and Bacoli on many occasions.

The highlights of his career:

In 1973, he swam 5.2 miles across Lake Coniston in 3 hours 40 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1973, he swam 10 miles from Ischia Castle to Baia Port (the Gulf of Pozzuoli), Italy in 6 hours 37 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1973, he swam 17 miles around the Isle of Ischia, Italy in 11 hours 31 minutes
In 1974, he swam 5.2 miles across Lake Coniston in 3 hours 25 minutes
In 1974, he swam 10.25 miles across Lake Windermere in 9 hours 35 minutes
In 1974, he swam 17 miles around the Isle of Ischia, Italy in 12 hours 16 minutes
In 1975, he swam 5.2 miles across Lake Coniston in 3 hours 15 minutes
In 1975, he swam a two way crossing of Lake Coniston in 7 hours 30 minutes
In 1975, he swam 10.25 miles across Lake Windermere in 7 hours 40 minutes
In 1976, he swam 3 miles across Pickmere Lake in 1 hour 47 minutes
In 1976, he swam 11 miles across Morecambe Bay in 4 hours 4 minutes
In 1976, he swam 8 miles across Torbay in 4 hours 34 minutes
In 1976, he swam 10.25 miles across Lake Windermere in 7 hours 10 minutes
In 1976, he swam a two way crossing of Lake Coniston in 7 hours
In 1976, he swam a two way crossing of Lake Windermere in 17 hours 4 minutes
In 1977, he swam across Lake Coniston twice in 3 hours 10 minutes and 3 hours 16 minutes
In 1977, he swam a 14-mile two way crossing of Lake Ullswater twice
In 1978, he swam Pickmere Lake in 1 hour 53 minutes
In 1978, he swam across Lake Coniston in 3 hours 5 minutes
In 1978, he swam a two way crossing of Lake Coniston in 7 hours 40 minutes
In 1978, he swam 7 miles across Lake Ullswater in 4 hours 25 minutes
In 1978, he swam across Lake Windermere in 6 hours 21 minutes
In 1980, he swam 9.6 miles Ischia inshore
Unprecedented swim: In 1980, he swam 11.15 miles from the Isle of Capri to Pietra Salata (Posillipo-Naples), Italy
Unprecedented swim: In 1981, he swam 18 miles from Ischia Castle to Naples Castle, Italy in 9 hours 50 minutes
In 1981, he swam 9.6 miles from Ischia inshore, Italy
In 1982, he swam 17 miles around the Isle of Ischia, Italy in 11 hours 31 minutes
In 1983 ,he swam 9.6 miles from Ischia inshore
Unprecedented swim: In 1983, he swam 18 miles from Ischia Castle to the Isle of Capri, Italy in 13 hours 10 minutes
In 1984, he swam 18 miles across Lake Como (Lecco to Dervio), Italy in 9 hours 48 minutes
In 1985, he swam 18 miles across Lake Como, Italy in 10 hours 50 minutes
In 1986, he swam around the Isle of Ischia in 12 hours 14 minutes
In 1986, he swam 18 miles across Lake Como in 11 hours 14 minutes
In 1986, he swam 16 miles across Lake Garda (Torri Del Benaco to Malcesine), Italy in 8 hours 10 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1986, he swam 26.3 miles (42.3 km) with Dr. Chris Stockdale from Ischia to Castellammare, Italy in 17 hours 28 minutes
In 1986, he participated in the Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli (OTL)
In 1986, he completed 19 x 5-mile training swims, 4 x 10-mile training swims, and 1 x 17-mile training swim in the area of La Gaiola, Capo Miseno, Naples and Palinuro, Italy
In 1987, he swam 11 miles from Torregravata to Baia and then Bacoli (the Imperatore), Italy in 4 hours 57 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1987, he swam 9 miles from Palinuro Port (Salerno) to the Isle of Camerota and return in 5 hours 10 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1987, he swam 17 miles from Palinuro to Acciaroli (Salerno), Italy in 9 hours 10 minutes
Unprecedented swim: In 1987, he swam 16.3 miles from Sapri (Campania) to Priaia a Mare (Calabria), Italy
In 1987, he participated in the Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli (OTL)
In 1989, he swam 11 miles across Lago di Mergozzo, Italy

Dr. Chris Stockdale remembers his friend’s swimming career. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire Albert’s successes – and even more so when I think how they were achieved. When Albert was swimming in Italy, there were very few open water swimmers on the Italian west coast and Paolo Pinto was almost the only Italian on the international open water stage.

Albert trained alone without any financial support and almost no publicity, often with just the help of a friend in a rowing boat. Frequently, he would just get in the water and swim for hour upon hour trailing a small buoy and red flag in his wake. His training for longer swims was arduous and exemplary.

Albert swam in a day when open water swimming, as we now know it today, was a different sport – where risks were taken and the basic rules – simple costume, goggles, one hat, enter and leave the water unaided and never touch the boat – were absolutely at the core of an effort. Albert is scrupulously honest and his successes completely valid. Amongst them are many inaugural swims of considerable distance and he should be considered to be a true pioneer of our sport.

I have witnessed him at the end of swims in considerable distress, but never less than modestly delighted to have completed the task.

If I hadn’t met Albert in 1982, my own swimming career would have been much diminished. That swim remains in my memory as a triumph for two close friends who were barely separated after 18 hours
.”

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