Clarification on Ross Edgley's Yukon River Swim: Not an Official Open Water Swimming Record

Clarification on Ross Edgley’s Yukon River Swim: Not an Official Open Water Swimming Record

We want to address the recent record claims about Ross Edgley’s 510km (317 mile) swim down the Yukon River in 62 hours, 510km (317 mile) along Canada’s Yukon river. Here are the facts and a detailed explanation to address the confusion about records.

There are Clear Distinctions in the Sport for Record Holders

In the sport of open water swimming there is a clear difference between swims with gear and without gear. There are too many types of performance-enhancing gear. It’s impossible to categorize their advantages. To keep things fair, only swims without wetsuits count for records in the sport.

Ross Edgley’s Previous World Record Attempt

Ross asked WOWSA in 2023 for pre-swim planning to break the Longest Open Water Swim record held by Sarah Thomas. In order to break a marathon swimming record, the swimmer needs to do the swim without a wetsuit. He attempted the swim last year with WOWSA-approved observers and route and the sport’s rules but did not finish due to extreme heat.

Guinness World Records’ Longest distance swimming non-stop Record

Ross mentioned his Yukon River Swim attempt to us last year. For this record attempt he went directly to Guinness World Records (GWR). The current holder of the GWR record for the Longest distance swimming non-stop is Martin Strel, who wore a wetsuit. This record was previously held for many years by Ricardo Hoffmann, who did not wear a wetsuit.

Historical Context and Existing Records

Longest River Swim: Ricardo Hoffmann holds the record for the longest river swim. He covered 481 kilometers in 84 hours and 37 minutes on 3-6 March 1981. The swim was in the Paraná River from Corriente to Santa Elena in Argentina. Hoffmann completed his swim without a wetsuit. This is the current record in the sport for Longest River Swim (distance).

Martin Strel’s Guinness World Record in 2001 in the Danube is controversial. It was 504.5 kilometers. But, he used a wetsuit. Wetsuits are not accepted for records in marathon swimming. Despite this, Guinness World Records replaced Hoffmann’s record with Strel’s. This is not consistent with the rules of the sport.

What Constitutes an Official Record?

For an independent marathon swim to qualify as an official record, it must be unassisted. This means:

  • No Performance-Enhancing Gear: Swimmers cannot use wetsuits, smartwatches, tow floats, fins, or hand paddles.

The Role of Guinness World Records

For the mainstream media and the public:

Various articles online mention:

“Pending ratification once governing body has had a chance to look over all videos, GPS tracking and witness accounts.”

Guinness World Records (GWR) is not a governing body in the sport of open water swimming but is a media and publishing company.

Ross Edgley told us GWR said this to him when he approached them about his attempt:

“Neither of these titles are governing body attempts so we wouldn’t accept statements from either body, you’ll need to replicate the guidelines as did the current holders.”

When we contacted GWR about this they replied:

We are aware of Ross Edgley’s recent record attempt. Once we have received all the evidence available, we will be able to conduct a full review and share the results.

GWR’s decisions do not reflect the official standards and rules of marathon swimming.

Moving Forward

  • Assisted Swims: Clearly state the use of equipment and do not refer to these swims as record breaking.
  • Unassisted Swims: Must follow traditional marathon swimming rules without any performance-enhancing gear.

Ross Edgley’s Yukon River swim does not qualify as an official record due to the use of a wetsuit. The longest river swim record remains with Ricardo Hoffmann.

WOWSA’s Stance and Community Clarification

WOWSA recognizes all types of swims. We ratify unassisted swims which are eligible for records. We certify assisted swims which are not eligible for records. We strive to be inclusive. Distinguishing between assisted and unassisted swims helps keep the sport fair.

The community and media need to be informed about this requirement for record recognition.

As we approach the Olympic season, it is an opportune time to finally apply the same rigor in announcing open water swimming world records as we do for pool swimming records.

References:

  1. Ricardo Hoffmann: YouTube Video
  2. Martin Strel Longest distance swimming non-stop (individual, open water) GWR
  3. Longest Open Water Swims MSF
  4. Ross Edgley’s Attempt to Swim Over 170 Kilometers | Live Tracker | Lake Trasimeno, Italy WOWSA
  5. Martin Strel’s website photos of 2001 attempt Archive.org
  6. Martin Strel Big River Man (Sundance, 2009)
  7. Ross Edgley achieves World’s Longest Swim record 220 Triathlon
  8. History of open-water marathon swimming by Johnson, Tim Archive.org (wetsuit and fins)

Photo credit: Yukon Swim, Kayaker, Chris Morgan

WOWSA