Four Is A Charm

Four Is A Charm

When the Ultimate Swim Relay made its valiant attempt with 4 swimmers attempting 4 separate, but consecutive, solo swims across the Catalina Channel, their effort called to mind the remarkable 4-way relay crossing by Sport City Mexico of the English Channel.

Their 42 hour 11 minute crossing was truly an adventure. The first crossing took them 8 hours 18 minutes, the second crossing was 10 hours 44 minutes, the third was 11 hours 5 minutes, and the last crossing took 12 hours 6 minutes.

Mariel Hawley recalled those two tough days and nights in August 2007 when a team of brave Mexicans made history.

The team included 56-year-old Jorge Urreta, 55-year-old Luis Pineyro, 48-year-old Omar Díaz González, 38-year-old Alejandro Moreno, 26-year-old Mayalen Noriega and me, supported by coach Rodolfo Aznar and Dr. Alexander Kormanovsky.”

We were waiting for our escort pilot, Mike Oram, at our hotel. We had been in Dover for a few days, but the weather had been terrible, raining all day long and with very strong winds. Despite the weather, everyone was excited because we had been following the weather on the BBC and the report said that the weather was going to change with decreasing winds.”

I explained to Mike that this swim was very important for us, not only because of the swim itself, but also because if we made the 4-way crossing, many low-income Mexican children with cleft lip and palate were going to be medically attended and have a surgery.”

After I made the introductions, Mike, who had been the pilot for the first relay team to ever do a 4-way English Channel crossing, the Sun Rice Team, said, ‘Hello, ok, now, where are the swimmers?’. I answered, ‘WE are the swimmers.’ Now, it was Mike’s turn to be surprised. ‘Ahhh; ok. I’ll be honest with you. What you are trying to do is not an easy. I was the pilot for the Sun Rice Team, they were all men and swimmers of [the famous Australian] Bondi Beach. They were much younger than you are and fast swimmers.’ After that, Omar explains that our purpose is to finish the 4-way crossing, but that we don´t know how long it will take us, but that we have trained very hard and that if we finish the swim a lot of children will be benefited from it.”

On August 23rd at 6 pm, Mariel was told by Mike’s son and co-pilot, Lance, that they could start the swim in one hour or wait until the morning. They decided to wait until morning.

12 hours later, Luis was standing on Shakespeare Beach waiting to start our journey from England to France to England to France and back to England.”

The first 24 hours were an adventure. Mayalen and I spent the night listening to the English and French coast guard radio service. None of us had any problem swimming during the night, but the next 18 hours were very different. The boat had little space for everyone on board, two pilots, two judges, a coach, a doctor and six swimmers. As the journey went to the second day, everyone started getting tired, hungry and cold.”

The second night was coming and it was much colder and windier than the night before.

Some teammates got seasick, but we had finished three crossings and were in the middle of the fourth when our enthusiasm started to fall very fast. This is the worst part: when the team starts to get tired, there is no space on the boat for everyone, swimming against currents, fighting jellyfish and seasickness. After 40 hours, in the middle of the night, our team captain says that either we touch England within the next hour or the swim may continue for six or more hours. It was my turn and I was very cold

Since I finished my last swim five hours ago, I had not been able to warm myself. I was shaking and my hands were so purple they looked awful and they hurt. Before diving into the water, I drank some tea and ate a piece of chocolate, but I was still shaking. For the seventh one-hour swim, I dove into the water. But this time, I could not swim. I was trying very hard but my body was so cold and tired that it did not respond as usual. I was very mad. As I continued swimming, I became more mad and sad. I could not see Dover lights and that meant only two things: As soon as I climbed in the boat, I was going to have everyone yelling at me and complaining about my speed and this journey will continue at least a six or eight more hours.”

I was almost crying and the only thing I wanted was to get warm and try to rest till my next turn. But at 2 am, I could not believe what I saw: Dover was just in front of me, 200 meters away. I forgot the cold, the tiredness. I climbed in the boat as fast as I could and without even putting a towel around me, started cheering with the rest of my teammates and everyone else on the boat. We were all jumping and cheering. When we saw Luis standing on the rocks and we heard the boat’s horn, we had achieved our goal.”

The official Sport City Mexico’s time was 42 hours and 11 minutes.

Remarkable. Simply remarkable.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones