Greg O'Connor Goes Four For Four Across Lake Willoughby

Greg O’Connor Goes Four For Four Across Lake Willoughby

Phil White of the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association reported that research scientist Greg O’Connor of Massachusetts became the first person to complete a four-way crossing of Lake Willoughby on August 14th.  He recalls, “Thunderstorms were rolling through the Northeast Kingdom starting the night before, continuing during the early morning and into mid-morning.  The storms delayed the start of our regular Willoughby Swim from 9 am until 1 pm and offered gusty winds throughout the afternoon.  Fine and exciting if you are swimming one way, with the wind.  But not so fine, if you are planning a double or quadruple crossing and swimming against the wind on the second and fourth legs.

Monday’s rescheduled attempt on August 16th was a different story.  As if apologizing for her feisty mischief on Saturday, Willoughby laid down her defenses and her winds.  Fair, sunny weather, light and variable winds from the south.  Water temps holding at about 70°C.

O’Connor set off at 7:33 am from North Beach.   He finished his first 5-mile leg at 9:56 am. Some open water swimmers and other spectators at South Beach cheered for him as he turned around and returned to North Beach, finishing the second leg at 12:33 pm.  He started slowing a bit on the third leg, reaching South Beach at 3:15 pm, and finished his final leg at 6:38 pm for a total elapsed time of 11 hours 5 minutes for this 20-mile swim.

Greg O’Connor on the fourth leg with escort kayaker Anita Gariepy

In doing so, O’Connor became the first person to cross the length of Willoughby four times in a single swim, complying with traditional channel crossing rules for bathing suits, feeding, and exiting and reentering the water at each end. 

The first person to double cross Willoughby was Shannon House Keegan in 2012, who completed her first leg, had a burger at our after-swim picnic and entered the water to swim back to South Beach. 

The first person to complete a triple crossing of Willoughby was Charlotte Brynn who accomplished it in 2019.

O’Connor was supported by two kayakers, Kathleene Callicott who covered his first two legs and Anita Gariepy who covered the last two legs.  For all four legs, Rob Andersen and I provided boat support in Django, a wooden dory used by Kingdom Games to support open water swimmers.

O’Connor was the first person to sign up for the inaugural 10-Mile Race at Kingdom Swim in 2009.  He was one of four who completed the first amateur swim the 25-mile length of Lake Memphremagog, In Search of Memphre.  He has completed a 28-mile swim around Manhattan Island, crossed the 32.3 km Catalina Channel, completed SCAR Challenge twice, and swam the 34-mile END WET.  He has also piloted support boats for Kingdom Swim’s 25 km Border Buster

He has swum in the Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival each year since it started in 2015 and was awarded the Good Shit Award at the 2019 Festival.  He has served as race director for Boston Light, helping to revive the oldest marathon swim in the United States. He continues to serve on the Advisory Board of the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association and the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Society.

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Steven Munatones