Iris Ashman: First Woman to Swim the Length of Lake Constance (Bodensee)

Iris Ashman: First Woman to Swim the Length of Lake Constance (Bodensee)

Iris Ashman became the first woman to swim the entire length of Lake Constance, a great milestone in open water swimming. Covering 63.4 kilometers from Bodman to Bregenz across the length of Germany’s largest lake. Ashman completed the swim in 30 hours, 17 minutes, and 11 seconds (pending ratification). The swim also qualifies her for the “24-hour club,” an accolade given to those who endure swims lasting longer than a day.

Originally from Germany, Ashman who is 60-years-old has been residing in Northfolk, England, for over two decades. Ashman’s success at Lake Constance came from years of hard training. “From swimming the English Channel in 2018, Wash, Sealand, Windermere, Ijslemere, Round Jersey followed by Eddystone lighthouse to Plymouth less than 3 weeks later. This year alone, Ashman dedicated over 1000 kilometers to training swims,” said her coach Sue Robinson on Facebook.

When crossing the length of Lake Constance, swimmers start at the German shore in Bodman (Konstanz district) and swim to Bregenz (Vorarlberg). For Ashman’s swim the water ranged from a chilly 17.6°C to 19.6°C. Air temperatures varied from 16.3°C to 23°C. The swim had a dedicated support team. Sue Robinson coaches her and accompanied her through Lake Constance from the support boat, taking care of her nutrition. Ashman’s brother, Markus Sommerfeld, also supported her. Patrick Boche and Thorsten Springmann from Bodensee Open Water handled the logistics. They provided expert piloting and support.

The challenge of crossing Lake Constance was made popular by Bruno Dobelmann, known as the Orca. He was inspired to attempt it after a double Belt crossing in the Baltic Sea. He failed at first in 2012. But, the path he set led to future successes for swimmers like Christof Wandratsch and Bruno Baumgartner. Marathon swimming in Lake Constance has a long history. Rolf Bader, a swimming master from Friedrichshafen, published a “Chronicle of Lake Constance Swimmers 1900-1990” in the mid-1990s. It is documented that as early as July 18, 1865, a certain Albert Dulk successfully swam the route in six hours and 31 minutes.

Successful Lake Constance Length Crossings

DateNameRouteTime
22.07.2013Christof Wandratsch (Germany)Bodman-Bregenz20:41 hours
30.08.2013Bruno Baumgartner (Switzerland)Bodman-Bregenz21:27 hours
17.07.2016Hamza Bakircioglu (Turkey)Bodman-Bregenz27:40 hours
15.09.2023Martyn Webster (Great Britain)Bregenz-Bodman25:40 hours
17.06.2024Iris Ashman (Germany)Bodman-Bregenz30:17 hours

“Waiting on the shore was someone who could empathize with her deeply: Marty Webster. The Englishman from Zurich had come specifically to greet Iris Ashman. “

German newspaper Südkurier reported:

“Of course, there were moments when she thought about stopping, but her will and the support team kept her swimming. “I really pushed my limits,” joked the 60-year-old, adding with a chuckle, “I think that even from an age perspective, not much more is possible.”

Photo credits: Sue Robinson Facebook

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