Long Beach Swim Focus Catalina Relay On WOWSA Live
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And that they did.
The relay of masters swimmers broke the overall record set by USA National Swim Team set in 1989 with a time of 7 hours 2 minutes 45 seconds.
The athletes are all former collegiate swimmers who have stayed in good shape over the years – a testament to their love of swimming and healthful living.
Matt Mitchell (44), Parks Wesson (50), Lexie Kelly (24), and alternate swimmer Samantha Sears filled out the relay swimmers and were guided by paddlers Benjamin Landis and Matt Landis at their side. Captain Greg Wise on El Goofy out of Dana Point escorted the team. They rarely wavered from the rhumb line between the mainland and the island.
Wise swam the opening leg from the San Vicente Lighthouse on the mainland, flanked by his paddler and the 32-foot escort sailboat. Dr. Nalli swam next and the team sensed the night was going to be theirs. “The ocean conditions were rough at the start, but it got nicer as the sun set and the moon begins to shine,” described Wise who studied the channel and its conditions like the die-hard surfer he is. “We received the benefit from a light offshore breeze.
We picked our start time to match up to the beginning of an outgoing low tide which often makes a subtle current towards Catalina.
We channeled dolphin energy to see us through…our friends gave us a chest bump, kissed their knuckles and pointed their index fingers to the sky – we felt their good vibes. They all knew that we will be out there on the channel, carrying their love in our hearts on this moonlit night in an excellent aquatic experience!”
The team started and finished in the dark, boated over to the Isthmus and celebrated by a bonfire on the island.
But training hard was only part of the successful equation. As surfers, Wise and Mitchell poured over data and analyzed the water movements over time. They selected this date due to a variety of factors. “The conditions were pretty rough in the beginning, but we were patient and knew that we were riding a gentle outflow of water away from the shore,” explained Wise. “Both Hank and Lyle, our second swimmer, got banged around in the first two legs, but after looking at all the data with our pilot Captain Greg, we were counting on a fast swim. We never got off more than 60 feet from the rhumb line. About a third through my leg (as the third swimmer), the ocean ironed out and we took a straight hot into Diver’s Bench where Hank finished up on the rocks.”
Their patience proved to be their strength as each of the swimmers kept driving towards the finish. Wise swam 2.2 miles through white-capped waters under very rough conditions. The second swimmer Dr. Nalli faced only slightly less rough conditions and some ocean rollers, swam another 2.6 miles. Third swimmer Mitchell got the benefit of the night’s growing tranquility and was able to swim a third under increasingly calm conditions, completed 2.7 miles. Bramble, the fourth swimmer, was riding fast on the ironed-out Pacific and swam 3.0 miles. Wesson, swimming even faster on a calm channel, completed 3.2 miles. Kelly did another 3 miles closing in on Catalina with continued calm. Wise then finished off the record swim with a 53-minute sprint to Barnacle Beach at Doctor’s Cove.
“It was a beautiful night [out on the Catalina Channel]“, recalled Mitchell. “It was nearly a full moon and we could see Catalina the entire way, right from the start. As we left the lights of Long Beach, Catalina’s silhouette was always within our vision.“
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