Martyn Webster’s 64 km Swim From Bregenz to Bodman on Lake Constance
At 9:07 PM on September 17, 2023 British swimmer Martyn Webster landed at Bodman beach concluding a 64 km and 25-hour and 40-minute swim of Lake Constance lengthwise (pending ratification). Starting at 7:25 PM the prior evening, the 56-year-old started from Lake Constance in Bregenz. Lake Constance (known as Bodensee) is located in Central Europe, bordered by three countries: Germany to the north, Switzerland to the south, and Austria to the east. The lake is the third largest freshwater lake in Central and Western Europe in terms of surface area.
Known for his marathon swims, Webster has previously crossed the English Channel three times. Webster became the fourth to cross Lake Constance in its entirety.
The consistent support was pivotal to his success. Two boats, arranged by Patrick Boche of the Bodensee Openwater Club, accompanied him. Webster emphasized the value of the dual team support, noting that such achievements are team efforts. After considering various factors, including weather and currents, Webster and Boche, also a seasoned swimmer, marked September 16th as the ideal date.
The swim had it’s challenges. Strong currents at Schloss Montfort and Häfler Bucht pushed him off course. Dense morning fog disrupted his progress further. By midday, navigating a bustling ferry route became another obstacle. Seventeen hours in, Webster still had a challenging 25 kilometers ahead, with thoughts of giving up creeping in. Yet, he pressed on.
By late afternoon, at 5:10 PM, he reached Teufelstisch near Wallhausen, with nine kilometers to Bodman remaining. As daylight faded, it became clear that he would finish in the dark. Nevertheless, he pushed on with renewed vigor in the final stretch. Upon reaching Bodman’s swimming area, he navigated through Badi area in the dark to finish at 21:05. A weary yet happy Webster then met and embraced his waiting wife, Catherine French.
Wind and water conditions were perfect and as forecast. I started well, but the vortex in the center of the lake slowed me down, and I think for the last 25km, I swam against the current.
Also, after a clear night, we had fog for most of the morning, so waiting for the sun on my back was a long time coming – I couldn’t see the shore, only the boat next to me. I think the sun finally arrived around midday.
In the end, it was just a grind. I am glad it’s over. My preparation this year has not gone to plan at all, so it was nice to get the main goal for the season done.
Big thanks to Patrick – he put a lot of work into this project, scoping it, waiting for the right time and conditions to go, finding the right boats, and listening to my own thoughts and ideas.
This is a super complex lake from a current and weather perspective and needs careful planning to have the best chance of success. In the end, it all worked. I was a lot slower than I expected, but my stroke rate was pretty consistent throughout at 54 spm, so I knew there were things happening in the water pushing me back for big periods of the swim.
It’s a relatively local lake for me, and it was good to be able to wait at home without the usual stress of traveling halfway around the world to arrive for a fixed time window. I know it’s part of the game, but I have had too many ‘did not starts’ due to weather this year and in recent years. Having the flexibility that Bodensee Open Water offered me was a key factor in me committing.
I met Patrick earlier this year, and he impressed me with his first-hand knowledge of the lake, its conditions throughout the season, and his flexible approach.
It is a tough lake, as I said – I believe only 3 swimmers have completed the end-to-end, although many have tried. Respect to all of them for attempting. As far as I know, and from what we can see documented, I am the first swimmer to complete a swim in this direction under recognized marathon swimming rules.
I would like to thank my support team, Alex and Flurin, for their enthusiasm, motivation, and dedication, and to Patrick’s team, for putting it all together, navigation, and keeping me safe in the water.Martyn Webster
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