"Old Goats" Relay Team Conquers English Channel

“Old Goats” Relay Team Conquers English Channel

Dolphin Club’s Over-70 Squad Is Oldest U.S. Team in Channel History

San Francisco – A team of six Dolphin Club members, all over the age of 70, successfully completed an English Channel relay swim in the early afternoon of August 16, 2023. The team members’ cumulative age of 439 years makes this the oldest American relay team to accomplish the feat.

“We’re happy, proud, and a little tired,” said team captain Duke Dahlin, at 75 the oldest member of the team. Dahlin was the relay’s starter, beginning the swim from Shakespeare Beach, near Dover, England, at 11:30 p.m. BST on August 15. Each swimmer swam one-hour legs in rotation. The official time of the crossing from England to France was 15 hours, 10 minutes.

“The pilgrimage to Dover and the crossing of the Channel are in the Dolphin Club’s DNA,” said Dolphin Club President Diane Walton. “This group of over-70 swimmers inspires us all.”

The “Old Goats”–the name is an affectionate Dolphin Club nickname for older swimmers–are not the first septuagenarians to complete a relay crossing. In September 2022, a British team with a combined age of 449 finished the swim but was later disqualified because of an illegal crossover.

In 2003, team captain and San Francisco resident Dahlin completed a solo English Channel crossing in 14 hours, 37 minutes. He had planned another solo attempt in 2023, but was sidetracked by cardiac surgery and an arterial stent implantation in 2022. Other team members include:

Joni Beemsterboer, 74, of San Francisco. In 1989, Beemsterboer was a member of the first American women’s English Channel relay (10 hours, 48 minutes).

Thomas Neill, 70, of Marin County. In 2021, at age 68, Neill completed the 21-mile Catalina Channel swim (12 hours, 59 minutes). In 2022, he swam the length of Lake Tahoe (17 hours, 33 minutes).

Sunny McKee, 74, of San Francisco. McKee began competing in Ironman triathlons when she turned 60, and has since completed seven of the grueling Ironman races.

John Hornor, 73, of San Francisco. Hornor is a retired building contractor who began his Channel training by giving up alcohol and joining a masters swim team.

Julian Sapirstein, 73, of San Francisco. Sapirstein is a lawyer who serves as the mental health commissioner for the city and county of San Francisco. He played water polo at his Palo Alto high school.

Main Photo: Old Goats team in Dover, England, before their crossing. Left to right: Duke Dahlin, Julian Sapirstein, Tom Neill, Joni Beemsterboer, John Hornor, Sunny McKee.

The Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club was founded in San Francisco in 1877. The club’s nearly 2,000 members swim, row, and paddle in Aquatic Park Cove and beyond. Membership is open to all (age 18 and up); new members are accepted on the third Wednesday of every month.

Photo credit: @nancyhornor