Stroke After Stroke, Mile After Mile, Again And Again
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
For open water swimmers who have been around long enough and for those who have attempted dozens of swims, there are usually some swims that were just a little beyond what was possible.
Michael Read MBE has had a very successful career – one of the longest and most prolific marathon swimming career in history.
Among his marks are his 33 successful crossings of the English Channel.* His fastest one-way crossing was 12 hours 8 minutes, while his longest solo crossing took 20 hours 6 minutes. Between 1969 and 2004, his 33 English Channel crossings took an average time of 13 hours 56 minutes.
But there was one swim that repeatedly got the best of him: a two-way crossing of the Channel.
However, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. He made five separate attempts at a two-way crossing. “My last two-way attempt was 29 hours 5 minutes. I got to within 1 mile of Dover in 24 hours and then spent 5 hours trying to do the last mile until I finally snapped mentally, telling myself that I had done the mile 10 times over and still could not get in. When I stopped, the pilot then said that if I had stayed in another 3 hours the tide would have taken me in, a pity he had not explained that before I finally gave up.”
Like Read, there have been many swimmers – some quite famous, many relatively unknown, all persistent – who have repeatedly tried to finish a marathon or channel swim:
Jabez Wolffe (UK): attempted 22 times to swim the English Channel between 1906 and 1913
Tom Burgess (UK): attempted 16 times to swim the English Channel, finally completing his first successful crossing in 1911.
* Mercedes Gleitze: crossed the English Channel on her eighth attempt in 1927 in 15 hours 15 minutes
* Henry Sullivan (USA): crossed the English Channel on his seventh attempt in 1923 in 26 hours 50 minutes
* Mercedes Gleitze: attempted to cross the North Channel along various routes seven times without success
* Joseph Locke USA): swam from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands on his seventh attempt in 2014 in 13 hours 58 minutes
* Clifford Golding (UK): crossed the English Channel on his seventh attempt in 1997 in 13 hours 17 minutes – and did it again in 2003 in 14 hours 37 minutes
* Flavia Zappa Medlin (USA): completed the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in 2011 on her seventh attempt in 15 hours 10 minutes
* Stephen Payne (Australia): attempted to cross the English Channel six times
* Monty Holbein (UK): attempted to swim across the English Channel six times between 1901 and 1909
* Diana Nyad (USA): crossed the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Florida on her fifth attempt in 2013 in 52 hours 54 minutes
* Stephen Redmond (Ireland): crossed the Tsugaru Channel in Japan on his fifth attempt in 2012 in 12 hours 45 minutes
* Bert Thomas (USA): crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca from USA to Canada on his fifth attempt in 1955 in 11 hours 10 minutes
* Hugh Tucker (South Africa): crossed the English Channel on his fifth attempt in 2004 in 13 hours 37 minutes
* Thomas Noblett (UK): crossed the English Channel on his fifth attempt in 2013 in 13 hours 50 minutes
* Michael Read (UK): attempted a two-way crossing of the English Channel five times without success
* Mike Gaudet (Canada): crossed the Northumberland Strait on his fifth attempt in 1986 in 10 hours 5 minutes
* Mike Humphreys (USA): is currently training for his fifth attempt of the English Channel for summer 2015
* Ted Erikson (USA): completed a two-way crossing of the English Channel on his fourth attempt in 30 hours 3 minutes
* Natalie Lambert (Canada): attempted to cross Lake Ontario west-to-east four times in 2007-2008
* Jon Erikson (USA): completed a three-way crossing of the English Channel on his fourth attempt in 1975 in 38 hours 27 minutes
* Hugh Tucker (South Africa): attempted crossing False Bay four times
* Vijaya Claxton (USA): crossed the English Channel in 2007 on her fourth attempt in 22 hours 27 minutes at the age of 59
* Peter Hücker (Germany): crossed the English Channel in 2014 on his fourth attempt in 23 hours 5 minutes
* James Tout (USA): crossed the English Channel in 1987 on his fourth attempt in 10 hours 33 minutes
* Anne Marie Ward (Ireland): crossed the North Channel in 2010 on her fourth attempt in 18 hours 59 minutes in 12°C water
* Patti Bauernfeind (USA): crossed Monterey Bay in northern California in 2014 in 13 hours 0 minutes
* Cyndy Hertzer (USA): attempted to cross Lake Tahoe three times, but Mother Nature intervened every time
* Dr. Otto Thaning (South Africa): crossed the English Channel in 1994 on his third attempt in 10 hours 29 minutes (thwarted again in 2013 and succeeded again in 2014 at the age of 73 years 6 months in 12 hours 52 minutes)
* Barb MacNeill (Canada): crossed the Northumberland Strait on her third attempt in 1987 in 11 hours 23 minutes
* Willy Blumentals (USA): will attempt the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim for the third time this weekend
* Dori Miller (Australia): attempted to swim from Santa Barbara Island to Catalina Island two times
* Matthew Webb (UK): crossed the English Channel in 1875 on his second attempt in 21 hours 45 minutes
* Gertrude Ederle (USA): crossed the English Channel in 1926 on her second attempt in 14 hours 30 minutes
* David Yudovin (USA): crossed the English Channel in 1996 on his second attempt in 1996 in 13 hours 37 minutes
* Lydia Goldswain (South Africa): attempted to cross the English Channel twice, ending her second attempt after 21 hours
* John Dickerson (South Africa): crossed the English Channel in 2003 on his second attempt in 10 hours 9 minutes
* Andy Phaff (South Africa): crossed the English Channel in 2007 on his second attempt in 13 hours 59 minutes
* A list of Read’s swims are here.
Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association
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