The Magic of Three: Triple Crown Swims

The Magic of Three: Triple Crown Swims

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The Triple Crown is a long sought-after achievement in the world of open water swimming.

The Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming includes a successful solo completion of the English Channel (England-France), the North Channel (Scotland-Ireland), and Bristol Channel (England-Wales).

The contemporary Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming includes a successful solo completion of the English Channel, the Catalina Channel (Catalina Island-California mainland), and the 20 Bridges Manhattan Island Swim (New York City).

The Triple Crown of Prison Island Swims, coined by Ned Denison and otherwise known as Triple Break, came into vogue later where swimmers escape by swimming from at least 3 of the world’s most well-known island prison swims: Le Château d’If, Fort Boyard, Devil’s Island, Île de Gorée, Robben Island, Alcatraz Island, Spike Island, and Sainte-Marguerite.

A third Triple Crown on the global open water swimming circuit came about in 2013: the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims that includes solo bioprene crossings of Loch Ness (Scotland), Lake Tahoe (California-Nevada, USA), and Lake Memphremagog (USA-Canada). It is the cryptozoological Triple Crown.

Coined by Phil White of the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association, the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims has been completed by four Americans: Sarah Thomas (2015, shown above) Craig Lenning (2015), Elaine Howley (2016), and Pat Gallant-Charette (2019, shown on an August 2020 WOWSA Live episode below).

The history of these renowned lake crossings goes back over 50 years ago.

Fred Rogers first crossed Lake Tahoe lengthwise in 1955. After dozens of swimmers who followed, Thomas and Lenning both completed the first two-way crossings of Lake Tahoe in history in 2013.

Following in the wake of Billy O’Connor in 1955 and hundreds of professional marathon swimmers who crossed Lake Memphremagog in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Howley was the first contemporary swimmer to complete a crossing of the lake in the inaugural In Search of Memphre race in 2011. Thomas became the first person in history to double-cross Lake Memphremagog, which she did in 2013, swimming 50 miles in 30 hours.

Following in the wake of Brenda Sherratt in 1966 across Loch Ness, relatively few swimmers including Kevin Murphy, Tammy van Wisse, and Michael Read have accomplished a bioprene crossing of Loch Ness.

Brenda Sherratt in 1966 after crossing Loch Ness. Photo by UPI Cablephoto.

The Triple Crown of Stage Swims, a brainchild of Joe Zemaitis, is a solo completion of a lake stage swim, a river stage swim, and an ocean stage swim. One example is the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona, the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim down the Hudson River in New York, and the Au I Na Mokupuni Ekolu Endurance Challenge Invitational in Hawaii.

The new Australian Triple Crown Series or the Triple Crown of Australia, launched by Sue Guesdon and Christopher Guesdon in 2020, includes a channel swim, a river swim, and an ocean swim: the 25 km Port to Pub Ultra Marathon from Fremantle to Rottnest in Western Australia, 34 km The Big Swim – Derwent River Marathon in Tasmania, and the 27 km Palm Beach to Shelley Beach Marathon Swim in New South Wales.

It would be an incredible feat for a swimmer to become a Master of Three,” opined Steven Munatones. “They would have to complete the Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, the contemporary Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, the Triple Crown of Prison Island Swims, the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims, the Triple Crown of Stage Swims, and the Australian Triple Crown Series. That would take years, perhaps at least a decade in reality.”

Copyright © 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association