The Turbulent Traversée, Jan Van Scheijndel In Lac St-Jean

The Turbulent Traversée, Jan Van Scheijndel In Lac St-Jean

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Some of the toughest, most hardened professional marathon swimmers in the world participated in the 1972 Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean. It was a particularly tough swim from Péribonka to Roberval in Quebéc, Canada. The race across the nearly circular lake was not a simple 32 km point-to-point race.

On a mid-summer day in August, Mother Nature threw nearly everything she had at the 21 professional marathon swimmers. Only 3 athletes finished when rains fell and the winds came up with gusts came up to 27 miles per hour (45 km per hour) – right in the face of the swimmers.

The year before with the water temperature at 15ºC (59ºF), Jan Van Scheijndel of the Netherlands finished second in 9 hours 7 minutes. But a year later in 1972, Van Scheijndel won in 10 hours 48 minutes, a full 1 hour 41 minutes slower even with the water slightly warmer.

The conditions are always difficult in the tempestuous lac St-Jean, but the 1972 race’s difficulty was highlighted when 5-time winner, Horacio Iglesias of Argentina, pulled out after 9 hours 26 minutes as did one-time winner Judith de Nijs in 3 hours 8 minutes and three-way English Channel swimmer Jon Erikson after 11 hours 3 minutes, 3-time finisher Diana Nyad of the U.S.A., 4-time finisher Stephen Lake of England, 4-time finisher Marwan Saleh of Syria, and 14-time finisher and one-time winner Régent Lacoursière of Canada.

The results of that turbulent Traversée:

18th Traversée Results – August 6th 1972 Péribonka-Roberval 32 kilomètres-20 miles
1. Jan Van Scheijndel (Netherlands) 10 hours 48 minutes
2. Raul Villagomez (Mexico) 11 hours 37 minutes
3. Dennis Matuch (USA) 11 hours 37 minutes

* Carlos Aguirre (Argentina) 44 minutes
* Johan Schans (Netherlands) 1 hours 22 minutes
* Naste Jonceski (Yugoslavia) 3 hours 4 minutes
* Judith de Nijs (Netherlands) 3 hours 8 minutes
* Michel Poirier (Canada) 3 hours 55 minutes
* Mahmoud Khamis (Syria) 4 hours 19 minutes
* Marcello Guiscardo (Argentina) 5 hours 25 minutes
* Diana Nyad (U.S.A.) 5 hours 47 minutes
* Horacio Iglesias (Argentina) 9 hours 26 minutes
* Philip Gollop (England) 10 hours 11 minutes
* Stephen Lake (England) 10 hours 52 minutes
* Jon Erickson (USA) 11 hours 3 minutes

Left water after time limit
* Mohamed Gamie (Egypt)
* Régent Lacoursière (Canada)
* Samia Mandour (Egypt)
* Yvon Montpetit (Canada)
* Marwan Saleh (Syria)
* Hafez Shedid (Egypt)

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Steven Munatones