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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Navigating The Rocks And Cold In The Nubble Light Challenge

Ocean navigation and hypothermia were dual challenges at the first Nubble Light Challenge last week in Maine. With the water up near 66°F (19°C) in the days leading up to the event, the water temperature dropped precipitously on the day of the event to a bone-chilling 50°F (10°C).

Before the swimmers took to the point-to-point course through a narrow, rocky channel between the mainland of Maine and a small island where one of the most picturesque and photographed lighthouse sits, they waited until a dense morning fog lifted - and unveiled a tough course ahead.

When the fog finally did lift, 31-year-old Matt Baxter of Portland, Maine (shown on left) was the first out of the water in 56:07 over Joe Sheehan.

But it was the cold water that was foremost on everyone's mind despite most swimmers' use of full-body wetsuits. Local emergency responders, with ambulances standing by, treated seven participants who experienced hypothermia during or immediately after the swim that took the swimmers from south of the lighthouse at Long Sands Beach to north of the lighthouse at Short Sands Beach.

Triple Crown swimmer Elaine Howley was among the few who took to the water without a wetsuit and she said the water temperatures was about 50°F (10°C) - bone-chilling cold for everyone but the most hardy. Even with all her experience in the English Channel, Catalina Channel, around Manhattan Island and other swims, she said, "That may have been the hardest swim I've ever done." Despite the cold and the difficulty in avoiding the rocks along the coast, especially near the Nubble Lighthouse, Elaine explained why she was one of the few swimmers without a wetsuit, "I can't stand them. They are for wussies."

The finishers ranged from 17-year-old Molly Ament who won the women's division in 1:03, to some of the last finishers who were in the water for more than two hours over the course that is shown here:

Upper photo courtesy of Maine Aerials.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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