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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Theodore Yach Making A Point About The Cape

Theodore Yach describes his latest rough water exploit in his 8 km swim around Cape Point.

Watching the weather is a bit of a science – read obsession – for ocean swimmers in Cape Town so when I realised by Thursday evening that the weekend would be a great Robben Island to 3 Anchor Bay opportunity I tried to raise a crew.

My plans came to nought when Tony Sellmeyer of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association advised me that Robben Island was in lockdown.

Robben Island was in preparation for President Barack Obama’s visit to Cape Town and Robben Island on June 30th. I felt bleak until Tony craftily suggested that as I had never given the Cape Point swim a go. Why not this Saturday as conditions were going to be good in False Bay? My wife, Michelle, is opposed to me swimming in False Bay since Great White Sharks accompanied us on the last Simonstown to Muizenberg race ever swum. Based on my interpretation, I reasoned that as this swim is technically not really in False Bay. And we now have Shark Shields to protect us, Michelle is OK with it.

As it happens, Michelle was cool about this, so I set about preparing. Tony put me in touch with Keith Finkelstein who boats and himself completed the swim a few months ago. Keith recruited Arend Grondman as his Cape Long Distance Swimming Association Observer – which is remarkable inasmuch as Arend had a back operation 4 weeks prior and really should not have been near an ocean going boat.

We agreed to meet at Millers Point Club House. I invited Dr. Otto Thaning to swim with me, but unfortunately he had to withdraw at the last moment due to an ill patient at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Hospital. So I was to swim alone. The road trip to Millers Point took me an hour from my home and was filled with thoughts of sharks, currents and whatever else one is given to think about when we have too much time to think.

My arrival at Millers Point Club House was a joy. I met the late legendary Dennis Pearson’s grandson, Geoffrey Pearson, who immediately made me feel at home. Many fishermen were there as yellowtail was running and they were heading off to sea. It was a really pretty unspoilt place. The last time I had been there was when I paddled for Steve Klugman on his False Bay swim years ago.

We launched the boat and headed for Diaz Beach which is the start point. I had no clue what I was letting myself in for. The only research I had done on the 8 km swim was on the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association website which lists the 21 swimmers who have succeeded so far and whose time ranged from 2 hours 2 minutes to an ominous 3 hours 49 minutes. I realised that serious currents and ocean swells abound in this area. Nothing prepared me for the massive shore break that greeted me at Diaz Beach. Fortunately, Keith suggested that there may be a rip current heading off the beach so once I had finally made it to the beach in one piece, I found the rip and swam with it out to sea.

The first 3 km to the Point was hairy. I thought to myself whilst being bashed around and trying to avoid the boat, 'I have swum Robben Island 72 times; wouldn’t it be a pity if I drowned right here as I was drinking so much sea water.' The good news is that I made it to the tip of Cape Point. As Keith and Arend had advised, the sea calmed down a lot and I could craft proper strokes en route to the end point some 5 kilometers away at Buffelsbaai. Tony had told me about the scenery, but it was still a surprise. Unspoilt stark mountain coasts, beautiful kelp forests within touching distance. The depth cannot be more than 8-10 metres, seals frolicking below me, an elusive whale that refused Arend’s best efforts to photograph it and many jellyfish that stung me from head to toe.

I reached land at Buffelsbaai in 2 hours 19 minutes. To celebrate, I was given a yellowtail by one of Keith and Arend’s fishing colleagues on the return trip to Millers Point.

All in all, it was a privilege to swim Cape Point. The main lesson for me is that we need to keep this stretch of coast as pristine as it is for future generations. Development certainly has a place, but not here please!

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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