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Thursday, July 4, 2013

What Open Water Swim Could Be More Dangerous?

Of all the open water swimming events to be held during the recent past and foreseeable future, we cannot imagine a swim with a higher level of risk and inherent danger than the 86 km Bering Strait Relay Swim scheduled for July 28th.

40 swimmers including the swimmers listed below from 14 countries will attempt to swim 53 miles from Cape Dezhnev, Russia to Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska in 5ºC water, just below the Arctic Circle.*

While hypothermia would normally be considered a problem among normal swimmers in these temperatures, the cold water is precisely the element where these elite extreme swimmers thrive.

While hypothermia may be minor issue due to the cold water acclimatization and experience of these elite extreme swimmers, mishaps will inevitably occur with 40 different swimmers in the water over the course of at least one night and two days.

If the ocean conditions become stormy or turbulent, then the potential for accidents will increase significantly. Just crawling up on the large escort boat in turbulent seas during the night can lead to cuts, bruises, or even broken bones if things get out of control.

If the currents are stronger and faster than the individual swimmers, then the time in the water on the Bering Strait will undoubtedly increase. Perhaps by a few hours, but what about if the team is blown way off course by 10-20 hours more? At some point, even this group of the world's hardiest extreme swimmers have a breaking point.

And what kind of marine life is in the Bering Strait? It is known that bowhead whales, blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, North Pacific right whales, walrus, sea lions, Northern Fur seals, beluga whales, and orcas exist in the area. Imagine swimming next to a beluga...or an orca. There will be innumerable safety precautions, but during every swim of 40-50 hours the unexpected inevitably occurs.

Fortunately, the swimmers will be fresh for each of their estimated 3 or 4 legs. They are estimated to have about 10 hours between each of their legs so rest, food, and recovery will all be adequately addressed. This will enable each of the swimmers to be at their best for each of their 20-minute legs.

Despite the possibilities that can occur, considering the hundreds of years of cumulative experience in cold, rough seas by the Russian, Irish, and South Africa swimmers, the team has discussed every possible emergency and determined specific contingency plans to address each of those possible emergencies. And if those plans have to be executed in the middle of the Bering Strait, we could think of no better team of swimmers to be with than those listed below:

1. Yuri Tsiganchuk, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
2. Yuri Myagkikh, Russia
3. Vladimir Chegorin, Russia
4. Maria Chizhova, Novosibirsk, Russia
5. Elena Guseva, Russia
6. Kieron Palframan, Cape Town, South Africa
7. Ram Barkai, Cape Town, South Africa (shown above)
8. Jack Bright, UK
9. Vladimir Litvinov, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
10. Oksana Veklich, Blagoveshchensk, Russia
11. Aleksandr Jakovlev, Jelgava, Latvia
12. Matías Ola, Buenos Aires /Tucuman Argentina
13. Henri Kaarma, Tallinn, Estonia
14. Toomas Haggi, Tallinn, Estonia
15. Nuala Moore, Ireland
16. Anne Marie Ward, Donegal, Ireland
17. Claudia Rose, San Diego, USA
18. Toks Viviers, Cape Town, South Africa
19. Melissa O’Reilly (‘Mo’), Lambertville, New Jersey, USA
20. Ryan Stramrood, Cape Town, South Africa
21. Cristian Vergara, Santiago, Chile
22. Lelané Rossouw-Bancroft, Newark, Delaware, USA
23. Rafał Ziobro, Krakow, Poland
24. Andrew Chin, Cape Town, South Africa (shown in top photo)
25. Jackie Cobell, Tunbridge Wells, UK
26. Paul Duffield, West Kelowna, BC, Canada
27. Scott Lautman Seattle, USA

* The Bering Strait lies at 65 degrees North. The Arctic Circle starts at 66.6 degrees North. For more information, visit here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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