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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Camaraderie On The High Seas

When people from different backgrounds and ages come together in a team effort and are faced with adversary and challenges, they either come together and unite to become greater than the sum of the individuals - or they fall apart in blame-calling, frustration, and disappointment.

The Taupo x 3 in New Zealand, the Mexican American Unity Swim in Arizona, Ventura Deep Six in California, the Windermere Warriors in England, and the Bering Strait Swim teams were shining examples of teams that melded together.

These relays all accomplished their collective goals in examples of ultimate teamwork, selfless sacrifice, and camaraderie forged out of an us-versus-it (Mother Nature) mentality.

Swimmers on these relays placed the goals of the team ahead of their own desires. They all bought into the mission and never moaned, fussed or whimpered out loud no matter what might have been lurking in their innermost thoughts. Each and every member - male and female, young and old - epitomized the motto, "All for one and one for all."

This is exactly what is happening now out in the Pacific Ocean with the Night Train Swimmers. Captain Vito Bialla explains succinctly:

"Blair Cannon is simply a Bear with a heart just as big. Everybody loves him and a great swimmer too. Zach Jirkovsky is Cool Hand Luke; he smiles, swims, cleans the cabin, and simply does his job. Dave Holscher is an ever-so-talented swimmer, navigator, and weather man who is highly durable with a sense of humor. Luane Rowe is simply fearless with very little chatter. She looks like a royal lady with her hair up, but put her in a suitsuit and goggles and I dare the boys to try to draft off her. Grace van der Byl is a sight to behold in the water; probably the best stroke I've ever seen. I study it when I drive. On the boat, Grace is a friend to everyone; not an egotistical vibe ever. Phil Cutti is our jokester; every team has one and now [the former baseball player] swims like Grace with a smooth-as-silk catch-up stroke."

The entire team goes about their own 4 individual swim legs like clockwork: hydrate, swim, eat, rest, help out, prepare, and repeat. Over and over again. Tonight is their third night on the Pacific Ocean that has not been kind to them. After dealing with strong winds and an altered course around the California Channel Islands, they will be swimming parallel to Catalina Channel tonight and heading down to San Diego. "It's like we are Navy SEALs and best friends already. Regardless of what happens to the record, the journey was all worth it so far."

And the work has not all been on the swimmers. The three crew members onboard - Captain Bialla with navigator-pilots Hal McCormick and Patrick Horn, the trio works in 16-hour daily shifts. They drive for 4 hours, assist for 4 hours, nap, and help when time permits. And while it seems like they have all the time in the world, everyone keeps busy around the clock. Time has a way of being filled by basic human needs like sleeping and eating along with carrying out the duties and ultimately committed to their fellow teammates and to the cause.

The Night Train Swimmers relay can be tracked here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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