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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Great Duel: Murphy vs. Renford

Kevin Murphy of the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation discussed The Great Duel at the 2013 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in Cork, Ireland. The Great Duel was a famous series in 1977 that pitted Kevin Murphy versus Des Renford.

"The Australians wanted to seek a British champion who could be beaten by Renford. I was offered a first-class ticket which I turned down and asked for 2 cattle-class tickets for my wife and me.

We raced Manley to the Opera House in Sydney in these wire-mesh cages. It was not expected that I was much of an expert in this cage. It was like cycling behind a lorry. But I won. Much to my surprise. It was not in the script. You don't get a Pom beating an Aussie, especially on their home turf.

Because Des' times were faster than mine in the English Channel, so it was a clear choice to swim the English Channel. This was good to have an Aussie being me on our home turf. In the English Channel, Ian Reed and Reg Brickell was the pilot for Des. The swim date was set and whatever the weather was, we were going to do it.

We called the conditions of the Channel bad; the media called it cheeky. Ray Scott was the referee. Tom Heltzel was the other personality involved. Tom is famous for saying that the water was so rough that my boat would not make it, but I would. Des and his crew pulled a fast one on the beach. They started but did not tell me. Des started but he left the boat behind, thinking that I would not know.

I remember that Reg took a sharp right ahead of me and I was wondering what he was doing. Currently, the pilots do a magic right. Instead of being 400 meters behind Des, I ended up 2 hours behind him. Fair game.

The first time in Loch Ness, I went unconscious. So did Mike Read but we both wound up waking up together in the hospital. I thought I could win a swim across Loch Ness four days after the Channel. I remember Des saying there was snow on the mountains on the way up. Dennis Sullivan was the organiser of the Loch Ness swim. At the start, Des reckons that I was getting back at him. This was how I was regulating my breathing by staying in the water 2-3 minutes in water less than 10 degrees Celsius. I slightly pulled ahead of Des. He had a dreadful stroke but powerful as a surf swimmer. After 5 hours in these temperatures, Des was more upright in the water than horizontal. But he was not about to get out. So he got out and I was a few miles ahead.

Where was he? Is he alright?

I said, "Lucky bugger" as I was swimming in the 7 degrees C water. After 9 hours, I was only about halfway. I was getting hypothermia. There was nothing to prove after 10 and a half hours. It was the friendly way to end this series, an honourable draw as we hang on. I had swum longer than him, but in the film, the crew is all dressed up. Des went on to swim 19 Channel crossings as I did 34

I like finishing but I spend the entire time asking myself what the hell am I doing here. I remembered trying a three-way of the Channel, perhaps this may have been my favourite one. I got out after 52 and a half hours after 2 and a half crossings."

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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