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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Swimming With The Flying Dragon

It is only 19.5 km from shore to shore, a mere 12 miles at its closest point across the Tsugaru Channel.

Comparing the times of the channel crossings of the 14 swimmers who have crossed the 21-mile English Channel, the 20.2-mile Catalina Channel and the 12-mile Tsugaru Channel, the average times are comparable:

* English Channel = 13 hours 23 minutes
* Catalina Channel = 12 hours 31 minutes
* Tsugaru Channel = 13 hours 39 minutes (not including the 3 DNFs of swimmers who crossed the English Channel but not the Tsugaru Channel)

Not only does the geographic layout of the shorelines and currents cause huge eddies, but the winds are a forceful obstacle of the Tsugaru Channel. The very name of one of the starting points in the Tsugaru Channel gives a hint as to why this channel is such a challenge: Tappi Misaki or 竜飛岬 in the original Japanese language means The Cape of the Flying Dragon. "Tappi Misaki has a strong wind all year round," explains Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and pro marathon swimmer.

"The wind around Tappi Misaki is making sounds, just like a dragon is flying in the sky. This area has a wind power generation plant. Swimmers have to understand that no matter what happens, they will face a strong wind and no one can guess how strong the wind will be on any day. This is why swimmers have to start swimming really fast in the beginning if they start on Tappi Misaki. If you think even pace, they may see DNF. 19.5 km may sounds easy. but all the swimmers who have swam in the Tsugaru Channel know it is hard."

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