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Friday, April 11, 2014

Llandudno Beach To Robben Island By Yach And Goodman

Courtesy of Theodore Yach from Cape Town, South Africa.

Theodore Yach and Martin Goodman successfully swam 22 km from Llandudno to Robben Island on April 8th where Yach finished in 7 hours 3 minutes and Goodman finished in 7 hours 16 minutes.

This is their story:

The original plan was for me to swim from Hout Bay to Robben Island – another 7 km on top of the 22 km – but after failing 3 times due to inclement weather, freezing water and huge seas, I changed the route to cut off Hout Bay. In an inspired move, I asked Martin to join me on my new attempt. Martin is much younger (40-ish)and stronger than I, so I reckoned that, with his strength and youth coupled with my experience, we had a good chance to succeed as a team.

Llandudno has probably the coldest water and worst sea conditions of any other bay around Cape Town as it faces the force of the NW and SE weather conditions head on year-round. The water is freezing most of the time and the wave action is brutal as well. This particular morning the water was 12ºC (53.6ºF), there was a 50 km/hour wind blowing offshore, the mist was coming in fast and the sea was very lumpy.

Martin looked at me and I responded with “It will be better around the corner. Let’s get going.” We kitted up, gave our stuff to Martin’s associate, Steven Berman, waved to the boat crew to start their clocks and dove in. Strangely, I never felt the cold but Martin later reported that, even when the water warmed to 15ºC (59ºF) after about 2 hours and the sun had come up, he was cold for the entire swim.

For the next 2 hours we kept our heads down, stopping for very quick feeds, as we could see the 2 boat crews battling to keep their lines. I usually take comfort from the expressions on the faces of the crews whilst I am stroking but, there was no comfort for the first 2 hours. We also saw about 50 seals swim past from the opposite direction. The thought did cross my mind that since it was early morning, they were probably being followed by at least one Great White Shark looking for its breakfast, but I quickly put that out of my mind. We had Shark Shields on our boats which, according to the research, do give a measure of protection whilst we swim in their radius.

The sea is a wondrous place, however, especially around Cape Town. Once we were into our third hour, we were able to start stroking normally as the sea calmed and starting warming up. Direction Robben Island. At one of the feeds I stupidly asked Martin “Is that Lions Head in front of us?” Lions Head is one of the most prominent parts of Table Mountain range on the Atlantic seaboard. Martin’s response is for the ages “Are you retarded?” he asked. I realized that he must be doing OK with that response.

I am aware that Martin negotiates with himself during the inevitable tough patches during the swim. This was to be Martin’s longest swim ever as his previous longest was a Blouberg to Robben Island, double of 15 km, so mentally he needed to step up which he did with aplomb.

My methodology to keep the mental demons at bay is to count my strokes from feed to feed so this swim took me approximately 20,000 strokes from start to finish. I have refined this to the point such that I can count and think of other stuff simultaneously and the time goes past very quickly between feeds.

After the fifth hour, I could sense that Martin was swimming slightly slower than me so I suggested that one boat, crewed by Derrick Frazer and Darren Willars, look after him. I would be taken of by the other boat crewed by Ryan Minnaar and Bruce Sandemann. This worked well especially when Alon Kowen arrived with Otto Thaning on their boat. Otto then swam with Martin for the last hour to Robben Island.

I could only see Robben Island after around 6 hours and immediately switched to 20-minute feeds. This has 2 benefits for me. The first is that I can pick up my pace between feeds as I prefer, if I am able, to finish as fast as possible. The second is that I can have a quick look at where I am so that I am comfortable with where I am going to land. The Robben Island shore is filled with very sharp rocks and little sea sand so one has to be careful.

Fortunately, Derrick Frazer was able to guide me to shore safely and I landed in 7 hours 3 minutes – my 80th Robben Island crossing and a new record as this route had never been swum before. Martin finished soon after in 7 hours 16 minutes. Our overwhelming emotion was relief as it had been a tough journey, but well worth the struggle. We raised just short of R100,000 – at the time of writing – for 3 different charities in the process which we were very happy about.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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