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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Crossing The Nantucket Sound, Modern-day Style

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Back in the ol' days (pre-GPS, pre-jammer, pre-Facebook, pre-mobile phone, pre-Shark Shield), there were more than a few remarkable swims buried in the archives of the sport. But contemporary swimmers have a great approach to calling attention to these long-lost swims.

The common bond between Paul Asmuth and Grant Wentworth is the Nantucket Sound in the state of Massachusetts.

Back in 1986, Asmuth was on top of his game, coming off of six World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation titles and heading towards his seventh overall title of his career (the former equivalent of the modern-day FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix circuit).

Cape Cod Triathlon Race Director Dave McGillivray and Paul had become friends over the years and swimming across the Nantucket Sound seemed like a good idea for an unprecedented swim. Asmuth remembers, "Initially, we wanted to finish the swim crossing about the same time as the winners of the triathlon; however, the Nantucket Sound was a very tough opponent and I was 4 hours late. Its currents were stronger than anticipated and it was a windy choppy day with a few showers."

While Asmuth was fighting through The Sound against the wind and turbulence, he recalls, "The sail boaters were happy zipping around."

Asmuth started his swim across Nantucket Sound on the beach just west of the Nantucket Marina entrance and finished at Hyannis Beach. The finish area was specifically determined by the Cape Cod Ironman Triathlon where the intended goal was to have Asmuth and the triathletes cross at the same time. But Mother Nature laid waste to those plans. "It would have been much faster to finish anywhere on Cape Cod as I ended up swimming 12 hours 1 minute against the current for the last couple of hours."

In addition to the triathletes, Asmuth was not the only one lurking around in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean that September 6th 1986. "The boat crew did see shark fins during the day and thankfully didn't mention to me as I swam the last couple of hours in the dark and against the current."

Dial forward 29 years and Wentworth along with his coach Chloë McCardel and his support team and charity swim infrastructure of Swim across America, is now taking this simple idea of swimming across the Sound with briefs and old-school Speedo goggles and modernizing it.

Wentworth's team will navigate the Sound via GPS, protect swimmers and kayakers with a rotating array of Shark Shields, document the crossing in real time via social media, digital cameras, Marathon Swimming Federation protocols, and the MSF SwimTrack in addition to using the Swim Across America platform to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.

McCardel explains, "We have been working on this incredible swim for over 10 months. Grant is on target to raise over US$125,000 for Swim Across American and should be applauded for this great fundraising initiative".

While Asmuth had a specific goal to cross the finish line on Hyannis Beach on the same day and time as the 1986 Cape Cod Ironman Triathlon finishers, Wentworth has set aside the weeklong window – from July 24th to July 31st - to make his attempt and is open to where he will finish. "He plans to embark from Cape Cod’s Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth in the early hours of the morning," says McCardel. "Ensuring his safety during the trek across Nantucket Sound will be a team of supporters aboard two boats and kayaks who will follow him along the way including a Shark Team. Grant’s goal is to finish within 13-15 hours at Great Point on the northern tip of the island closest to Cape Cod. But given the uncertainty of the winds and tides, he knows his landing point could be anywhere along Nantucket’s north shore."

Wentworth is aiming to be the first person to swim from Cape Cod to Nantucket, a distance of 24 miles (39 km), in the opposite direction of Asmuth. But McCardel has back-up plans in place. "In the unlikely event of un-swimmable weather during the window for the planned Cape Cod to Nantucket direction, the swim course may be switched for a Nantucket start and anticipated Cape Cod finish."

But in whatever direction the 28-year-old Wentworth will swim, he has already scored a victory. "Through the Swim Across America charitable organization, Wentworth has already raised over US$113,000 to support Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s cancer care program from friends, family, and supporters."

Wentworth has another tie that binds him to Asmuth: Ron Kramer. Kramer helped Asmuth navigate the Sound during his 1986 crossing as well as served as navigator for all past four Nantucket Sound Swims including two other Swim Across America relay successes in 1992 and 1995 and two other non-completed relay attempts in 1993 and 1994.

John Boreland will serve as Wentworth's pilot as he has been for six Plymouth to Provincetown (P2P) swims. The support crew coach and head feeder is Chloë McCardel who served the same role on a Swim Across America English Channel relay with Wentworth. Paul McQueeney will serve as the Marathon Swimming Federation observer and the Kayak Team and Assistant Feeders included Mark Wentworth, Matthew Evans, Brian Ebke and Scott Arcenas.

The Shark Team will include Andy Olday, Blake Knowles and Chris Jankins and will use non-lethal and harmless methods of deterrence in order to prevent a close encounter with sharks.

For more information on Wentworth's swim, visit here.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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