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Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Lifetime Of Swimming, Sharing, Smiling And Strength

Photos courtesy of Shawn Benjamin, Cape Town, South Africa.

Vineyard Swimming Club wrote that 60-year-old Theodore Yach passed away yesterday. "A wonderful man, entrepreneur, protector of the oceans, developer of Cape Town inner city, supporter of Vineyard Swimming Club...long distance swimmer Theodore Yach passed away yesterday [on] 17th October from complications related to pneumonia."

His brother Derek Yach wrote, "Seems he had a chest infection; did the Waterfront swim; felt he needed antibiotics- his doctor had him hospitalized where he died."

The shock of the larger-than-life South African's unexpected passing is quickly reverberating through his local community and the global open water swimming community well beyond the shores of Cape Town. Dr. Tim Noakes told the Sunday Times that Yach’s death was a great tragedy. “He was a remarkable man and his swimming achievements were exceptional. He was just a lovely guy‚ he was always positive‚ always gentle‚ always looking on the good side of life. He was a great leader‚ a great person."

The Cape Long Distance Swimming Association reported, "Yach was undergoing routine tests for an asthma complaint when he collapsed and died in hospital on Wednesday. Theodore is a veteran of 108 Robben Island swims‚ an English Channel swim and many other international distance swims. He will be remembered as a humble gentleman who loved motivating the youth to achieve their dreams. He was a friend to all and took interest in all swimmers who shared his passion for sea swimming.

[He was] a true gentleman who stood up for what was right [and] will be missed in the Cape Town."

His most renowned open water swimming achievement was completing an unprecedented Century Swim (100th crossing) between Robben Island and the shoreline in Cape Town that began in November 1981. 34 years later, he pioneered the Century Swim (100th crossing) in 3 hours 10 minutes in 13-14ºC (53-55ºF) waters from Robben Island at the age of 58.

He would go on to complete 8 more crossings - that ranged between 7.4 and 10.2 km depending on what Robben Island course he took - before his unexpected passing.



In March 2016, Yach was accompanied by six other swimmer friends - Toni Enderli, Kieron Palframan, Ryan Stramrood, Mark De Klerk, Buff van Westenbrugge and Dean Noik - along the 10.2 km route from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay, battling strong currents and the ubiquitous threat of Great White Sharks. When they walked up on shore, they were joined the hundreds of spectators at Three Anchor Bay beach in celebration of Yach's record.

Back in 1981, swimming from Robben Island was not a goal or an achievement well-known among the global community of open water swimmers. But over the three decades, the sport - especially within South Africa - has tremendously changed and the Robben Island crossing had become an international attraction that demanded grit and an acclimatization to the cold.

During the three decades of increasing popularity, there has been one constant: Yach's crossings from Robben Island. Sometimes he swam the shorter 7.4 km route from Robben Island to Blouberg; sometimes, he swam the longer 10.2 km route from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay.

He was honored by the City of Cape Town that offered Yach their full support in recognition of his service to the city over his successful business career.

Calm and composed as usual with a big broad smile, Yach emerged from the cold water to describe his Century Swim, “I am so relieved to have finally accomplished this milestone and to have the amazing support of everyone on the beach. I feel truly blessed from the love and support of my family, friends and the Cape Town community.”

He always believed strongly that his swims had to make a difference and had supported six charities by raising funds in the name of his 100th Robben Island Crossing. The charities included The Children’s Hospital Trust, Paper Video, NSRI Water wise Project, Wynberg Boys’ Schools Aquatic centre, Highlands House and the The Herzlia Foundation Trust.

Ricardo Mackenzie MPP, Democratic Alliance member of the Provincial Parliament and Chairperson of Premier Committee and Chairperson of Cultural Affairs and Sport, gave tribute to Yach's decades-long efforts to continue challenging himself while raising money for others. "It is important to recognise the achievements of Theodore Yach. He encourages young sporting enthusiasts to put their talents to use and make a meaningful contribution in their communities and lives. We strongly believe that our youth need role models they can aspire to. The late great Nelson Mandela is often quoted as saying, 'It (sport) has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.'

We share Mr Mandela’s sentiments and believe that sport in our society means more than just playing a game, but highlights endless possibilities. Possibility to change one's circumstances and the possibility to unite otherwise divided societies. We therefore urge our youth to invest their time in sports and contribute to nation building
."

Century Swim List:
#1 on 25 November 1981 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 1 hours 54 minutes #2 on 31 October 1987 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 24 minutes
#3 on 5 March 1988 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 27 minutes
#4 on 12 May 1988 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 54 minutes
#5 on 22 December 1988 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay (two-way) in 6 hours 53 minutes
#6 on 22 December 1988 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay (two-way) in 6 hours 53 minutes
#7 on 2 June 1991 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 19 minutes
#8 on 23 February 1993 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 21 minutes
#9 on 14 August 1993 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 19 minutes
#10 on 7 May1994 from Camps Bay to Robben Island in 5 hours 30 minutes
#11 on 14 May 1995 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 14 minutes
#12 on 17 February 1996 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 54 minutes
#13 on 19 May 1996 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 58 minutes
#14 on 20 December 1997 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 4 hours 17 minutes
#15 on 22 February 1998 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 18 minutes
#16 on 1 May 1998 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes
#17 on 3 October 1998 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 26 minutes
#18 on 2 January 1999 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 17 minutes
#19 on 1 May 1999 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 15 minutes
#20 on 6 November 1999 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes
#21 on 18 November 1999 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 10 minutes
#22 on 30 December 1999 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 33 minutes
#23 on 10 June 2000 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 31 minutes
#24 on 14 October 2000 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 20 minutes
#25 on 3 March 2001 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 38 minutes
#26 on 1 May 2001 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 42 minutes
#27 on 18 May 2001 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 22 minutes
#28 on 16 June 2001 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 4 hours 1 minutes
#29 on 23 September 2001 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 3 hours 9 minutes
#30 on 2 March 2002 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 12 minutes
#31 on 11 May 2002 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 18 minutes
#32 on 2 June 2002 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 36 minutes
#33 on 30 December 2002 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 4 hours 19 minutes
#34 on 1 March 2003 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 23 minutes
#35 on 26 April 2003 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 20 minutes
#36 on 31 May 2003 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 16 minutes
#37 on 19 October 2003 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 59 minutes
#38 on 30 November 2003 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 13 minutes
#39 on 27 March 2004 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 3 minutes
#40 on 14 April 2004 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes
#41 on 30 January 2005 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 44 minutes
#42 on 11 September 2005 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes
#43 on 18 February 2006 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 38 minutes
#44 on 5 March 2006 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 5 minutes
#45 on 12 May 2006 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 22 minutes
#46 on 5 January 2007 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 15 minutes
#47 on 17 February 2007 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 21 minutes
#48 on 31 March 2007 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 22 minutes
#49 on 1 May 2007 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 14 minutes
#50 on 4 April 2008 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 5 minutes
#51 on 27 April 2008 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 54 minutes
#52 on 28 September 2008 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 43 minutes
#53 on 26 April 2009 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 17 minutes
#54 on 28 November 2009 from Three Anchor Bay to Round Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay (two-way) in 10 hours 39 minutes
#55 on 28 November 2009 from Three Anchor Bay to Round Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay (two-way) in 10 hours 39 minutes
#56 on 2 May 2010 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 51 minutes
#57 on 4 December 2010 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 17 minutes
#58 on 18 December 2010 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 2 hours 58 minutes
#59 on 13 February 2011 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 26 minutes
#60 on 19 March 2011 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 49 minutes
#61 on 25 August 2011 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 45 minutes
#62 on 25 September 2011 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 36 minutes
#63 on 29 January 2012 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 33 minutes
#64 on 18 March 2012 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 40 minutes
#65 on 29 July 2012 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 3 hours 27 minutes
#66 on 16 September 2012 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 27 minutes
#67 on 2 October 2012 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 26 minutes
#68 on 15 December 2012 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 33 minutes
#69 on 17 February 2013 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 2 hours 45 minutes
#70 on 6 March 2013 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 29 minutes
#71 on 11 May 2013 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 40 minutes
#72 on 17 June 2013 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 35 minutes
#73 on 10 July 2013 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 3 hours 4 minutes
#74 on 2 October 2013 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 19 minutes
#75 on 3 November 2013 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 3 hours 47 minutes
#76 on 24 November 2013 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 22 minutes
#77 on 27 December 2013 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 4 hours 20 minutes
#78 on 26 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 24 minutes
#79 on 1 March 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 30 minutes
#80 on 29 March 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 13 minutes
#81 on 8 April 2014 from Llandudno to Robben Island in 7 hours 3 minutes
#82 on 28 June 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 14 minutes
#83 on 30 July 2014 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 31 minutes
#84 on 17 August 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 40 minutes
#85 on 7 November 2014 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 17 minutes
#86 on 29 November 2014 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 3 hours 52 minutes
#87 on 1 January 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 20 minutes
#88 on 24 January 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 30 minutes
#89 on 15 March 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 8 minutes
#90 on 30 March 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 21 minutes
#91 on 12 April 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 15 minutes
#92 on 17 May 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 30 minutes
#93 on 20 June 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 34 minutes
#94 on 9 October 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 43 minutes
#95 on 22 November 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg on 2 hours 0 minutes
#96 on 6 December 2015 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 1 hour 59 minutes
#97 on 17 December 2015 from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 4 hours 36 minutes
#98 16 January 2016 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 26 minutes
#99 13 February 2016 from Robben Island to Blouberg in 2 hours 40 minutes
#100 22 March 2016 from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay in 3 hours 10 minutes



"Yach is the most successful and consistent endurance swimmer South Africa has ever produced," said fellow Cape Town swimmer Lewis Pugh. "Not only he did he undertake his first crossing 35 years ago, but a majority of his swims were the long Robben Island crossings between the island and 3 Anchor Bay which are always tough and cold. By way of comparison, the next most successful Robben Island swimmer has done 52 crossings.

The swim to Robben Island from Cape Town combines everything we love about these endeavours - cold water, sometimes wild seas, difficult currents, interesting sea life and an overall beauty that rivals most other swim spots around the world
."

Besides his success in business and in the open water, Yach wrote a fascinating book called In My Element, an insider's look at the sport of open water swimming with an outstanding mix of beautiful photography, explanatory text, and personal insights. Set within the backdrop of the wild waters off the South African coast, Yach tackles myriad subjects of the open water swimming with an intense passion that can only come from first-hand experiences with cold, sharks, tides, currents, jellyfish and thoroughly inhospitable conditions in the open ocean.

"I have only experienced hypothermia twice out of over 100 ‘cold water swims'. The first time in 2010 when I joined Ram Barkai and company to become the first six folk in the world to swim a mile in under 3°C in a frozen dam in the Northern Cape. I wanted to test myself. It took the medical team approximately an hour to revive me. My core temp dropped to 28.5°C – 15 minutes after I exited the water.

The second time was in 2012 when swimming from Robben Island to Blouberg the temperature dropped from 10.5°C to 8.5°C at the 1 hour 22 minute point. I actually told the crew that I thought the water had warmed up. In both cases, the combination of my own cognitive processes coupled with superb backup on the boats intervened to rescue me. In my view, the crew’s expertise is more important than the swimmers.
"

He once explained about how he gets through the tough times in the ocean. "Cold adaptation is critical. I still go through my boring cold adaptation processes today after 35 years of cold water sea swims. Secondly, I never compromise on boat crews. If I don’t trust my boat crew and if they do not have the requisite experience, I don’t get in. Hypothermia is insidious so there are times when swimmers are not aware of the trouble they are in and the crew do not pick up the signs.

Thirdly, I have certain goals that I want to achieve with my swims. I have raised much money for various charities plus there are several swims that I want to achieve in and out of South Africa. It is very important for me to goal set. And finally – and I don’t apologise for how this sounds - I am inspired by the feats of the great marathon swimmers around the world. That is a big driver
."

"Theodore is truly a role model in the open water swimming world," says Steven Munatones. "He not only has helped others in the sport and organized local swims, but he also raises lots of money and awareness through his unprecedented charity swims. And of course he is best known as the King of Robben Island with his unprecedented number of crossings between the former prison island and the mainland around Cape Town.

Just doing it once is an achievement - doing it 108 times is very special and may never be replicated. His sharing, smiles and strength of character will be long remembered by everyone who he met and supported.
."

In 2012, his book In My Element was nominated as the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

In My Element is a colorful, entertaining explosion of open water swimming exuberance packaged in 163 pages. The hardcover self-published book is an outstanding mix of beautiful photography, explanatory text, and personal insights by a uber-tough swimmer from Cape Town. Set in the backdrop of the wild waters off the South African coast, Yach tackles myriad subjects of the open water swimming with an intense passion that can only come from first-hand experiences with cold, sharks, tides, currents, jellyfish and thoroughly inhospitable conditions in the open ocean.

Munatones sums up his impressions of the book, "His ability to describe the scenes and challenges of the open water world with childlike wonder, punctuated with gorgeous photography, is a page-by-page joy to savor over and over again."

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