Coast KZN

03 Dec 2017

Conservation swimmers abandon world record attempt

The Mercury Picture: Twenty one swimmers had to abandon their world record attempt after treacherous conditions at the weekend.

Twenty one swimmers – trying to break the fastest 100km swim world record to bring awareness to shark conservation – had to abandon the attempt after a little more than 28 kilometres.

The swimmers and their 24-strong support team, said organiser and charity Madswimmer in a statement, made their way to the Agulhas Current about 20km offshore from Park Rynie, to swim to Port Edward to raise awareness for sharks being on the verge of extinction.

Founder Jean Craven said: “We were at the mercy of nature. Weather-wise no one could predict six months in advance the best day to swim. Above all, the current speed varies and can change overnight.

We knew from the start that we would need both good weather and a fast current on the day to attempt a record like this. Meanwhile my team had to plan as if the swim was 100% certain to go ahead on the set date. We allowed a one-week window period from December 2 to the 8. Swimmers from as far as Israel and Spain booked out time to be available over the full period.”

The swim was aborted after nine hours and three minutes due to a bush of blue bottles they encountered. They had covered a distance of 28.24 km.

She explained that on November 28 they got the worrying news from the oceanographer on their team that a Durban Eddy, and a developing Natal Pulse, had been causing a reverse current.

“By December 1, the current was moving in the right direction again but at a slack pace of 0.6 knots/h. We needed a minimum of 2.2 knots/h to attempt the record.”

She said that current forecasts for later in the week were also rather uncertain.

“We decided to go with the relatively good weather forecast of the next day (December 2), trusting that current speed would pick up overnight.”

At 3am that day, they received the news that the current speed had increased to 1.5 knots/h.

“Although not what we hoped for a year ago when the idea of this swim was born, it was the green light to make the best of this once in a lifetime opportunity to swim in shark infested waters, unprotected, in the (today rather not) fast Agulhas current to show that we care.”