Lewis Pugh: Seven Swims – Seven Seas – for 1 Reason

Vietnam Beach - Nha TrangOn my trips around the world I so often wondered what will happen to our oceans with increasing pollution via plastic and other garbage and reckless industrial overfishing that also destroys corals and other sealife. Beaches, seabeds and the water itself are losing their pristine beauty, the sea and its inhabitants are suffering in many ways. Before swimming Gibraltar in 2012 we watched a film about how endangered not only whales and dolphins are in the straits, but how bluefin tuna is on the verge of extinction being caught by industrial fishing boats even on their way to spawn in the mediterranean. Local fisherman are losing their livelihoods. Similar situations can be found all over the world, where catches don’t serve to feed the hungry but the well-nourished, not serving the need of people but rather their greed (Einstein). Today, to work for a peaceful world also has to include taking care of our environment and our resources – including, very importantly, the oceans, which cover over 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the water of our blue planet.

Seven-seasSo when environmental campaigner, UN Patron of the Oceans, North Pole and Everest swimmer Lewis Pugh got ready for his new expedition to help preserve our oceans and to highlight the need for the creation of marine protected areas, Peace Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu blessed him and told him:  “You’re not a swimmer, you’re a peace campaigner.” And explained:

When you damage the environment, you create conditions ripe for conflict. When you protect the environment, you bring peace.

Lewis new project happening right now till the end of August is his Seven Seas Expedition – a series of long distance swims in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Black Sea, the Red Sea and a final 100 km staged swim in the North Sea with the mission “to inspire people around the world to protect and preserve our oceans, and all that live in them, for a peaceful and sustainable future.”

And he is inviting everyone to GET INVOLVED - in whichever way you feel inspired. Like with the Peace Run – every little step or action counts. Each of us CAN make a difference. Because we are all connected.

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Karteek and the washing machine – EC solo no 11!

Karteek-swim-2014

Karteek’s wim track – courtesy CS & PF

Karteek-6-day-race

At the 6-day race, N.Y., April 2014

After a few years away from the English Channel, exploring other (cheaper) open water swim adventures across Scottish lochs and firths, then back crewing for our teammate Adriano from Brazil who “conquered” the English Channel in July 2013, and completing his first 6-day footrace  in April 2014, Scottish “King of the Channel” Karteek Clarke felt ist was time again for the “real thing” this year – another EC solo. He was booked for the tide starting July 20th, but as is so often the case, there was a lot of waiting involved, weather and tides not quite cooperating the way they were supposed to, with the added challenge of having to switch his pilot last minute. Karteek finally got his chance to swim on July 30th, on a windy spring tide – and an opportunity to enter new territory, timewise!

Spring tides and wind over tide combined to make it his longest swim so far – 19 hours 01 min.  He will post a longer story soon on his blog.  Here some of his first remarks about the swim:

“I felt super strong at the beginning and it seemed it would be a fast swim, but then it was a ‘washing machine’ all the way and I could never get into a proper stroke. Also it was on a spring tide, which is probably fine if you have flat calm conditions, but it made the end hard as you can see on the map – I thought we were going into the bay of Wissant, but then I saw two huge ferries between me and the beach (which is where they go near Calais) and then Devashishu, my helper, told me we were next to Calais!  So we just made it in, I think.  It was great to do the Channel again though. Mike Oram, my boat pilot, was really great – very helpful and professional – I could not imagine a better pilot.  Maybe I needed to have the experience of knowing I can swim for 19 hours! I will write up more on my blog in a while.”

There is only one dream
That will always be perfect
In your lifetime,
And that is the dream
Of self-transcendence.
- Sri Chinmoy

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Around the block in 52 days – CBS reports on the 3100 mile race in N.Y.

CBS-3100
Great coverage for a great bunch of world elite runners on → CBS news

The 18th edition of the annual Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race of New York – called ‘The Mount Everest of ultramarathons’ by The New York  Times – started on June 15th and will end on August 6. Of the 14 runners, the first ones already finished, in first place Sarvagata Ukrainsky (from Ukraine), who has run the race for the 4th time now, followed by Yuri Trostenyuk in 2nd place in his 2nd 3100 mile race.  Vasu will finish in 3rd place in his 3rd race!  For Pranjal Milovnik in 4th place, it is his 10th edition of the race. And for Stutisheel (Ukraine) in 5th place it will be his 8th finish. (See → result details.)

3100-miles-girls

From left to right: Jayasalini Abramovskikh (RU), Sarah Barnett (AUS), Nidhruvi Zimmerman (A) – still happy after about 36 days of running over 2 marathons (50-60 miles or more) daily!

I am particularly impressed, however, by the 3 girls in the race, Sarah from Australia, Nidhruvi from Vienna, Austria, and Jayasalini from Russia – with their absolutely inspiring performances. Having done one 6-day-race myself in April 2010 I have just a small idea of what the runners have to be going through in terms of physical and mental challenges and sometimes excruciating pains – on the one hand. On the other hand, there are many transformative spiritual experiences and deep inner experiences of satisfaction, peace and even ecstasy – which will permeate the entire being and be absorbed  and felt #even more for weeks and months after the race is finished. For deeper insights into the world of this mind-blowing challenge there are Utpal’s great daily posts about the race and its runners, with live interviews, photos and very knowledgeble background and inside information on → www.perfectionjourney.

Main website: www.3100.srichinmoyraces.org/main-3100

My life’s only road:
Forward.
My heart’s only road:
Inward.
My soul’s only road:
Upward.

Sri Chinmoy, Morning blessing-call-prayers

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Safely back – and the peace torch made it up to Kili!

Kili-UhuruAll are safely back – after an amazing Peace Run adventure in Africa – Tanzania – Arusha.

9 of our 13 climbers took the peace torch all the way up to Uhuru Peak, 2 made it at least to Stella Point, I had to turn around after 3:15 hours climbing up the crater – but I was very happy still – and one had to stay at Kibu hut due to altitude sickness! More to follow, including tons of photos.

The weather gods were with us – mild temperatures, no wind,  mostly clear sky – “because you had peace in your hearts”, one guide said – after an initial rainy day with thunderstorm at night at Mandara hut. Groups waiting to summit from Kibu hut that night were not allowed to summit – too dangerous!

More on www.peacerun.org – everything is up now! (pls. forgive the Austrian English :)

Nice slide show by Vaibhava: Dropbox Peace Run Africa

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Next Project: Peace Run Africa – Carrying the Torch up Mt. Kilimanjaro !

After swimming to Africa (Gibraltar Straits) in Oct. 2012 and some more Peace Run activites this summer in Europe (UK and Germany), it felt like the time for me to finally join Peace Run Africa, which will be converging from the north, south and central Africa in Arusha on Nov. 6th. Starting Nov. 8th, a mixed very international team will then carry the torch up Mount Kilimanjaro, hopefully all the way up to Uhuru Peak – to the highest point in Africa (5895 m)! I am sooo excited!!! Summit day will be the 12th. Support prayers welcome!

Elefant
I am aware of the danger of altitude sickness, especially with a short 6 day tour (Marangu route), and we will respect any serious signs of that. However, my father did it (still a smoker at that time) when he was 3 years older than I am now, also Marangu route – so there is hope! Last night watched the DVD “Kilimanjaro – Summit of Freedom” (German, “Gipfel der Freiheit”) - very inspiring and great for some last inner and outer preparation!

I am bringing my Peace Torch from Heidelberg – so the school kids will be even more excited next time, when Africa has been added!

Another highlight or our trip was going to be our visit to Tegla Loroupe and her Peace Foundation and her to her Peace School in Kapenguria, Kenia, which we have been supporting for many years – but for several reasons, the Kenia part was cancelled for now, we will go there later. Peace Run South Africa and Ethiopia are on their way.

Here some impressions from the Peace Run/Harmony Run of the past:Impressions of Peace Run Africa

 

More on: www.peacerun.org/fa

→ Interesting facts on Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Abhejali – our next team member to “conquer” the Strait of Gibraltar!

Abhejali-Tarifa

Joining Continents

“Swimming to Africa”, i.e. swimming the Strait of Gibraltar from the southernmost tip of Europe (Tarifa, Spain) to Africa (Morocco) – 15-20 km – is not comparable to an English Channel swim, but bridging two continents has a special magic to it. And there are similar challenges: unpredictable weather, days of waiting, currents, fog, huge container ships in the shipping lanes – but nicer marine life. The success rate is higher since the swim is shorter and easier – but you never know exactly what the currents and wind will do on your day, or if you get to swim at all.  (→ See the post about my own Gibraltar Straits swim Oct. 2012)

Video

On Monday, Sept. 16th, 2013, Abhejali Bernadova from Zlin, Czech Republic, fastest swimmer in our international English Channel relay 2009, English Channel solo swimmer 2011 and Manhattan Island Finisher 2012, became the 2nd Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team member to conquer the Strait of Gibraltar – in a very good 4 hours 35 minutes. Which made her the 3rd Czech Strait woman to do so – and the fastest of them! Conditions were less than ideal, windforce 3-4 most of the way – the AGNEC certificate says windforce 4 – and on the video the waves and whitecaps of the first hours are quite impressive compared to my own swim in 2012. Luckily everyone had taken seasickness pills – so seasickness only became a problem when they went dolphin watching (again) a few days later. Sunday, when a leftover team from the week before got to swim, was still sunny and calm (the photo at the top was taken on Sunday), but on Monday, on swim day, even though only windforce 2 was predicted, the Straits showed a different face.

Not easy, but very beautiful

Abhejali was still very lucky:
1. She got to swim at all (it is not rare for swimmers to come and not get a shot at all due to the weather).
2. She had an early morning start at 8 a.m, and the current – although unfavourable at the start – was not very strong near Africa. On the way back the pilot measured the current 5 km off Tarifa – and it had become basically unswimmable!
3. Abhejali had great company: not only her helpers and of course the boat pilots, but lots of dolphins! On one video she keeps swimming without looking up for quite a while – because she was looking at the dolphins swimming only a few meters below her. When a huge container boat passed, dolphins were surfing on its big bow waves! Her helpers saw them everywhere. “I had wanted to swim with dolphins,” she said, “and it worked!”

Map-Abhejali

On the website of ACNEC there is a link where you can follow the tracker of the pilot boats, Columba Uno or Columba Dos

In the first hour she only swam 2 km due to the strong currents (almost full moon), but after 2 hours she was told in 20 min. she would be half way – so she was able to pick up speed. One shoulder soon started to hurt from swimming in the waves – which she had not been able to practice in training – and pain killers did not help very much.

Finish Abhejali Gibraltar Straits“It was not easy, but it was very beautiful,” Abhejali said after her swim.

What will be next?, I asked her. Catalina, Cook Straits – or any other of the 7 Oceans swims? Maybe later, she says. She would love to swim from Europe to Asia (the Bosporus – an even shorter swim). “But now I’d also love to go back to running a little”, she says – a 24 hour and 100 km champion in her country, and lover and long time co-organizer of the World Harmony/Peace Run.

→ Videos of Abhejali swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, Sept. 16, 2013

→ more Photos

Link to ACNEG – the organisation for Strait of Gibraltar swims (swim list is not up to date on the website!)

→ Abhejali and myself at the IMSHOF ceremony in Long Beach, California, September 2012

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Cuba to Florida – the Impossible Dream made a reality!

Huge Congratulations to Diana Nyad! Never too old to chase your dreams!

I believe in dreaming big. y for Diana Nyad - Cuba to Florida 2013 – Diana Nyad

5 attempts, spread out over 35 years, were needed until she finally made her dream come true and wrote history – with tremendous willpower, determination, patience, vision, faith, dedication and an absolute never-give-up-attitude! In “only” 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18.6 seconds (she expected to swim around 80 hours), supported by favourable currents and a huge team of helpers but without sleep or rest, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad conquered the approx. 103 miles (166 km) from Cuba to Florida – at age 64! Reaching Key West, Florida on Sept. 2nd 2013, around 2 p.m. local time, she became the first person to swim across the Florida Straits without a shark cage after Susie Maronie did it back in 1997 protected (and aided) by a cage.

After her 3 recent defeats in 2011 and 2012, when she was forced to stop due to life-threatening box jellyfish stings, and after 2 failed attempts by faster and younger accomplished long distance swimmers Chloe McCardel and Penny Palfrey, many thought her dream was simply impossible to realise. But Diana was determined to give it a last try and again put everything into it – body, mind, heart and soul. Plus creativity and inventiveness. And with the help of an amazing team of specialists in many fields and believers in her vision including individual sponsoring from all over the world now everything seemed to come together. Even Mother Nature seemed to send her blessings, letting her swim in an almost strait line supported by the currents, in mostly calm seas and with only one small thunderstorm during the first night. Her main problem this time was sickness – the difficulty to keep feedings down.

Her mantra: “Find a way”

Diana did not swim completely according to English Channel rules, but her use of a mask and suit to protect herself against deadly box jelly fish especially at night, allowing herself to be touched, and using a streamer to help her swim in a straight line, does not necessarily take away from her accomplishment, which included incredible amounts of solitary training hours – it rather shows her determination and creativity to find a way to reach her goal.

“I have three messages”

Barely able to speak with exhaustion and a swollen mouth after her arrival on her “Other Shore”, she still had 3 messages to offer:

  1. we should never ever give up;
  2. you are never too old to chase your dreams;
  3. it looks like a solitary sport but it is a team.

Diana-Nyad-Cuba-Florida-Swim2

 

Diana Nyad - Open Water Swimming Conference Long Beach 2012

Holding the Peace Torch with Diana Nyad at the Global Open Water Swimming Conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Sept. 2012

 

 

 

 

 

More in many articles and videos:

Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, the Hemingway Marina commodore who helped organize the Cuba side of Nyad’s multiple attempts, is quoted by USA today:
Diana-Nyad-Other-Shore“More than the athletic feat, she wants to send a message of peace, love, friendship and happiness … between the people of the United States and Cuba,” he said.
Shortly (end of September), Diana Nyad is releasing her feature-length documentary film, The Other Shore, about her “jaw-dropping journey” to manifest her → Xtreme Dream.

“The fullness of life lies in dreaming and manifesting the impossible dreams.”Sri Chinmoy

Also interesting to read:

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Adriano Passini – our team`s new English Channel swimmer!

End of July was extremely eventful. I went to England to join an international team for the last part of the “Great British Peace Run” from Cardiff to Ipswich, be part of the inauguration ceremony of a Peace Statue of Sri Chinmoy – the founder of the World Harmony Peace Run and of our Marathon Team -  in Ipswich Chantry Park on July 28th, and to pay a short visit to Dover on the way back to Heidelberg.

From Brazil to Dover, from Dover to France

Just then, on Saturday, July 27th, Adriano Passini (32), an aviation engineer from Sao Paulo, became the first member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Brazil  to successfully swim the English Channel, in a fantastic time of 11 hours 10 min – the 44th EC swim by a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.  Adriano Passini with the Brazilian flag - having conquered the English Channel!He was supported with tons of experience and lots of selfgiving dedication by Karteek Clarke from Scotland (“Scottish King of the Channel” with 10x EC) and his friend Ashirvad from Brazil, and expertly guided by “Gentleman-pilot” Chris Osmond on Seafarer 11, who in 2011 also safely landed our boys relay team and my friend and teammate Abhejali Bernadova (Czech Republic) on the French side.

Chris Osmond, Seafarer II, Adriano (the beaming hero) and Karteek

Adriano – a vegetarian – had prepared himself very well for at least 2 years, physically, mentally and spiritually, including meditation – and even concentrated intensely on the exact swim date. And it worked! He had a daylight start and finish, a few hours of heavy rain and fog, but with the sun coming out at the end. He was very focussed and positive throughout the swim. The strong spring tide currents were no problem for him. To stay warm he may have swum extra fast. The water temperature had been a bit of a concern for him, finding no colder water than 19°C in Brazil, but he was wise to come early enough to Dover to get acclimatized in the harbour and not accept an earlier swim offer, and he was totally fine until the glorious finish in bright sunlight.

Adriano getting closer to Cap Griz Nez - and the sun coming out

Determination wins the day…

Read more: On his blog 10x EC-veteran Karteek shares a longer report from a helper`s perspective with more info about Adriano`s preparation and the swim itself.

…and sleep overtakes an exhausted helper:

Helping a Channel swimmer is hard and tiring work!

Congratulations banner at Varne Ridge Caravan Park - is there a more inspiring place to stay for a Channel aspirant?Varne Ridge Caravan Park - which better place to stay for Channel aspirant

One day later at the Sri Chinmoy Peace Statue ceremony in Ipswich: the Mayor of Ipswich with 4 Channel swimmers (together 14 EC solos and 2 realys):

Sri Chinmoy Peace Statue, Mayor of Ipswich with 4 Channel swimmers and 14 EC solos

The swim course, courtesy CS&PF:

Swim course English Channel Adriano Passini

One of Adriano`s favourite mantras or spiritual aphorisms for a positive, impossibility-challenging attitude, which he used in preparation as well as during his swim, is by his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (IMSHOF honouree 2012!):

“We are all truly unlimited,
If we only dare to try
And have faith.”
- Sri Chinmoy

AAIMG_0760

Mission accomplished!

“The message of self-transcendence
Is itself satisfaction,
Far beyond our imagination.” - Sri Chinmoy

“Self-transcendence-joy
Unmistakably knows
No equal.” - Sri Chinmoy

Kevin-Murphy-Adriano

 

 

 

 

 

We also paid a nice visit to Kevin Murhpy,  “King of the Channel” (34 solo crossings) and secretary of the CS&PF. He has so many amazing stories, he could fill a number of books! Never heard his story before how he got lost on the African coast when swimming the Strait of Gibraltar!

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Swimming to Africa: Gibraltar Strait Swim – the longer story

“Prepare for the worst – hope for the best.” This English Channel motto definitely also applies to swimming the Strait of Gibraltar.

Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar - Europe to Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 in magic conditions!

It can be extremely easy – only half a Zurich lake marathon swim! – and it can be “the hardest swim of my life” (Armin Wunder). Pat Gallant-Charette (EC in 15:57) had swum the Strait o Gibraltar at age 59 in only 3 hours 28, supported by some amazing currents as Rafael explained, whereas a fellow countryman who swam the English Channel in 11 hours 20 had to battle it out for 7 hours 30 min., due to a strong current that kept him swimming in one place for 2 hours.View across the Strait of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa - Gibraltar Strait Swim 2012

When I was invited to participate in the Moroccan part of the World Harmony Run in 2008, I wondered “Why not swim from Spain (Europe) to Africa?”, and another dream was born. I soon realised, however, that it is not so easy and inexpensive as one might think, even if the distance between the two continents at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar is only 14,4 km. Just to get there by plane, train and bus (or rented car), then having to allow for the possibility of a bad weather period like at the English Channel, and even the possibility of being stopped by fog, wind picking up or erratic strong currents that can give a hard time even to fast swimmers. Boat and registration alone are 1700 €uro (for more info see ACNEC).

After reaching one of my bigger goals – the Channel-Triathlon Dover-Calais-Brussels-Aachen in 2010, “Swimming to Africa”, i.e. swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar seemed a nice smaller challenge. Still I was in doubt about my chances as a sub 3 km/h swimmer in open water. I missed the registration starting Dec. 1st, 2010, and when I was getting ready to register in Dec. 2011, I hesitated just for a few days – now only the second week of October was left (yes, they do take bookings into the second and even third week of October!)

Dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of the World Harmony Run

But it turned out to be a blessing. We experienced warm air (19-24°C), warm water (20°C most of the way, with only a few cold patches and currents nearer to Africa), quite a few calm days – and appartment prices are lower after the main season.  Tarifa, where swimmers will stay to wait for their swim, is dubbed the world’s kite surfing capital and is much more peaceful now – the summer craze is over, and training swims at the endless kite surfers beach Playa los Lances, with beautiful clear water and softly rolling waves, is less dangerous.

Holding the World Harmony Run torch with Rafael, head of ACNEG, the organisation for Gibraltar Strait swims - Vasanti`s Gibraltar Straits swim 2012

I was happy to be able to dedicate the swim to the 25th anniversary of the World Harmony Run - and almost everyone got the opportunity to hold the World Harmony Run torch!

Booked for Oct 7-15th I arrived the night of the 4th, briefly talked to Rafael, the president of ACNEG the next morning, to meet for detailed information on Sunday evening (the 7th) , with a view to swimming on Tuesday or Wednesday the 9th or 10th around 8:30 a.m. “You are a slower swimmer,” he said, “you need the right combination of wind and currents”. Wednesday would be best with half an hour more tidal support. This sounded quite reassuring. I had come with a cold from a final 3 hour cold swim at home, feeling quite weak, and hoped to be able to get well and acclimatise in time. Albena, my helper from Edinburg, was due Saturday (6th) late at night. Shortly before she arrived, a text message from Rafael came: “If tomorrow the weather is good we’ll try to cross. I’ll inform you by morning.” O no, not this experience again! I was still sick, unprepared and uninformed about any details, and stores were closed on Sunday. I called Rafael to learn a possible start would be at 1 p.m. I realised that would force me to stop if I needed longer than 7 hours – since the sun was setting at 8 p.m. and there is no night swimming allowed in the Straits. Also wind and currents did not look too good on the internet. I sent a text message to Rafael that I wanted a fair chance. My inner voice said: no swim for me on Sunday. Even if there was mist predicted for Tuesday and fog for Wednesday morning. Luckily, there was no call on Sunday morning, so no discussion was needed. We had time for a proper briefing with everyone later in the day, more shopping on Monday, rest, food and two more training swims in the colder coastal water, before the final call came – for Tuesday.

A Magic Day

Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar - the start - Gibraltar Straits swim 2012Ginger tea and Paracetamol helped me once again, and on Oct. 9th, at 8:30 a.m., I felt o.k., mas o menos. It was quite misty – and at the starting point at Tarifa island, ready to go, there was a discussion between the two pilots – Christina on Columbia 2 and Fernando on the small craft (who had swam the Straits 5 times, fast!) – for a few minutes whether it would be safe to give it a try or not. Albena obviously asked the right questions to help with the decision – according to the forecast the mist would lift soon and the sun was already visible in the East. So off we went. I had to swim towards the rocks, but the swells were powerful – so we started a few meters away.

Swimming to Africa - Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar 2012 I swam into a beautiful calm day. Soon the rays of the sun lit up the dusky water below me. Apart from the schools of fish at the rocks at the start I did not see much marine life: one single fish, one lonley jelly, and some whitish marshmallow-like things speeding under me in the currents at the end. Albena saw a few dolphins in the distance at the start and a flying fish at the end.

Swiming the Straits of Gibraltar - Separation Zone - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012In the Straits, the bigger boat is always guiding you, going in front (which I like – but to be sure the boat stays so far away that it is definitely not assisting the swimmer!!!), and the smaller craft mostly stays beside you with your helper and food. Feeding in calm water is easily done by hand – we still used rope to retrieve the cup or bottle. My feeding plan was: first feed after 45 min., then 40, 35 and 30 min. intervals. Mainly 2 dl hot ginger tea or Bengal Spice tea mixed with maxim (every 30 min) plus fruit sugar (on the hour), in between an additional piece of banana, canned peach, half a tiger sweet or Chia seeds (endurance runners’ secret). We had brought loads, but hardly needed anything – just as on the Zurich lake.Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - Separation Zone  - Swimming to Africa

After 2.5 hours I was in the “separation zone” – “what a baby channel”, I had to smile to myself. The traffic seemed not heavy at all, and from the water you even see less. Thanks to modern communication, the ships try to keep a distance of 1 km away from the swimmer. Only if a ship does not pay attention, a swimmer may be taken out of the water and put back in at the same spot once the ship has passed. It is not an advantage, but Swimming to Africa - Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar 2012 - Feeding time, with Africa closerather a disadvantage for the swimmer, says Rafael, and I am sure I would feel the same. I started to feel free now – the mind had calmed down, some inner singing started, I enjoyed the rhythm, the peace, the vastness – the beauty of long distance swims. After 3.5 hours Albena told me: only 2 km to go. I calculated: will I be able make it under 5 hours? Then I might go for the Cook Straits. But then I got a little more of my money`s worth. An unexpectedly strong current started to push me to the East, so we had to take a little detour to Africa. “If you sprint for 15 min. we can make it in 30 more minutes,” I was told. about to land - Swimming to Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012But I am not a good sprinter, although I gave it my best, doing intervals for an hour or so. Pushing hard when you pretty much know you will make it (there was hardly any question), is fun. Half an hour became an hour and half – then Marsa point was getting closer and closer. Albena later told me they wanted to land me – like many swimmers – at Perejil island, which belongs to Africa but is Spanish territory, and she protested heavily. So I had to swim a bit further, which in retrospect I am very grateful for. After 5 hours 25 min. I touched Africa at the foot of the famous Jebel Musa! Swimmer no. 373 in the solo non wetsuit category of the ACNEG annals (yes, you can do relays and use wetsuits, and you can even swim side by side as a team, up to 4 persons or so.), and the first member of the International Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. (One member of our team had tried before but never got a chance to swim.)

Swiming the Straits of Gibraltar -touching Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012Back on the boat, we held the torch of the World Harmony Run together, which had been present also at the IMSHOF Ceremony in Long Beach and in my last EC swim and relay. Oceans and waterways are connecting people – an idea embodied in the torch. And one of my favourite mantras in the water, along with special songs or aphorisms, is “peace”, in the rhythm of my stroke.

I had intended to dedicate the swim also to Tegla Louroupe`s Peace Academy – but fundraising is not my thing. I was thinking of the kids during my swim – and next year, with the Harmony Run bigger in Africa, we will go there again, and we have been supporting the school and other projects for quite some time and will continue to do so.

We made it! Holding the World Harmony Run torch at the end of our Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012Albena was a great helper, and she loved the whole experience, even getting into the water with me for a few strokes.

The second swimmer on my tide was less lucky. The following day was calm, but thick fog prevented any swim, after that the winds picked up. When he finally started, a strong tidal westward current around Tarifa island made the skipper change the start to the rocks east of the harbour (also more northern) – and after 3 hours he was pushed so far to the east that there was no chance of landing any more.

Conclusion: prepare for the worst, even a no-swim – and pray for a great day! And take the whole stay in Tarifa as a holiday – if the swim works, great, if not (only 10 % failure rate I am told), at least you got so see nice places (go whale and dolphin watching, visit Tanger etc.) and meet nice people, hopefully!

Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - official AGNEC certificate - Vasanti`s Swim to Africa As a training swim for the Channel, lake Windermere or the Zurich lake may be more helpful. But “Swimming to Africa” has its own special magic. Back home in Heidelberg now, part of me and my heart is still there in Tarifa, feeling the sand under my feet, gliding through the clear and powerful water, or marvelling at the glittering lights on the African coast at night, looking ever so close from the rooftop terrace of our appartment. By the way, registration for the Zurich Lake Int. Self-Transcendence Marathon Swim just started!

For more info on Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar see the website of ACNEC.

For a foto slideshow pls. click here

And this is where we stayed, a very nice and affordable place, with a beautiful view (in the main season probably quite noisy with lots of young kite surfers): Residential Luna.

Last not least, one of my favourite “mantras”, also in training:

“Be courageous

Be determined

Be self-giving

The goal will be all yours.”

- Sri Chinmoy

PS: Here a fascinating report about Penny Palfrey`s Gibraltar Straits 2-way swim in 2010 in much more difficult conditions – and with a Great White on the way back (I had no idea they exist there!!!)
And another report on “The Challenges of Gibraltar”

Interview in German → on Swim.de

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Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012: Mission accomplished

On Oct. 9th, 2012, we made it, from Tarifa/Spain – the southernmost tip of Europe – across the 14-15 km wide Straits of Gibraltar to Marocco, Africa, in 5 hours 25, on a very calm and sunny day with only very little tide but a surprisingly strong current at the end. The morning fog luckily was not thick enough to prevent the start and soon began to lift (the next day it was much thicker and lasted for hours!). We did not see much marine life at all – Albena saw a few dolphins in the distance at the start and a flying fish at the end, I saw a school of fish at the rocks at the start, one single medium sized fish in the middle, one lone jelly and lots of little white things flowing in the current against me at the end. Overall the water was extremely beautiful, clean and quite warm – 20°C most of the way with only few spots of cold water at the end! (I had expected 18-19°C with patches of 17°C or less.)

Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - official AGNEC certificate - Vasanti`s Swim to Africa

Of course, swimming the Gibraltar Straits is special – bridging two continents right where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean meet, where conditions can be quite unpredictable and even much faster swimmers have ended up being stopped by currents or fog or swept out far away from firm land. But reaching Africa after “only” 5 hours 25 min. in a way just felt like a longer training swim – basicall only half a Zurich lake! 2 km off the coast they had even told me we might make it under 5 hours – “only half an hour to go” if I sped up, and I had to smile – I have heard that a couple of times on my English Channel swims! The feeling of joy, calmness and peace after the swim, however, was more intense then after a regular training swim!

Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - Vasanti`s Swim to Africa, holding the World Harmony Run torch at the finish

I touched Africa at Marsa Point – a steep rock in Morocco at the foot of Jebel Musa. They had wanted to land us at Perejil island, a little closer, but when Albena heard it belongs to Spain – and was just an island – she protested. She was sure I “really” wanted to reach Africa! So I had to swim a few meters more – which I am actually grateful for.

Thank you everyone for your support and prayers – I really felt a nice push all the way. (For the longer story click here please.)

For more photos or a slideshow please click here.

Like with my Channel-Triathlon of 2010 and our English Channel Relay of 2009, we had the World Harmony Run torch on board again and I wanted to dedicate the swim to my teacher and inspirer Sri Chinmoy and his vision of international friendship embodied by the World Harmony Run.

For more information about Gibraltar Strait Swimming and the organisation behind it pls. visit the website of ACNEC.

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