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.)
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!
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.)
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.