Courtesy of British Long Distance Swimming Association.

Back in 1971, several inventions were introduced: the microprocessor, email, floppy disks and liquid crystal displays.

These inventions helped shepherd in the digital age that has shaped the way information and communications are currently shared among open water swimmers around the world today.

But back in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the open water swimming community regularly communicated by snail mail – either handwritten or typed letters sent in envelopes and delivered by the postal services throughout the world.

The British Long Distance Swimming Association annual report in 1971 [see here] by G. Trevor Smith and John K. Slater brings back many good memories.

Among the numerous tidbits of historical note were the following:

1. Several new courses have been inaugurated by individual swimmers, ranging from 6 to 60 miles.

2. Our two outstanding marathoneers Kevin Murphy and Michael Read have completed supermarathons.

3. Letter from Ron Blackledge, coach to Seal Beach Swim Club…tells me that Lynne Cox (15) and Andrew Taylor (13) are experienced distance swimmers and the youngest to make the Catalina crossing.

4. Group of enthusiasts at R.A.F. Akrotiri, Cyprus, covered 68.2 miles in a relay swim. Plans for the coming season include a relay swim over the full length of the Sea of Galilee.

5. Proposed Olympic Marathon Swim. Support for our proposals comes from the A.S.A. whose Secretary Norman Sarsfield writes in a letter to Dr. Henning (U.S.A.), “The A.S.A.’s of Great Britain wish to propose to F.I.N.A. that a long distance swimming race be added to the Olympic programme, this race to be over 20,000 metres with a minimum water temperature of 55F. It could well be staged on the rowing course. We consider that this branch of our sport requires the encouragement of world competition.”

6. Guinness Book of Records. Looking through this most interesting book recently, I noted what I considered to be an abysmal lack of information on long distance swimming records. Wrote to Guinness Superlatives Limited…and received the following reply – “Very many thanks of your letter and enclosures. We have recently collected quite an amount of information on long distance swimming and when I revise the materials for our forthcoming 19th Edition, I shall certainly contact you for verification and updating.” Yours sincerely, Norris McWhirter, Editor.

7. Miss Margaret Jarvis, daughter of Arthur Jarvis, eight times A.S.A. Long Distance Champion has tracked down – as the centenary approaches – an immense amount of detail about Captain Webb. She has put her findings on 35 m.m. microfilm for private distribution and for library purchase.

The report is a wealth of information of open water swimming of that era: read on here.

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