Courtesy of WOWSA, Raccoon Strait, San Francisco Bay, California.

Ashley Twichell travels the world to compete in professional marathon swims and to represent the United States in international competitions, but there may be no place in which she is more comfortable winning than in the RCP Tiburon Mile from Angel Island to the Tiburon shoreline in San Francisco Bay.

Twichell won the RCP Tiburon Mile for the fourth time in her career – in 2013, 2015, 2016 and this year. Her track record, including two other Top 3 finishes, represent the most victories in the history of the event: ne more than Kane Radford on the men’s side and Brooke Bennett on the women’s side.

But this victory may have been the most unusual of all her six races across the Raccoon Strait.

Steven Munatones said, “After the mad dash into the water as is expected when so many accomplished swimmers start together from the shoreline, the pace uncharacteristically and almost immediately slowed down. For the first 400 meters, it looked like the leading men – Ferry Weertman, Ricardo Vargas, Dave Heron and Zane Grothe – were just cruising…the race unexpectedly slowed after the initial sprint.

Ashley, Becca Mann and Rachele Bruni fit right in with the men in the lead pack as they broke from the protected cove and hit the open strait. Ashley was the first to hit the rougher waters of the strait under an overcast sky.”

Out in the open bay, Heron picked up the pace and veered along a more southern route, while Twichell and Weertman tucked right inside the slipstream of 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championship gold medalist Grothe. Those three led most of the chase group along a more northern route.

Across the strait they swam, visibly picking up speed. Twichell was right up there with the leaders while Mann and two visiting Italians, Rachele Bruni and Martina de Memme were hanging on among the first eight swimmers. In the middle of the strait, Twichell moved up and the top five swimmers seem to collectively decide to take their own individual lines to Tiburon. But then only a few minutes later, Twichell and the top four men converged together again.

Weertman who had just arrived late into San Francisco the night before was showing signs of indecision. He first swung behind Grothe and changed direction and swung wide left behind Heron. Meanwhile, Twichell held her line right behind Grothe and had clearly separated herself from the other leading women.

With 400 meters to go, the top men had another gear, but Twichell was able to keep pace. Vargas, Weertman, Heron, Twichell and Grothe were all kicking a six beat as they converged into a five-wide for a final sprint to the race. Twichell kept swimming head-to-head with the four men as they entered the harbor. It was anyone’s race to win, although knowledgeable observers, including the spotter and race director on the boat Bob Placak, knew that Weertman had one more gear – despite his jetlag.

By the time the lead pack was 200 meters from the finish, Twichell had the women’s first place cash prize of US$2,500 in the bag. But the question remained if she could become the first women in the history of the race to finish first overall.

But Weertman’s trademark speed with 25 meters to go put a quick end to anyone’s hope for an upset victory. Meanwhile, Twichell cruised into her fourth career victory, finishing fourth overall tied with Grothe.

As the final sprint begins with the top 5 swimmers in the lead pack.

Weertman holds onto the key inside position entering into the final straightaway in the RCP Tiburon course.

Women’s Top 10 Results:
1. Ashley Twichell (USA) 21:55.60
2. Becca Mann (USA) 22:08.90
3. Rachele Bruni (Italy) 22:13.65
4. Martina de Memme (Italy) 22:17.90
5. Caroline Jouisse (France) 22:45.55
6. Stefannie Gillespie (New Zealand) 23:36.45
7. Arianna Bridi (Italy) 23:37.60
8. Jane Esahak-Gage (USA) 25:52.40
9. Ceri Edwards (England) 26:28.15
10. Sarah Avery (USA) 27:09.40

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