Between August 9th and 17th, scores of swimmers descended on the legendary lakes of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. They came from all over North America to participate in one or more swims during Swim the Kingdom Week – 8 lakes in 9 days, totaling 45 miles.
In all, 65 swimmers from California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont ranged in age from 10-year-old Vera Rivard of New Hampshire to 67-year-old Bob Aitcheson of West Virginia. Canadians from Ontario and Quebec also participated in the event was hosted by the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association and Kingdom Games. “Over 25 kayakers and 17 motor boats made these swims possible,” said race founder Phil White.
“It was a special treat to be greeted and supported by Alec van Zuiden, Mayor of Ayer’s Cliff, Peter McHarg. Council Member, and Francois of College Servite. The police boat was a big hit among the swimmers at Lac Massawippi, as was the after dinner at Auberge Ayer’s Cliff.”
Three swimmers completed all 8 swims. Janet Harris, 48 of New York, swam the full 45-mile distance in all 8 lakes without a wetsuit. Paula Yankauskas, 60 of Vermont, also swam the full 45 miles, but used a wetsuit on some days. Lori Carena, 60 of New York did all eight swims, but took the short course at The Clubhous slash swim on Lake Memphremagog on Thursday. Most of the registrants did 2 to 5 swims at various times during the week.
The week culminated in two races in Willoughby and Caspian.
Charlotte Brynn, 47 of Vermont, dominated the weekend races.
Brynn posted a winning time of 2:02:58 for Willoughby’s 5-mile swim from South Beach to North Beach. Finishing second and third among the women were Sarah Greskopf, 34 of California, with a time of 2:14:03 and Harris who came in four minutes later at 2:18:34. Harris could not stay out of the water. Even on the off rest day, she swam in the Green River Reservoir before the big race at Willoughby.
First among the men at Willoughby was Bill Pease, 60 of California, who was second overall with a time of 2:07:57. David Uprichard, 48 of New York, posted a time of 2:10:15 followed by Alan Giese, 48 of Vermont.
The fastest two times of the day were posted in the men’s wetsuit division by Adam Homoki, 24 of Massachusetts, with a time of 1:45:30 and Kevin Sullivan, 53 of Massachusetts, who was just 7 minutes of the pace with his time of 1:52:10. Jim Podolske, 59 of Massachusetts, placed third in 2:42:18.
On the neoprene side of the equation, 2013 NEKOWSA Swimmer of the Year Yankauskas came in 2:19:52 with 56-year-old Margaret Haskins of Vermont swimming the longest she has ever swum in her life, in 2:22:36. Marty Munson, 50 from New York City placed third in 2:38:08. Winning the prize for the most mature was 67-year-old Bob Aitchesan of West Virginia. Last one back to the barn was Laura Malieswski of Vermont, who won a copy of the recently published book on Memphre by Barbara Mallow, Vermont’s First Lady Dracontologist.
Charlotte Brynn also won the Caspian’s 3-mile swim 1:17:21 from the Hardwick Beach to Bathtub Rock and back with David Uprichard came back from his second place finish in Willoughby to top the men’s field at Caspian with a time of 1:20:50.
Stealing the show and the hearts of the 21 swimmers who showed up for the Crystal Lake rough water swim, was 10-year-old, Vera Rivard of New Hampshire, who completed the 3-mile swim in challenging, wavy conditions in 1:43:42. “Watching Rivard take on one whitecapped wave after another with the quiet determination and confidence of an experienced open water swimmer was the highlight of Swim the Kingdom Week,” recalls White.
“The week started in sunny, still, warm conditions on Crystal, Island Pond, and Echo Lakes with air temperatures in the 80’s and water temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s,” recalled White. “Everyone swam in the morning and then relaxed in the afternoon. But the weather got feistier starting with the Seymour swim on Tuesday, Massawippi on Wednesday and Memphremagog’s Clubhous/Slash swim on Thursday. There was a nice push through the Willoughby Gap on Saturday. By the time we got to Sunday’s Caspian Swim, the swimmers faced increasing winds, rain on and off, and lowering fall-like air temperatures. It was in the face of these conditions that 10-year-old Vera shown like a beacon.”
But speed and distance were really secondary to some of the other shining moments of the week as open water swimmers enjoyed some of the most beautiful and pristine lakes in the Americas, congregated and relaxed together, slowed down to a summertime pace in The Kingdom, and swam. This was only the second year of the full Swim the Kingdom Week. Next year’s “Week” will be run on August 8th through August 16th.
Swim the Kingdom Week 2014 photos are posted here:
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