Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
The Order of the Knights Memphre is a fraternity of open water swimmers who includes all who have taken part in the 25-mile (40 km) In Search of Memphre. The Order includes all swimmers, escort pilots and crews, and patrol boat pilots and crew, since the expedition started in 2011.
The athletes are referred to as Swimmer Scouts by Kingdom Games founder Phil White as the swimmers occasionally encounter Memphré, a reptile-like lake monster that is said to live in the murky Lake Memphremagog that borders Québec in Canada and the state of Vermont in the United States.
After a one-day storm delay, 36-year-old Grace van der Byl of California, 48-year-old David Uprichard of New York, and 60-year-old Paula Yankauskas of Vermont took off once again.
The day before, the trio had started with others, but were pulled from the water due to a thunderstorm that hit an hour after the start. With the rescheduled start, the three Swimmer Scouts left Newport, Vermont at 11:02 pm.
As midnight rolled by, there were no more thunderstorms as they continued by sunrise and mid-morning. Before lunch, van der Byl finished in 11 hours 33 minutes (support crew included Margrethe Horlyck-Romanovsky and Eri Utsunomiya shown above). After lunch, Uprichard rolled up along the Canadian lake shore in 15 hours 59 minutes (supported by Manuela Jessel and Hayley Joseph). Finally, as the sun was setting, Yankauskas finished in Magog after 19 hours 55 minutes (supported by Deborah Beier and Cynthia Needham).
“Paula is the Most Mature participant to ever complete The Search and, we believe, the oldest person to swim the length of the lake, ever,” proudly explains White. “She smashed the record for the longest time in the water set by Elaine Kornbau Howley in 2011 with a time of 17 hours and 59 minutes. But she finished with a growl, not a whimper. She was not to be denied.”
48-year-old Franco Prezioso of Maryland swam to the Canadian border, but pulled out at that point whereas his escort crew of Don Houghton and Mark Whitt stayed on the water and provided assistance to Yankauskas.
The delay unfortunately led to Craig Lenning pulling out of the rescheduled swim. His participation was greatly anticipated because he was planning to attempt his second Lake Monster Swim. Lenning, Sarah Thomas, and Elaine Korbau Howley have scheduled an attempt of Loch Ness in 2015 with the goal of becoming the first three individuals in history to complete the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims where they have to face long distances and Tessie (Lake Tahoe), Memphré (Memphremagog) and Tessie (Loch Ness).
“Additional support boats accompanied The Search, piloted by Bruce and Karen Lippens, Greg O’Connor, Robert Fernald, Pam Ladds, and Elaine Korbau Howley,” explains Phil White.
“The 16-foot aluminum escort boats [see above] with specially caged propellers were rented from our friends at Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog, the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix race. The goal of the 25-mile swim between Newport, Vermont and Magog, Quebec is to promote a more open border between the United States and Canada and to search for the legendary and swimmer-friendly lake creature, Memphre. We want to thank border officials on both sides of the border. They were especially helpful in facilitating the border crossing logistics.”
“Phil has also revived the old professional marathon race that used to go along the same course from Newport to Magog,” recalls Steven Munatones. “Many of the greatest marathon swimmers of the 20th century from Claudio Plit, Petar Stoychev and Paul Asmuth to Monique Wildschut and Shelley Taylor-Smith plied their trade in these same waters for years. It is great to see the country-to-country traverse that Phil has reinvigorated and enabled the swimmers of contemporary times to swim across an international border.
The north-to-south, cross-border, point-to-point marathon swim [see old race course on left] was changed due to the circumstances of the 2003 race when Mohammed Hassan took three months to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. for the competition.
But in the post-9/11 era, the Department of Homeland Security told Hassan that his name was on an FBI list. Because of this, Hassan would not be allowed to swim out of the United States and into Canada, but they determined that he could leave by any land exit point. The ruling was resolved when the Department of Homeland Security said Hassan could swim across the border as long as he agreed to report back to a U.S. border as soon as the race was over…which is what he did.
The race – that had begun in 1979 – was forever changed…until Phil revived and is adding creatively to the colorful tradition of crossing Lake Memphremagog.”
Photos by Phil White of The Search IV are here and here.
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association