Annemie Landmeters from Belgium pioneered the crossing of False Bay in South Africa in 1989. Her swim from Rooi Els to Simonstown was done in 9 hours 56 minutes. Then native South African Steven Klugman did the next swim in 2004 from Rooi Els to Miller’s Point was done in 14 hours 15 minutes.
Among the dozens of failed attempts, Carina Bruwer did a 11 hour 58 minute crossing in 2006, Barend Nortje did a 9 hour 33 minute crossing in 2007. And most recently, Ned Denison did the same crossing in 11 hours 5 minutes in 2012.
False Bay is the largest true bay in South Africa and one of the great bays of the world. Its coast is a continuous collection of beaches, valleys, seaside villages and hamlets, their narrow avenues lined with quirky and quaint shops, hotels, restaurants and pubs.
But solo swims across False Bay recently gave way to the first False Bay Relay this month.
Ram Barkai explains, “Relays allow a softer entry to hard, long swims. Relays are also introduce the concept of an enjoyable team swim compared to long, lonely solo swims.
Swims across the English Channel are the famous relays in the world. But here in South Africa, we have our own crossing that is as long and even more difficult than the English Channel. We have great white sharks in our channel swim rather than huge container tankers.
We decided that we need to raise the profile of crossing False Bay and hopefully the 34 km crossing can attempted by many more people in the future. We want to make False Bay our own South Africa channel. It is cheaper, beautiful and does not have massive tidal flows and is a fairly straight line course. In the summer, water temps can be around 16-20°C.
We follow the English Channel rules where six swimmers each swim non-stop an hour at a time. Our changeover in a high five in the water.”
Barkai was joined by fellow South African swimmers Sam Whelpton, Kieron Palframan, Jean Craven, Clinton Le Sueur and Patrick Wilke with Derrick Fraser and Tony Lindeque serving as the relay escort pilots and crew.
“The water temp started at 12.6°C and dropped to 11°C for a big chunk of the swim,” explained Barkai. “The water went up to 14°C towards the end. The swim took us a total of 10 hours 2 minutes when we saw many seals, jellyfish, blue bottles, and a hammerhead shark deep below us. The sea was flat at the start and later turned quite lumpy for few hours, but the waves and swells dropped towards the end.”
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