Old School Breaststroking In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When Frederik Jacques set a new breaststroke record crossing the English Channel in 13 hours 31 minutes in 2005, he broke the record of a fellow breaststroker from Belgium, Patrick Ghysel (14 hours 42 minutes).

On the other side of the world, American Jason Lassen from Oregon [shown on left] completed a 32.3 km Catalina Channel crossing doing breaststroke in 15 hours 59 minutes in 2010.

The breaststroke Catalina Channel crossing was a real old-school swim where Lassen replicated the 1927 breaststroke crossing of Henry Sullivan in 22 hours 45 minutes.

Lassen’s swim was done under similar conditions as Sullivan faced in 1927. “I wanted to break his record fair and square so I swam without GPS navigation. Captain Pittman had to navigate with a compass and line of sight. He did a great job of it too. It was not straight, but it was pretty near.”

Lassen’s record was later broken in 2017 when Philip Yorke swam breaststroke across the Catalina Channel in 15 hours 52 minutes under traditional GPS guidance by Dawn Brooks and Dan Simonelli.

Julian Critchlow lists several English Channel breaststrokers in his authoritative Channel database:

1. Matthew Webb (England) England to France in 21 hours 45 minutes in 1875
2. Thomas Burgess (England) England to France in 22 hours 35 minutes in 1911
3. Henry Sullivan (England) England to France in 26 hours 50 minutes in 1923
4. Enrico Tiraboschi (Italy) France to England in 16 hours 33 minutes in 1923
5. Charles Toth (USA) France to England in 16 hours 58 minutes in 1923

6. Pierre Van Vooren (Belgium) France to England in 15 hours 9 minutes in 1963

7. Pierre Van Vooren (Belgium) England to France in 17 hours 55 minutes in 1965
8. Ulrich Haevecker (Germany) England to France in 17 hours 5 minutes in 1982
8. Caroline Plummer (England) England to France in 16 hours 32 minutes in 1986
9. Trevor James (England) England to France in 23 hours 55 minutes in 1991
10. Richard Blatny (Czech Republic) England to France in 23 hours 38 minutes in 1998
11. Jackie MacDonald (England) England to France in 21 hours 19 minutes in 2000
12. Patrick Ghysel (Belgium) England to France in 14 hours 42 minutes in 2002
13. Frederik Jacques (Belgium) England to France in 13 hours 31 minutes in 2005
14. Tony Bailey (England) England to France in 25 hours 56 minutes in 2014
15. Philip Yorke (England) England to France in 18 hours 2 minutes in 2015

Two veteran breaststrokers include Kshitindra Chandra Baisya from Bangladesh and Dr. Gábor Szentpály, a professor from Hungary who started doing breaststroke marathons after the age of 40.

Kshitindra is a member of the 24-Hour Club with multiple breaststroke marathon swims:

* In 1974, he swam 93 hours 11 minutes in the pond at Dhaka University at the age of 22
* In 1976, he swam 108 hours 5 minutes in the pond at Dhaka University at the age of 24
* In 1980, he swam 74 km in Bhagirathi, India in 12 hours 28 minutes at the age of 28
* In 2017, he swam 146 km in 43 hours 12 minutes down the Kangsha River in Bangladesh at the age of 66
* In 2018, he swam 185 km in 60 hours 55 minutes down the Kangsha River and Magra River in northern Bangladesh at the age of 67

Dr. Szentpály completed several breaststroke marathon swims:

* In 1988, he completed an 12 km marathon swim in Venice, Italy
* He completed the 19 km Jarak-Šabac Marathon Swim in Serbia
* He completed the 16 km marathon swim in Sluis, Netherlands
* In 1988, he completed the 23 km marathon swim from Tiszafüred to Abádszalok, Hungary
* He finished 13th in the 25 km International Swimming Marathon of Toroneos Gulf in Greece, the only person swimming breaststroke

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