Bering Strait Relay Swim

malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
edited June 2013 in Cheering Section
On 28 July 2013, 40 swimmers are attempting a 53-mile swim from Alaska to Russia across the Bering Strait. The swimmers are all accomplished ice swimmers, many of whom you probably already know. And given the quality of the names I recognize on that list, we can expect not only a solid effort, but an effort that everyone on this forum will respect.

I didn't realize how cool this project is until I met with the organizer, Sergey, the other night. Sergey is a Russian émigré in Seattle (he pretends to not be Russian, but the way he drives gives him away). He is not a swimmer, but shows as much enthusiasm for planning this swim and planning an ice swimming community afterwards as we do for open water swimming. He hopes this project is just the beginning of something much, much larger. He could be a swimmer's best friend, a guy who wants to spend all of his time making it possible for the rest of us to do crazy awesome swims. And that should make us all excited for this event.

I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.


  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Thanks for the background & insider info, Andrew! Sounds like a very exciting project, and I wish them the best.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited June 2013
    I spent 3 years at the embassy in Moscow and several of my visitors had trouble getting visas. Damn Russians!

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • sharkbaitzasharkbaitza LondonMember
    A friend of mine is swimming this... It looks fantastic!
  • oxooxo Guest
    Are not all these big-media-events-aka-fundraisers that fail (for lack of a better word) wearing thin the name of distance swimming and cold water swimming?
  • oxooxo Guest
    I was enthusiastic the first year. Interested the second year. But now ....

    Whether an endeavor is extraordinarily ambitious due to length/conditions or due to logistics, it still begs the question: all of these big-media-events-aka-fundraisers that never deliver the goods - are not they wearing thin the name of distance swimming and cold water swimming?
  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    In my opinion, the challenge of getting the proper permissions for a new swim, be it an international ice swim relay or once across the local pond, is all a part of the sport.

    If you ever want to make your brain hurt, dip your toe into a page of maritime law, international trade agreements, customs processes, so on, so on. It's some convoluted stuff. In the end, it comes down to connections and transparency, and that is the organizer's take on it. He's apparently been talking to anyone with influence willing to listen to make sure there are oodles of people who want this to happen, including the Russians.

    From an organizational point of view, I'm excited to watch this come together. I already know the swimmers are going to rock it.

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Is it still $10,000 per swimmer!?

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    She's the other end of the country and notoriously doesn't do email or social media. I had a long chat with (one of my heroes) Jackie Cobell about it last autumn, but they weren't sure at that stage.

  • owenswims93owenswims93 Fermoy, IrelandSenior Member
    Ireland actually has TWO representatives on the team: Anne Marie Ward from Donegal (North West) and Nuala Moore from Kerry (South West). Both were on the Round Ireland Relay a few years ago so have experience of long multiple-emersion events... – Owen O'Keefe (Fermoy, Ireland)

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Interesting, but not surprising:

    It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you today that I am pulling out of the Bering Strait relay swim.

    With just three weeks to go before the proposed swim start there are still too many boxes unchecked for my liking...
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    I know some are still headed that way... Lots up in the air, but I'm still rooting for everyone to pull it off!
  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    This just in! From Scott Lautman via Western Washington Open Water Swimmers Facebook group:

    4:29pm PDT: Cristian VERGARA reports the Relay is just off of little Diomede. Swim going well. Making great progress. Swim was suspended last night due to weather. Been swimming approx 42 hours. We should be getting more info as they get better cell coverage.

    4:55pm PDT: Just got off phone with Cristian. The relay has resumed. It was suspended for about 10 hours due weather. Restarted 4:45p Seattle time. 3 meter+ swells. Water to now about 7c/44f. 48 swimmers still swimming 10 minute legs. About to enter Us Waters. Spirits good.

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • Not feeling too comfortable that the relay has had a couple stops for weather and tide.
  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member
    Haydn wrote:
    Not feeling too comfortable that the relay has had a couple stops for weather and tide.
    What would you propose they do as an alternative when the sea state is too unsafe to swim?

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited August 2013
    Depends what the stated goal is. If the goal is a non-stop relay, then stopping for weather is a disappointment. If the goal was something else, like a staged relay or nonstop-with-built-in-weather-exception, then this still fits within the parameters. If they changed the goal mid-swim then, well, I suppose that's cool too, as long as they're upfront about what they're doing and not making misleading claims.

    @Haydn, you seemed to be a big fan of that Conway fellow's "Swimming Britain" expedition, which apparently had no parameters at all, so it's surprising you of all people would be the one to express discomfort about this.
  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member
    Some incredible pictures coming in via Facebook on the swim, this is first video I've seen featuring Craig Lenning @uss_lenning

    Despite the difficulties they had, including some pauses in the action, it's undeniably an amazing swim.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    This is from Melissa Mo O’Reilly’s FB page:
    Bering Strait Swim - Big Squid (bol'shoy kal'mar Большой кальмар)
    Updated 5 hours ago
    The pinkish-yellow squid was as large the zodiac boat from which I had just plunged into the dark icy waves but I did not attempt a second look. The creature was lurking 15 meters below me and its smaller friends and relations were a mere arm stroke below me. I knew exactly what it was the minute he came into view through my clear goggle lenses. What a rookie mistake to use clear goggles when swimming in the middle of the Bering Strait. Had I not read the manual? The clarity in the Bering was terrifying but would lend itself to me sprinting each of my relay legs from the start as if my life depended on it. And swimming over such a nefarious looking giant made me kick and pull through my usually smooth freestyle stroke like a woman possessed.

    Speaking of possessions, I vowed at that moment to use my dark tinted goggles for the remainder of the swims. I had already swam 9 times in the Bering Strait over the course of 5 days, for an interval of 10 minutes in the frigid and volatile waters where temps ranged from 2C (35F) to upwards of 10C (50F). Thankfully I only had two more swims of now 15 minutes each, and hopefully without any sightings of the local residents of the sea.

    As my sprinting session came to an end, I high-fived Masha for the relay hand-over, shouted to her 'Davai!' (Let's go!) trying not to show any fear that could be detected from my voice and I swam over to the zodiac which was being tossed around in the exponentially growing swell which was now pushing 6 meters. I thew my entire body up onto the stern, trying to get my toes out of the water for fear that someone hungry below would mistake them for a snack. Leonid, our Russian Spetsnaz driver, and Alex, our skillful skipper yelled at me to get seated safely in the back of the zodiac but I continued to hold my beached whale position and while gasping for a breath yelled 'Kak govorit' po-russki giant f*cking squid?!' (How do you say in Russian giant f*cking squid?!) My reply from Leonid was 'MEEELEEEESSA, DERZHIMSYA!!' (Meeeleeeesa, hold on!) and we sped off after Masha who was already cutting through the folding waves ahead of us in the direction of Alaska.

    Only after we got back to our ship, Irtysh, that I learned 'squid' in Russian was 'kal'mar'. Hardly the correct term for what I had just swam over with a heart-rate spiking close to 200bpm. When I tried to explain the kal'mar I had seen was gigantic, all I got in reply was 'ahhh, tak bol'shoy kal'mar' (ahhh, so a big kal'mar). The only calamary I know are breaded, fried and dipped in marinara sauce; so very glad that I did not become this creature's appetizer.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • Interesting point from Evan, I was just expecting EC rules were being applied, but in the event storms stop play for a while, safety is paramount. More so than ever on this swim. Maybe I was being hampered by Diane Nyads 'storm stops play' syndrome for a moment.
    The Bering relay should never be compared to anything that as ever been attempted before.
    My comment was just a little uncomfortable, and having said all that, I really wish I had been a part of it, rather than choosing not to go, And anyway, no one ever said EC rules were to be applied, and that is good enough for me, for the Bering swim. Were it not for the extreme environment, it wouldn't be , nor for many other relays).
    As for Sean Conway, his parameters don't get close to what we think as normal. He would have to stay in his bed, if EC rules had to be applied. Staying in bed must never be an option.
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