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Tour of Buoys Aug. 5 promotes long-distance swimming

In what has become an increasingly popular “friend-raiser,” La Jolla Cove Swim Club invites the public to join in its 9th annual Tour of Buoys starting with registration at 7:30 a.m. at La Jolla Shores Beach on Sunday, Aug. 5.

The event’s two races are held in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve which is seaside of Kellogg Park. The 5-Mile course begins near the boat launching area on La Jolla Shores Beach and then follows the perimeter buoys of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. The 1.5-Mile race will route swimmers around the “A” and “B” eco buoys and back to the boat launch area. The Start/Finish area is located south of the centrally located parking lot and Main Lifeguard Tower in Kellogg Park. The event is open to swim club members, but non-members can join and participate for just $10.

Event director Paula Selby said the Tour serves a number of purposes for the swim club, not the least of which is community outreach to support its primary mission. “Our general mission over the years has been to promote open-water and long-distance swimming,” said Selby. “The buoys offer a destination for water swimmers in the area. Nine years ago, one of our members thought it would be fun to do a tour around the buoys. Up until that time, we had not sponsored a competitive event. That’s how it got started.”

La Jolla Cove Swim Club is an informal organization of friendly people who like to swim in the ocean. The club has no regular meetings but tries to sponsor an activity once a month. The larger events are the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day, the “CYA Across the Bay” Swim (1.5 miles) in late June, and the Tour of Buoys in early August. The club also supports, but does not sponsor, the La Jolla Rough Water Swim on the second Sunday in September, which offers mile and three-mile races for adults and a 250-yard race for children.

Club members and non-members swim the Cove daily regardless of weather and water temperature throughout the year. Some swimmers only swim ½ mile or less once a week, some wear a wetsuit even in summer, and some wear fins. Other hardy souls will swim several miles every day of the year without a wetsuit, even in the coldest water of winter, and some even swim in the dark. The club welcomes all swimmers, male and female, young and old, fast and slow, and both short-distance and long-distance swimmers. Competitive swimming is supported but is not required.

Longtime Cove Swim Club member Bob West said the group has nearly doubled its membership in the past couple of years, thanks in part to publicity from competitive events such as the Tour of Buoys. West noted it is mandatory for Tour swimmers to be “chaperoned” by kayaks supporting contestants and looking out for their welfare during the longer swims.

“A swimmer or a paddleboarder needs to have an escort for the 1.5-mile,” said West, “and everything over three miles, it’s pretty much mandatory you have to have kayak support. The five-mile swim is basically twice around the underwater park. We’ll have more than 50 swimmers doing the five-miler. We just felt there weren’t enough long-distance swims on our schedule.”

Although the purpose of the Cove Swim Club is primarily not to promote competitive events, it nonetheless has proven to be a great training grounds and stepping stone for those who have aspirations to do any of long-distance swimming’s “Triple Crown” - the English Channel, Catalina Island and around Manhattan Island in New York City.

“Most swimmers who end up getting involved in long-distance swimming look for these five- or six-mile swims as a prelude to a more long-distance swim,” said West. “Swimming five miles in itself is a challenge.”

West, who’s done it twice, is one of 17 San Diegans to have swum the 21-mile English Channel. He’s also the oldest person, at age 62, to have swum the Catalina Channel. Anne Cleveland of La Jolla, current La Jolla Town Council president, is the oldest person to have swum a roundtrip of the English Channel, more than 42 miles. She did it at age 46 in 28 hours and 26 minutes.

“It’s blossomed into something amazing, said West, about the growing roll call of La Jolla and San Diego swimmers who have conquered all, or part, of the long-distance ocean Triple Crown.

Four local swimmers plan to swim the English Channel in 2007: Mark Lewis, Scott Richards, Will Newburn and Alan Voissard.

Thirty San Diegans, including Bob West, have swum the 21-mile Catalina Channel. Three local swimmers are planning to swim the Catalina Channel in 2007: Cindy Walsh, Rebecca Jackman (2nd time) and Dorothy Thomas (2nd attempt).

Eleven San Diegans have swum the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island (New York) Marathon race. Rendy Opdyke has done it twice and finished first overall in 2006. Jamshid Khajavi did it three times; Peter Urrea did it twice and will do it again in 2007; Carol Sing did it twice. Jack Robertson, who did it in 1987, is paraplegic. Others include Bob West, Becky Jackman, Bill Hoehn, Andy Hewitt, Will Newbern, and Scott Richards.

For those seeking to do the Triple Crown of long-distance swimming, La Jolla Cove is a great training grounds. “We have so many swimmers still swimming at the Cove who’ve learned how to train for this kind of thing,” noted West, adding their counsel to others interested in achieving the feat is incalculable. “The people we send over there now have a very high chance of success compared to years ago when it was really a struggle for the earlier swimmers,” said West. “Right now a (long-distance) swimmer has an 80 percent or higher chance of being successful.”

Tour of Buoys event director Selby expects 100 or more entrants at this year’s five-mile and 1.5-mile events on Aug.5. “The shorter distance we figure will get more participants,” she said.

Selby added Tour competitors come from all over, not just La Jolla or even just San Diego County. “It’s not just a local event,” she said. “We attract people from out of state. It’s gained a reputation over the years.”

For more information about the Tour of Buoys or La Jolla Cove Swim Club, visit www.lajollacoveswimclub.org.