Ventura masters swimmers hit La Jolla Cove after 202-mile world record attempt

A team of six swimmers - sans wetsuits - from the Ventura County Masters swim club landed at La Jolla Cove with an apparent world record open water relay swim for the distance covered. They swam continuously for 202 statute miles.

The six men started at 6 a.m. Sept. 16 at Ventura Harbor, headed northwest 26 miles Northwest to Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara where a team member turned around and headed the other direction. Then it was 176 miles to the southeast and La Jolla Cove where they arrived at 11:43 a.m.

(A press release, in a joking reference to a pool maneuver, said the swimmer did “flip-turn” off a pier piling, but that was not the case as the team followed all open swimming rules, according to sources familiar with the event.)

The “VCM Deep Six” team, all residents of Ventura County, is comprised of Tom Ball (age 50), Kurtis Baron (46), John Chung (40), Jim McConica (59), Jim Neitz (42), and Mike Shaffer (45).

Michael Newhouse, spokesman for the team, said late Monday that they “looked great” when they got out of the water. They were greeted by friends and family, some members of the La Jolla Cove Swim Club and media that had been tracking their progress.

The standing world record is 78.2 statute miles, set at Lake Taupo, New Zealand in January 2009. A six-person team completed a triple crossing of Lake Taupo in 33 hours 31 minutes.

A San Francisco based team, Night Train Swimmers, attempted to set a new record in June 2009 by swimming 157 miles across the Sea of Cortez but was stymied after 48 miles by unsafe weather conditions. In May 2010, a joint American and Mexican team again attempted a record in the Sea of Cortez but stopped after 64 miles due to severe jellyfish stings.

According to a press release, the format follows the English Channel and Catalina Channel rules of open water relay swimming. Each of the six participants swims a one-hour “leg” before tagging off to the next person, swimming continuously (24 hours per day) until the relay is complete. The swimmers must keep the same order throughout the event.

Swimmers are allowed only a FINA approved swimsuit (no wetsuits allowed), goggles, swim cap, ear and/or nose plugs. No other form of assistance is allowed, and the swimmer cannot be touched or supported. They were tracked by GPS throughout their entire swim with latitude and longitude markings reported every five minutes from the Pacific Monarch’s GPS.

The event was sanctioned by (United States Masters Swimming and will benefit the Buenaventura Swim Club.

Steven Munatones, editor-in-chief of The Daily News of Open Water Swimming, stated before the swim that their attempt would come at a time when the Pacific is at historically low (cold) temperatures, but they are very well-prepared to be battered by ocean swells, cross currents and punishing surface chop for over three straight days far from shore. These are six very gutsy men.”

The swimmers were guided by a mother ship, the Pacific Monarch, another separate escort boat, two Zodiacs and multiple kayaks manned by an around-the-clock 12-person boat crew, three observers and four additional support crew, rotating shifts throughout the world record attempt. Additional crew members included a film crew capturing the historic event for a feature-length documentary.

SOURCE: Press Release