SA swimmers set off on Orange River marathon
1 January 2004
Eight South African long-distance swimmers are to set off, on Saturday, on an epic journey: a relay along the last 513km of the Orange River.
Funds raised will go to the Heart Foundation of SA to be used to train children from disadvantaged areas in the art of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, more widely known as CPR.
The swim, never before undertaken, is being organised by Capetonian Andrew Chin who, with his seven team-mates, will take to the water of the unpredictable river at Onseepkans, just on the west of the Augrabies Falls.
They have only a few canoes and kayaks for backup.
Swimming in relay, the team hopes to complete an unprecedented 10 marathons in 10 days as they swim about 50km a day.
The air temperature will sometimes exceed 40°C, which would lead to any normal swimming marathon or gala being delayed or called off.
The swimmers will brave dangerous rapids, hidden sharp rocks, complex island systems and other unforeseen obstacles, in an attempt to complete a route until now only ever undertaken by kayakers.
Chin said that due to drought conditions, water levels are low and the river flow much reduced, making the swim slower and obstacles greater.
Their progress can be followed on their website.
Swimmers will take to the water each morning at about 5am and should swim for about 12 to 14 hours. Swimming will end at about 7pm.
Out of the water, the swimmers' only rest will be in the searing heat.
Ram Barkai, 46, the general manager of an asset management company
Hester Brusser, 46, a special-needs teacher and housewife
Cheryl Young, 44 a swimming coach and a spin instructor
Lisa Greenstein, 29, a freelance writer and editor
Andrew Watts, 28, a webmaster
Kevin Ordman, 45, a bank sales manager.
They will also have to paddle their own supply-laden craft to the next overnight wilderness campsite where they will sleep under the stars.
At the end of the 10 days, they plan to leave the water and walk onto the beaches of Alexander Bay, having swum the length of the South African/Namibian border.
Chin, 34, a financial adviser who has completed the Robben Island crossing three times in the past two years, heads the group of swimmers aged between 28 and 46.
The most experienced is Vivienne Brown, who has completed at least 10 Robben Island crossings while the rest of the team are made up of:
Chin said the challenge was both a personal dream as well as an attempt to create awareness around cardiovascular disease, which is one of the biggest killers of South Africans and which can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle.
"We expect to encounter a variety of obstacles which will make this swim highly challenging but we are committed to trying to achieve our goal and have fun in the process.
"This challenge will thrust adventure swimming into a whole new dimension as we will be placing ourselves totally at the mercy of nature and relying mainly on our physical and mental preparation and a tiny support system," said Chin.
"It is also part of a move to make swimming more of a team activity as it can be an extremely lonely sport," he added.
The group will leave Cape Town on Friday carrying provisions for only 10 days.
Professional guides from Gravity Adventures will accompany the swimmers who are still seeking sponsorship to cover the total cost of the challenge of just over R120 000. - Sapa