Newport, VT and Magog, QCâ€“On September 8th, 2012 seven marathon swimmers undertook the 25 mile, international swim, going the length of Lake Memphremagog between Newport, Vermont and Magog, Quebec. Swimmers departed in two waves from The Gateway Center in Newport. The first group of four left at 12:12 am with the second wave of three leaving an hour later at 1:12 am. The plan was to start the faster swimmers later so that the distance between swimmers would compress during the night before it spread out later in the swim.
The Magnificent Seven â€śSwimmer Scoutsâ€ť taking part in this yearâ€™s expedition were:
Liz Fry, 53, of Westport, CT, David Dammerman, 43, Saratoga Springs, NY, Bill Shipp, 52, Mitchellville, MD, David Barra, 47, High Falls, NY, Aurora Gore, 29, Libertyville, IL, Lori Carena, 58, Brooklyn, NY, and Jennifer Dutton, 43, Wayland, MA. Bios for all of the participants are posted at www.insearchofmemphre.com.
The three-fold purpose of this annual swim is to support a more open border with our Canadian friends, even as we support efforts to deal with terrorist activity, to raise funds for IROC and its Healthy Changes Initiative for people suffering from chronic conditions (over $12,000 raised this year), and to search for the elusive lake creature, Memphre.
The swimmers were supported by 7 escort boats with swimmer-protected propellers (provided by La Traversee) and 4 larger patrol boats, with 25 pilots and crew members altogether.
Conditions were perfect at the start. Those who donâ€™t know Mighty Memphremagogâ€™s many moods and wily ways might have thought that the lake was defenseless, promising safe passage to all.
Water temperatures at the surface were 71, rising to 72 past the turn north of Owls Head. Wind was light throughout the night. The half moon was high in the sky and in and out of the clouds.
Air temperature was relatively warm for this time of year. The boats and the radios were all working well. Perfect conditions for five or six hours of night swimming.
Daybreak saw all swimming strong, although Dave Barra was experiencing a type of heart burn, most probably from swallowing a bunch of vitamins the day before without finishing them off with some water. Isnâ€™t it always the little stuff that gets you?
The wind from the south began to pick up as the sun rose and the swimmers headed past the 15 mile point at Georgeville.
By about the 17 mile point (8 miles south of Magog) wind speed picked up to 10 to 15 mph, challenging the escort boats.
As the swimmers approached Magog, it became clearer and clearer that Memphremagog was not going to give up without a fight.
At the Three Sisters Islands, about 2 miles out, the wind was roaring, 25 mph with gusts of 35 mph and the waves were 2 to 3 feet with occasional 4 foot waves.
Swimmers were body surfing their way into Magog while their escort boats struggled to stay afloat, leading to the only DNF of the day when Liz Fryâ€™s support crew had to pull out as their boat was getting swamped with water.
Liz had completed 23.5 miles, was second among the swimmers (and was one of only four to complete last yearâ€™s swim in the face of vicious head winds). She was swimming strong, but her escort boat was in deep trouble and unable to stay with her and protect her as she entered the busy-ness around Magog.
Sail boarders and kite boarders were all over the place, taking advantage of some of the best wind of the summer. In fact, with just a couple of hundred yards to go, Shipp was almost hit head on by a sailboard that must have been traveling at 30 mph or more, even as two boats tried to provide protection.
Those with unfinished business from last yearâ€™s swim, finished their business this year and did so with style.
David Dammerman, Bill Shipp and Jen Dutton had all been forced to pull up in last yearâ€™s swim for various reasons.
They were back this year, determined to complete. You could see it in their eyes before the start of the swim. Heck, you could feel the determination building for the past six months. Dammerman (now aka The Bullet) reached the beach ahead of everyone in 11 hrs 27 min,* while Shipp was the second one in with a time of 12:38. Dutton was the second female to reach the beach with a time of 15:06, just ahead of Barra, 15:15 and just behind Carena, 15:01, who finished first among the women in the longest swim of her life.
Gore finished at 15:45 to a standing ovation of swimmers, crew, friends and family of the swimmers, IROC staff and volunteers and even a wedding party posing for pictures by our orange buoys.
Two of the four patrol boats headed back down the lake into even stronger winds and six foot waves as Vermont faced tornado warnings and one touch down (The same weather that had forced the cancelation of MIMS earlier in the day).
The other two boats were docked and picked up on Sunday.
There were some very special moments in this swim:
At the Leadville dock, watching the swimmers and their escort boats take the border in the middle of the night. With the arrival of dawn, finding that all of our Swimmer Scouts were still in the water, swimming strong.
Watching, stroke-by-stroke, the determination and fight of Bill Shipp, who had been blown to the west of the finish buoys, fighting his way against the current the last several hundred yards.
And the exuberant, strong-willed joy of the entire expeditionary force, swimmers, crew, pilots, and IROC staff. Some life-long bonds were formed.
Special thanks to Chris and Gail Steel and Don Haughton in the lead boat.
To Trish Sears and Steve Mason in the Sweep Boat.
To Greg Oâ€™Connor, Mathew Scott, and Bob McDowell providing coverage up the middle of the line.
To Erica Sheckler and Bethany Bosch for their work with me and Pinky at Command Central, not only during the event itself, but also for their help during the preparations.
And to Newport Marine Services for providing support for the swim, including a jump start at 5:00 am when the battery on Trish and Steveâ€™s patrol boat died during the night while it was waiting, with lights on but engine off, providing directional guidance to the escort boats.
As always, the IROC staff was all over this event.
Kristian Pearson and Sue Engel were tireless, working all of Thursday loading boats in to the river, guarding them in the river by the park in Magog, all of Thursday night while we waited until Friday morning to make the call as to which way we would swim, and back at it to help gather equipment and documents for the launch and then helping with the reception of swimmers and crew at the Beach in Magog.
Peter Channel was with us every step of the way, picking up the radios, helping with the loading of boats, driving his van up the east side of the lake to various fixed locations in the event that we had to pull one or more swimmers and overseeing (with Kristian) the return of the escort boats up the river to La Traversee.
To Lee Tenney (Momma Lee)(with an assist from her pirate husband Randy) for arranging for food, woodals, t-shirts and sending us off from The Gateway Center in good spirits.
Faith Landry and Bob Engel for their help at the beach.
And, of course, to Chris and Pat McFarland of Clyde River Recreation, not only for providing the pfds for all of the escort boat personnel, but also, when we were forced to dock two of our boats in Magog, for driving the shuttle van up the lake to give us all a ride home. Chris and Pat have had our back at our swimming events for years.
Oh yes, and to David Dammerman for driving Bob McDowell and me up to Magog on Sunday morning to drive the boats back to Newport.
To Liz Fry for arranging for the transponders but most of all for her leadership in the preparation for this event.
To Serge Laurandeau of Magog and the folks at La Traversee for their friendship, their welcome, and the many things they do to make this kind of an international swim possible.
And finally, and always, to Ned Denison and Leslie Thomas for their wise, patient, and constant guidance, Lord knows, we need every bit of help we can get.
Stand up people, ALL.
The event is hosted by IROC and the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association. The Organizing Committee consists of Phil White, of Derby, VT, Ned Denison, of Cork Ireland, Elaine Kornbau Howley, of Waltham, MA, Leslie Thomas of Swim_Art in San Francisco, CA, Liz Fry of Westport, CT, Greg Oâ€™Connor, of Nattick, MA, Peter Stuart, of Derby, VT, and Charlotte Brynn of Stowe, VT,.
In Search of Memphre is sanctioned by US Masters Swimming, which has selected next yearâ€™s Kingdom Swim to hold its 9+ Mile National Championship. It is part of IROCâ€™s Kingdom Summer Games â€“ a fast growing series of running, biking, swimming, triathlon, kayaking, and motorcycling events that are now drawing participants from 36 different states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico, Great Britain, and Mumbai, India.
The Kingdom Summer Games series is made possible by major sponsorships of Jay Peak Resort, Community National Bank, North Country Hospital, Vermont Highland Cattle Company, MVP, Swim_Art, The EastSide Restaurant, Louis Garneau, Paul Decelles Investment Planning, Hayes Ford, Northeast Delta Dental, Passumpsic Savings Bank, Kinney Drugs Foundation, Community Financial Services Group, SwimVacation, Wilkens Harley-Davidson, Jay Peak Area Chamber of Commerce, Lago Trattoria, XTERRA Wetsuits, United Motorcyclists of Vermont, Vermont Pie & Pasta Company, Cedarwood Resort, Clyde River Recreation, Newport Marine Services, and Montgomeryâ€™s CafĂ©.
*All times are preliminary, pending review with the swimmers crews who were also timing the event.