“It’s right over you!” Those were the words from the Newport City Police Dispatcher, when we called in to see how far away the thunderstorm was. The violent, spot storm that hit us immediately, without warning, with gale force winds and lightning less than 4 miles from Newport’s Gateway Center put an end to Ray Gandy’s historic attempt to be the first person to complete a 50 mile international swim, double crossing Lake Memphremagog, from Newport to Magog and back. Gandy, a 50 year old marathon swimmer from Coventry, RI, left Newport’s Gateway Center at 8:15 am on Saturday, July 14th and completed the first crossing of 25 miles, from Newport to Magog in 13 hours. He spent 8 minutes on the beach visiting with supporters, before re-entering the water and heading south.
The night was still and the conditions seemed favorable. However, Ray struggled during the night and throughout the morning and his pace slowed, but he refused to quit. A tough gut if we’ve ever seen one. Brutally determined. Repeatedly raising his fist in the face of the seeming reality of the moment. But then, after about 27 hours in the water, he broke through the wall and by the time he crossed the border, he was swimming strong and at the same pace he had maintained during the first 25 miles of the swim. He crossed the border at 2:40 pm on Sunday, July 15th to the tooting of horns from his support crew and other supporters who came out to cheer him on. He had gotten just over 1 mile south of the border, with less than 4 miles to go, and completion seeming assured, when we heard the rumble of thunder, and Ray’s race was over.
Within minutes the storm was done, as if it never happened, and Ray was being checked out and attended to by the EMTs of the Newport Ambulance Services. US border officials were personally there to process our re-entry. Ray’s extraordinary swim was historic: In 31:05 in the water with a distance of 46 miles it is the longest continuous swim on Lake Memphremagog.
The Canadian and US Border Officials were great to work with during the preparations and throughout the swim. Bob Kerr and Eric Bassett of Newport Marine Services provided the pontoon boat for Ray’s crew and the support necessary for this extraordinary expedition. The swim was also supported by IROC and the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association.
In the process, Ray’s Swim raised just over $6,000 for IROC and its Healthy Changes Initiative.
Ray’s swim has also raised awareness of the coming of age of world class open water swimming in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. IROC and NEKOWSA now host 5 sanctioned swims, Son of a Swim, Kingdom Swim, Seymour Swim, Willoughby Swim, and the 25 mile international swim In Search of Memphre. This year’s Kingdom Swim saw 240 swimmers, ages 7 to 70, traveling from 21 different states and two Canadian provinces to swim one of six open water courses ranging from 10 miles to 100 yards. Kingdom Swim has been selected to host next year’s USMS 9+ mile national championship. The Daily News of Open Water Swimming has selected Lake Memphremagog and Lake Willoughby as two of the 50 great open water swimming venues in all of the Americas.
For more information, contact Ray Gandy at 401-585-7430 or Phil White at 802-249-9100.