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New Zealand’s Big3 On The Up?

Let us start with a short paragraph on NZ marathon swim background and history; The top three recognised marathon swims in NZ (The NZ triple crown) are the Cook Strait , Lake Taupo and Foveaux Strait. The Cook Strait is probably the most recognised and certainly the most conquered of the three swims.  Michael Quinlivan, Sandra Blewitt and Belinda Shields swam all three in the 1980’s. Philip Rush completed doubles of Cook and Taupo in the 80’s but never got a suitable Foveaux weather window. Philip also completed a triple English channel swim in the 1980’s in a time that has never been beaten.  Meda McKenzie completed an array of amazing swims in the 70’s and 80’s including a crossing of Cook Strait at 15 years of age and a Foveaux crossing. Out of 8 successful Foveaux swims , four occurred in the 1980’s and one in 1979.  The 80’s were certainly a successful and exciting time for NZ marathon swimming.

If you look back through the records for NZ’s BIG 3 (see links above) swims from New Zealanders over the 90’s are fairly quiet. Over the last few years things are starting to heat up again with Anna Plunkett completing a superb Cook swim at 17 years of age in 2014. On a global level  USA based Kiwi swimmer Kimberly Chambers has marked a serious dent in the swim achievement awards, knocking off the Oceans7 and most recently completing an amazing swim from the Farallon Islands.

Things got exciting this month in Christchurch New Zealand as two locally based swimmers made their mark on two of New Zealands BIG 3.

1 Feb 2016 Chloe Harris becomes the fastest ever to swim between Stewart Island and New Zealands South island .

8 Feb 2016 Christchurchs Holly Cassin went big, very big, for her first ultra swim marathon attempt choosing to take on NZ’s 40.2km length of Lake Taupo. Battling wind and a shoulder injury she completed the epic swim in 15 hours 51 mins. Check out some highlights of Holly Swimming Taupo

These two swims helped highlight , locally at least, the two lesser known of our BIG 3 and marked significant achievements for Chloe and Holly – we say congratulations to them.  Could we perhaps be seeing a resurgence in NZ marathon swimming as the growth of open water swimming continues? We certainly hope so …

We leave you with some ‘swim facts’ from Holly and Chloes swims and the BIG 3:

Temperatures – Foveaux Strait averages 12.5 C with a range of 11- 14C. Lake Taupo temperature for Holly’s swim was 22C.

Goggles … Chloe and Holly both wore Zoggs goggles.

Distance – Foveaux Strait is about 16 miles (26km) across which is comparable to Cook Strait. Lake Taupo is approximately 40.2km end to end.

Feeding … Every half hour for Holly. Chloe started at 30 min feeds but reduced to 25 mins then 20 minutes as she fought off the cold.  Holly seemed very keen on eating Eskimo lollies but for the most part both athletes used http://www.drinkpure.co.nz/

Shark protection – Chloe yes. http://www.niwa.co.nz/news/record-number-of-great-white-sharks-tagged-in-new-zealand-waters Holly, No – Great Whites have ever been observed in Lake Taupo.

Swimming at night – Chloe (No) started and finished during the day. Holly started her swim at 4am and swam for approximately 3 hours in darkness.

Records – Chloe became the fastest of the 8 recorded swims across Foveaux Strait. Holly spent more time in the water than all but one of all Cook and Foveaux one way swimmers battling head winds for much of the swim. As we know the time tells very little of the journey and the challenges an open water swimmer faced on the day.

*Your first point of call in NZ should you be thinking about swimming any of the BIG 3 is Philip Rush


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