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NZ3 The Kiwi Triple Crown

Oceans Seven has created a massive amount of interest in New Zealand’s contribution to the Oceans Seven; Cook Strait. At present open water swim legend and Cook Strait swim guide guru Philip Rush fields a phenomenal number of inquiries about the swim, I believe he is now taking bookings for 2016 and beyond. Cook Strait is an amazing piece of water, the tides are completely opposite at each end of the strait making currents impossible to accurately model and predict. The weather can best be described as knarly. Every form of wildlife imaginable calls Cook Strait home or at least transits through, you honestly have no idea what you’re going to run into when you’re swimming Cook Strait, therefore to successfully swim it is truly a special achievement, as is any of the Oceans Seven swims. Having said that I believe it is of interest to note some of the other remarkable marathon swims that have been completed in New Zealand and are available to those motivated enough to take them on.

The Cook Strait is named after Captain James Cook , it runs between New Zealands North and South Islands. There is another Strait that Captain Cook passed on his travels in New Zealand only he failed to recognise it was a Strait, originally thinking that New Zealands third most prominent Island, Stewart Island and the South Island of New Zealand were linked. Stewart Island is located below the South Island. Foveaux Strait links the two. Foveaux Strait was discovered by an American, O. F. Smith, while searching for seals in 1804. In March 1806 he passed on the information to the Australian Governor of New South Wales who decided the Strait should be named after Major Joseph Foveaux, who was one of his aides at the time. Foveaux Strait is approximately the same distance as the Cook the Cook Strait at around 16miles/26km and because it is at a greater southern latitude the waters are colder and just as rough, if not rougher, than Cook Strait. It can be a very unforgiving place, between the years 1998 to 2012 there were a total of 23 maritime fatalities in Foveaux Strait.

Marathon swimming Foveaux; John van Leeuwen, a Dutch immigrant living in New Zealand made the first successful crossing of the Foveaux Strait on 7 February 1963 in 13 hours 40 minutes. He left the beach near Bluff at 9:15 am and reached Stewart Island at 10:55 pm. With all the recent day discussion on Jelly fish stings, it is interesting to read what John van Leeuwens had to say about his experience in dealing with jelly fish stings ;.

“I stopped and put in a complaint to the complaints department – Ivan. He got engine oil and smeared it across my mouth. That’s what saved me.

Since that time only 5 other non wetsuit and 1 wetsuit crossing attempt have been successful. The Foveaux is easily as tough as the Cook Strait swim if not tougher.

The third most prominent marathon swim in New Zealand has to be New Zealands largest lake, Lake Taupo. Located in the centre of the North Island. To date 30 successful non wetsuit Taupo swims have been completed . The first recognised swim of Taupo was completed by Margret Sweeny in 1955. In more recent times legendary open water swimmer Philip Rush holds the fastest crossing of this 40.2km swim at 10hours 52.48 and the fastest two way crossing at 23.05.

In my opinion these are the three most challenging marathon swims that New Zealand has to offer – together they make up what I would call New Zealands triple crown. As far as my research indicates no single swimmer is yet to conquer all three. Who will be the first?

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