Records fall across the strait

Coach Sally McMath gives Camille Gulick a hug after she successfully swam across Foveaux Strait last Thursday. Photo: Tom Christie
Liana Smith makes good progress in her swim across Foveaux Strait last Thursday. Photo: Supplied

THERE is plenty of ocean out there — enough for two Otago swimmers to cross Foveaux Strait last Thursday.

Arrowtown swimmer Liana Smith set a record for the swim from the northern tip of Stewart Island to the bottom of the South Island, while at the same time Wanaka swimmer Camille Gulick successfully swam the 29.6km distance across Foveaux Strait, also breaking the record.

The duo do not know each other well and it was because of a favourable tide and weather forecast that they both set off about 8am last Thursday.

Conditions turned out close to perfect for the swim. They did not see each other on the journey.

Smith (25) recorded a time of 6 hours, 19 minutes, a record for any swimmer — male or female.

Gulick, who started earlier than Smith, and finished just before her, recorded a time of 6 hours, 57 minutes.

Smith said finishing yesterday’s swim, one of three big swims she had completed, was great.

The previous record was set by Jonathan Ridler last year of 7 hours, 52 minutes.

Smith is the 10th person to have completed the New Zealand Triple Crown swimming challenge, having swum Cook Strait and Lake Taupo last year.

‘‘Most people do one a year, but I’ve just done all three in 10 months,’’ she said.

‘‘That first couple of kilometres as you find your rhythm is always a bit of an ask, and that’s always when you’re getting into your head as well of ‘what the hell am I doing?’.’’

‘‘There was a heck of a lot of salp in the water, a phytoplankton apparently great for reducing carbon emissions, and also so much kelp and seaweed, but that’s to be expected.’’

For Smith it was the successful completion of three mammoth swims, in support of the I-Am-Hope charity, raising about $10,000. Her Givealittle page was still open for donations.

‘‘I’ve been absolutely beyond humbled and blown away by the generosity of people from all over the country who donated.’’

She would love to go overseas and do some of their big swims, while also ticking off some more big swims in New Zealand’s backyard.

She thanked her crew as well as former marathon swimmer Philip Rush, who had given a lot of logistical support for the three swims.

Gulick (34) was completely surprised to have recorded a time of less than seven hours.

‘‘To finish in such a faster time than I was expecting was a bit overwhelming.

‘‘I was just making such good time.

One time there I wondered if my crew were actually lying to me [about the time]. I just thought ‘are you serious?’. But the conditions were great and I was feeling good.’’

She had hoped to go under 10 hours but smashed that by some distance.

‘‘The last bit it was starting to get painful but I had done so well. It was a relief when I finished. Just getting back into the boat, seeing all the crew, I was overcome.’’

She paid tribute to her crew and all her supporters who had encouraged her.