Sunday, January 07, 2007

'Hard and fast with the Wild Bunch'

The hardy souls that do the Rotto swim are on a par with participants in the Marathon des Sables, the Yukon Arctic Ultra race and the La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

(That last one, as any fule kno, is an epic mountain bike race held in November in the jungles of Costa Rica.)

The Ruta is "widely acknowledged as one of the most brutal in the world", says a story in the Belfast Telegraph.

"In the modern era, finding a true off-the-beaten-track adventure can be difficult," the BT says.

"Comparing the relative dangers of proposed expeditions is the adventurer's equivalent of comparing City bonuses; bigger is better and sheer bravado is best. The less likely you are to return from distant shores with all your limbs, the greater the credibility of the challenge ahead. Should you wish to enhance your reputation beyond measure, best not to return at all."

And from Cottesloe, Rotto is a distant shore. The BT talks about the adventure of swimming the English Channel, and then segues to our own local event...

"Although only half as wide as its English counterpart, the Rottnest Channel is an ocean swim that presents a rather different set of challenges. The 19.2km stretch of water separates Rottnest Island from Perth, in Western Australia. Like the English Channel, it can get bloody cold; unlike the English Channel, it is patrol-led by Great White Sharks. At least one swimmer has been killed in the area.

"The first person to swim it was Gerd von Dincklage-Schulenburg in 1956. He completed the swim in 9hr 45min, and his feat caught the imagination of a local newspaper editor. Later that year the first race was held, won, appropriately enough, by a Mr Seaborn.

"Known to aficionados as "the Rotto", the modern race attracts around 2,500 entries (places for 2007 are still available), the first wave of which sets off from Perth's Cottesloe beach at dawn.

"Once at sea, competitors swim either solo or in teams, and must contend with notorious rip currents plus, in between the sharks, squadrons of stingrays. Almost as dangerous as the marine life are the support boats. With each entry requiring a designated pilot vessel, swimmers must pick their way through a huge flotilla of craft.

"The effect, some swimmers report, is like participating in the Normandy landings having swum there in the first place."

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