With the very rare conjunction of all of Canberra’s lakes fully closed to swimming for over 2 weeks this month, it seemed almost certain this year’s Sri Chinmoy National Capital Swim would need to be truncated, distorted, amended or cancelled. And if it would happen at all, given the recent preponderance of wet, rainy, stormy, thunderous, blustery and very cold days, it would likely be a miserable ordeal for all involved…
… That the race occurred on schedule, actually covered the length of Lake Burley Griffin after all, in calm, mild waters under clear skies – was perhaps good luck, a marvellous meteorological anomaly, a comic cosmic conspiracy, or perhaps the concerted will and optimism of an entire field of aspiring, committed swimmers.
With the lake temperature hovering around 19 degrees, more swimmers than usual opted to wear their wetsuits – for those unused to sustained immersion in cool waters, definitely a wise move.
Of the Wieland brothers, Ned (the elder) opted to swim sans wetsuit, while younger brother Duke donned the suit. The difference was remarkable, with Duke powering away from the start and increasing his lead at each transition, reaching the beach at Grevillea Park a full 10 minutes ahead of Ned – 1:58:50 to 2:08:51. The wetsuited Matthew Hogan and Rhys Sweaney were closely matched, shadowing each other in 2:33:16 and 2:33:27 respectively, just ahead of the 1st Mixed Team, “Algal Zoom” (Melanie Wellenberg and William Aikman) in 2:33:46.
Next unsuited swimmer was the consistently excellent Michael Pranckl, in 2:42:59, ahead of Conor O’Brien with 2:47:27. Others to finish in the Males Under 50 were Tom Sullivan (3:42:13), Jack Nottle (3:44:21) and the dauntless Grant Campbell in 4:19:40. Peter Power was fastest among the Males 50-59 sans wetsuit, finishing in 3:01:08, with a close tussle to decide 2nd and 3rd between Jonathan Wall (3:08:23) and Andrew Reichel (3:08:34), with Male 60-69 winner Ross Youngman making it a 3-way sprint in the chute. Leading the back-markers of the field, Neil Papenfus put the lake behind him in 4:24:56. Used to the Meers and Waters of the Lake District, 71-year-old Bill Hitchcock just arrived from the UK to sample lake swimming Down Under-style in our own LBG, which he grasped and conquered in the formidable time of 4:29:28.
Emily Kempson was a clear winner of the women’s non-wetsuit race, taking line honours in 3:00:28, ahead of crowd favourite Emily Dwyer’s 3:16:38, while Liz Crowhurst took out the Female 50-59 non-wetsuit division with her 3:51:25.
Nicolee Martin was first wetsuited woman home (from the F50-59 category) in 2:49:37; Katie Binstock, the only Under 50 female to swim with a wetsuit, spanned the lake in 3:10:35; while the impressive Suzie Gunning claimed the F60-69 wetsuited prize in 3:19:40.
In the M50-59 wetsuited division, Chris Southby (2:52:09) and Aston Duncan (2:59:16) both broke the sought-after 3 hour barrier – the furthest Aston has ever swum, a mighty feat having completed the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon just a fortnight ago. Michael Rodda tallied 3:15:29; while Andrew Leigh (3:48:45) completed a laudable double, finishing his first Sri Chinmoy 100km Trail Run and 10km swim in just a few months (with a 2:54 Chicago Marathon for Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Foundation, sandwiched in between). In the M60-69s, Chris Carson (3:26:46) proved best on the day, from Bob Welldon’s 3:39:22.
In the MU50 wetsuit category, Samuel Cox crossed the line in 2:44:18, from Brendan Cook with 2:58:14 and Joe Walshe (another Triple-Tri finisher from 2 weeks ago), 3:14:05.
Fastest All-Female team on the day was “Sharks are Friends” (Samantha Morley and Rebecca Lannin), with 3:12:15; while the title of best All-Male ensemble was claimed by “Bilby Lookers” (Scott McClymont, Peter Thorley, Alex Gosman and Lachlan McCalman) in 2:53:10.
Our gratitude to all volunteers and helpers – to the YMCA Sailing Club; to Florian Geier and the Lake Tuggeranong Sea Scouts; to Paul Robey and Rebecca Stamatis for medical support; to Emily Stacey; and members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team from Latvia, Mongolia and Canberra.