Only six at end of swim feat

Mad Swimmers raise R30,000 in tough 19km route on the Keiskamma

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Twelve started and six finished swimming a startling 19km from Hamburg up the Keiskamma river to the R72 bridge.
Mad Swimmers, a charity NPO, was started a decade ago in a pub in the French Alps when old Stellenbosch university mates threw down a R100,000 bet that Jean Craven could not swim from Morocco to Gibraltar.
Six months later, weighing 25kg less, he did the 17km and won R100,000 which he put into the NPO and Mad Swimmers was born.
He said they had swum all six major intercontinental swims and every year chose a number of venues around the world for their next mad swim.
Keiskamma was chosen for the river swim, and the 12 swimmers came from around SA to attempt the feat.
The six who made it took between six hours 43 minutes, the time it took Craven, 47, and his swim buddy Andrew Chin, 50, who is chair of the Cape Long Distance Swimming organisation.
Supported by Jonginenge guards on kayaks and expert East London skipper Sunil Pillay, the day was action-packed.
“Fish were jumpin’,” he quipped after spending the day picking up swimmers.
A Dispatch reporter swam a few kilometres. At one stage it was clear the spring tide current had not pushed as far as expected and swimmers battled against an outgoing current.
Some finally cramped and stopped, others just became exhausted and gave up after 10km or so.
The final six swam the last 3km into the sunset in a wild cliff-edged stretch, where only kayaks could go.
They raised R30,000, but would hit R50,000 said Craven, who is a fund manager at Barak in Johannesburg.
“The water was a bit brown, but the scenery was awesome,” he said.
Chin said: “It was tougher than expected. Reality hit us hard in the last 3km but there was not one rock, so no walking, which I usually enjoy!”
Friedel Spies, one of the newcomers to the adventure sport, which has about 350 followers in South Africa, said: “The river is in really good condition. I loved it until I got cramp.”
Cape Town advocate John Dickerson, 62, who completed the 17km, said: “When the tide started pushing at 10km everything fell apart.
“I am sore, and tired. It felt unending. But it was a beautiful setting, and a lovely river.”
Jared Berman, 41, and his swim buddy, former cage fighter Troy Mayer, 47, chorused: “It was proper.”
Swim organiser, naval captain Francois du Toit, said open water swimming “keeps me sane.
“I have a passion for physical and mental fitness. There is also the social side – there is a lot of camaraderie, you meet new people from all walks. It involves people of all degrees of ability. All you need to be able to do is swim.”
Team doctor Sean Murray, from East London, who swam 10km, said, to agreement from swimmers gathered around the table at De Regos pub and restaurant on the banks of the river at Hamburg: “We have swopped pool lanes for shipping lanes.”
He said there was much more to consider when swimming in a dam, river, or the sea. There was wind, swell, temperature, fog, “which you won’t find in the pool”.
Swimmers spoke of their love of the different environment and being “taken to places you would never have expected”.
Paula Vuyk, 39, who runs a car dealership with her husband Leon (who supported her along the way) in Pretoria, was the only female swimmer.
On Sunday, the Mad Swimmers did it all again, this time starting from the R72 bridge at dawn...

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