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Swimming: Locals to begin relay today

First of three SCV participants will leave for Catalina Island at noon

Posted: October 3, 2010 10:01 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.

It’s been 18 months in the planning. The start date has changed several times for different reasons, including weather and water conditions.

But today, swimmers Mike Vovk of Castaic, David Hartmire of Newhall and Chris Dahowski of Valencia will team with Cal State Fullerton graduate student Jen Schumacher and attempt to complete four consecutive trips from the California mainland to Santa Catalina Island.

How was Vovk feeling the day before?

“I tried to take a nap (Sunday),” he said. “Not going to happen.”

Vovk hopes the team can make its goal of four consecutive channel crossings happen. The feat, properly termed as a “contiguous solo relay”, has never been accomplished anywhere in the world.

Swimming under the name “Team Red, White and Blue”, the foursome will try to become the first group to pull it off beginning at noon today. Hartmire will swim first, starting from a cove near Point Vicente Lighthouse in Palos Verdes and finishing at Santa Catalina Island. From there, Vovk will try to swim back to the mainland, where Schumacher will then try to return to Santa Catalina Island before Dahowski attempts to return to the mainland.

Each team member has 10 minutes maximum to enter the water once another has completed his or her leg. The swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits.

A guide boat will be in close proximity to the swimmers for each trip, which measures 22 miles at the shortest point. Vovk said that given the currents and possible weather, he expects the group to log more than 100 miles combined, and he hopes the relay will be finished by Wednesday.

He said the team is double- and triple-checking to make sure each member has the proper supplies before embarking on the relay.

“I find that if I just keep busy, I don’t think about it,” Vovk said.

And for good reason.

Vovk said that less than 200 people have ever completed one crossing in the channel, and that 50 percent of those who have tried this year have failed. But he feels the team aspect will push each swimmer to perform better than normal.

He also said that blue whales will cross the channel over the next several days, meaning the team members could find themselves swimming next to the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth.

It’s a tall task for the team, to be sure, but Vovk said someone managed to pull off a successful crossing as recently as Saturday.

“I don’t know if lightning could strike twice,” he laughed. “But I’m hoping for it.”

For those interested in following the swimmers’ progress, the team will post updates on Facebook under the group entitled “Swim22” and on its website


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