SA swimmer edges closer to 100 Robben Island crossings

2015-06-21 20:52
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2015-06-02 15:20

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Cape Town - A South African swimmer made his 93rd crossing between Robben Island and the mainland at the weekend, and he has no plans of slowing down.

Theodore Yach, 57, swam from the island to Blouberg Beach in Cape Town on Saturday in a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes. He covered a distance of 7.4km.

“My immediate goal is to get 100 Robben Island swims and I am hoping to do that by the end of March/April next year,” he told News24 on Sunday.

Yach had raised around R6.5m for charities in his 35 years of swimming in the Cape’s icy water and planned to raise at least that much in his next seven swims.

His journey to this point started in his twenties, on the back of a provincial swimming and water polo career.

After finishing his studies, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, who had already done a few Robben Island swims.


A boat crew accompanied him on every leg and the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association ratified each swim.

Out in the water, he counted his strokes so he knew how many kilometres he had done. The investor also found time to reflect.

“I am a partner in a large business so it gives me the opportunity to think about the issues of the day and solutions.”

Like any sportsman, he had rituals that included packing and repacking his bags before he headed out.


He still got nervous because every swim was unique. He did not talk much beforehand.

“My sons and wife know that before a swim, they must never mention the shark word!”

He said it was important to respect that the ocean was the shark’s domain, adding that many of the creatures were needlessly slaughtered.

“On the one hand, I obviously wouldn’t like to get munched by a Great White. On the other hand, if we do see one, which has happened before, the procedure is to remove the swimmer from the water and end the swim."

Yach shared that female long-distance sea swimmers generally perform better than males. He drew inspiration from American swimmer Lynne Cox and British long-distance swimmer Alison Streeter. Cox swam the Bering Strait in 1987 and Streeter had done the most swims across the English Channel.

Locally, he admired Lewis Pugh, Peter Bales and Otto Thaning.

Thaning last year became the oldest person, at the age of 73, to swim the English Channel.

Using Thaning as an shining beacon of hope, Yach said he hoped to be tackling the ocean for a long time to come.

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