SA duo complete epic swim

Cape Town - Two South African swimmers this week returned home as heroes after swimming an incredible 459km from Mozambique to Madagascar in just 24 days to raise funds for the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative, which assists Operation Smile in raising awareness for the plight of children born with cleft lips and palates, and funds to perform corrective surgery.

The aim of the mission was to raise enough money to perform surgery on 50 children. This is the first time that anyone has attempted or completed this distance across the Mozambican Channel and officials may recognise the swim as the longest unassisted open water stage swim ever completed in the world, once all data has been reviewed.

The swimmers, Thane Williams and Jonno Proudfoot, did not use any shark nets, wetsuits, cage, flippers or breathing apparatus, and completed the feat in less than the expected time period, swimming an average of 19km per day.

Besides the very tough conditions including enormous swells and the scorching sun, they also faced numerous obstacles, including multiple stings by jellyfish, boat engine failures and very curious sharks.
The duo also ran into trouble when they bizarrely entered international waters and landed on a French military base island, where they were questioned and detained for more than seven hours. However, Williams says that this experience was  dwarfed by the joy and relief experienced when the team reached the shore at Cap Saint-Andre in Madagascar, the finishing point of the expedition.

“There were many moments on this journey where we thought that we were not going to make it, and it seemed that there were so many odds against us. Yet, we had to keep telling ourselves that no matter how scared we were of the various aspects that could potentially go wrong, we had to keep swimming. The last day’s swim was the most challenging, as despite realising how far we had come, we had to push harder with each stroke to complete the swim. While I will never be able to explain the overwhelming feeling of landing on shore after the many highs and lows on the gruelling journey, it can be best described as relief, exhaustion and complete awe for the accomplishment,” explains Williams.

Proudfoot and Williams took on this inspiring adventure to help make a difference to those born with cleft lips and palates.

“One in every 750 children in Africa is born with a cleft palate or lip, and one in 10 babies born with this condition does not make it to their first birthday. Malnutrition, medical and psychological problems also compound the problem. Life can be a tough and complicated place for children and not being able to smile shouldn’t have to limit their experience of the world. Operation Smile this week started its next mission in Madagascar, which will see over 300 patients screened for corrective surgery until mid-April. I sincerely hope that we are able to inspire people to help others live lives of confidence through our adventure in raising funds for the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative,” says Proudfoot.

“The Cipla Foundation aims to improve the lives of children born with cleft lips and palates. At Cipla we are committed to sustainable social investment through the Cipla Foundation, which is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO) that raises funds for initiatives aligned to the Cipla brand, including Ajuga, fire-resistant crèche structures deployed in communities; Owethu, South Africa’s first fully-serviced modular medical and dental clinic; and of course, the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative. We are incredibly proud to be associated with the inspiring duo as they have become the first two people in history to ever complete this swim which was deemed impossible,” says Cipla marketing director, Rynard van der Westhuizen.

All funds raised by the duo will go to the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative. Donations are not yet closed for the Mad Swim and individuals who wish to make a difference to those born with cleft lips and palates as well as show their support to the swimmers and their remarkable feat, may contribute by visiting The Cipla Mad Swim team was sponsored by Cipla, Betavit, Exfoliac, Woolworths, Second Skins Swimwear, Sat4Rent, Coreban, Harvey World Travel Claremont and Island Tribe.

About The Mad Swimmers

Jonno Proudfoot is a multi-talented food entrepreneur and sports enthusiast who hopes to inspire those around him to lead more meaningful lives through their actions. The brainchild behind one of the fastest selling South African cookbooks, the Real Meal Revolution, Proudfoot is also a chef. He was also part of the runner-up team in South Africa’s Braai Master Competition, aired on television in 2013.

Thane Williams has been swimming for more than 15 years and holds the World Masters record for the 4x100m freestyle relay. Williams is also a model and entrepreneur with business interests in the food industry. Williams aims to motivate people to live their true potential through the messages that life does not have fit a traditional mould and anything is possible through perseverance.

Cipla Mad Swim duo Thane Williams and Jonno Proudfoot swam 459km from Madagascar to Mozambique in 24 days to raise funds for the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative (Vernon Deas)

Thane Williams (left) and Jonno Proudfoot celebrate as they land on Madagascar soil after completing the 459km swim from Mozambique (Vernon Deas)

The entire Cipla Mad Swim crew celebrate by proudly holding the South African flag. From left to right: Captain ‘Stormin’ Norman Horner, Daphney Lyll (team doctor), Jonno Proudfoot, Thane Williams, David Karpul from SA Sports Science Institute (race director), Bodean Bisogno (deckhand) (Vernon Deas)
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