Strong current sidelined 200 Across The Lake race swimmers

Swimmers had a tough time bucking the current running against them in the  annual Across The Lake Swim held last Saturday.  - Tom Paterson/Contributor
Swimmers had a tough time bucking the current running against them in the annual Across The Lake Swim held last Saturday.
— image credit: Tom Paterson/Contributor

A normally pristine Okanagan Lake was anything but for many of the swimmers entered in last Saturday’s Swim Across The Lake.

A strong current that picked up after the 8 a.m. start of the race left 200 of the record-number 900 entrants unable to finish, having to be pulled from the lake.

Peter Rudd, the race director, said besides leaving some entrants disappointed to complete the race, it also left the times for those who did finish misleading.

“It became pretty gruelling for some of the swimmers who were in the water for two-and-a half to three hours. They were getting tired from fighting the current so we had to start mandatory pullouts,” Rudd said.

There were 20 support boats and 50 lifeguards out on the water to assist with that process, carried out without a hitch.

Rudd said the howling wind at City Park when he arrived at 4 a.m. for the race-setup, was his first sign of concern.

“The wind was howling like crazy and I thought to myself this doesn’t look good. But by 6 a.m., the winds had died down and the lake was beautifully flat with cloudy conditions, which is ideal for swimming,” Rudd said.

Once the race got underway, the lake current changed, pushing northward, which Rudd said was a response to the wind having earlier pushed the water in the opposite direction.

“The water was working its way back and that’s what created the strong current we were told,” explained Rudd.

As a result, Rudd said the east-west course times for those who finished were not an accurate reflection of their effort.

“One swimmer’s GPS showed she had swam a four kilometre distance for a two kilometre event, which gives you an idea of  how much she was fighting against the current,” Rudd said.

“We hope all our swimmers come back next year because some of them will probably be able to knock an hour off their time.”

Kelowna swimmer Josh Zakala, 16, posted the fastest time, completing the race in 28.49 beating out Jon Bird in a photo finish between the two.

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