Linda Thompson finished the 33-kilometre swim from Miller’s Point to Rooi Els in 11 hours and 28 minutes, making her the 12th person to do so without a wetsuit.
This feat was originally completed by Annemie Landmeters in 1989, and Ms Thompson, 39, describes it as the Everest of Cape swims, with the currents, strong winds, and unexpected temperatures among the elements that contributed to the difficulty of the swim on May 6.
“I was partly driven by it being a swim that is challenging and is known as a tough swim which hasn’t been achieved by many people which was part of the appeal compared to the English Channel which has been swam by many more,” said Ms Thompson.
“When I first set this swim as my goal in 2021, there had only been 5 or 6 people who had completed the swim that I was motivated to achieve while it was still an untapped swim. I wanted to have a personal goal of a ‘big’ swim that was closer to home than requiring extensive travel, along with being an opportunity for me to get an understanding of my abilities both mentally and physically,” she said.
For the most part, she trained in the Sea Point swimming pool in preparation for this challenge. She also completed the Robben Island crossing from Blouberg, Langebaan swimming races as well as the 10km Kommetjie to Hout Bay and 10km Hout Bay to Sandy Bay courses.
“I was actually on track to complete this swim a year ago, on two or three occasions in last year April, the swim had been scheduled and had to be called off at the last minute due to the temperature of the sea in False Bay dropping to 12 degrees which wouldn’t be safe for my to be undertaking the swim. I was also preparing for this swim towards the end of last year, when I developed a rotator cuff injury that required rest, physio sessions, rehab exercises, pilates and not being able to train extensively from November until February when I could resume heavy training,” she said.
Ms Thompson moved to Sea Point from Johannesburg two years ago, and she met a supportive swimming community at the promenade facility.
“The best time of the year for swimming at the pavillion is in winter when it is dead quiet and the air is crisp. The swimming community have been amazing in being a sounding board and source of advice as well as company for training sessions both in the open water and pool,” she said.
During the long swim, she was assisted by a crew of three while she concentrated on her stroke and remembered her late grandmother, who she describes as a driving force in her life.
“I had no idea of how many hours had gone by that it was actually a surprise to me when the skipper, Derrick Frazer told me the time after I had swam back to the boat from Rooi Els, it hadn’t felt like almost 11 and half hours in the water. At 45 minute intervals, my coach Maik who was on the boat would whistle for me and my friend Katherine who was the steadfast crew member would throw me a water bottle with a carb or protein carb mix in it.
“For the majority of the swim, my vision was focused on the water and due to the swell and a haze at time over the water, I couldn’t see the land of Hangklip which was my marker to which I was aiming,” she said.
Ms Thompson confesses she was disappointed that she did not see more aquatic species on her outing, but she was relieved that no sharks were observed, only a whale and a few seals.
“At one point Katherine did whistle to indicate to me that there was a whale on my right, I continued swimming with her having alerted me. I breathed to the right as to what they were looking at from the boat,” she said.