Emma Radford - Derwent River

New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge

34 km (21.1 miles)

7 hours, 46 minutes on 1 January 2020

Observed and documented by Jai Di Tommaso

New course record for New Norfolk-Tasman Bridge route.



  • Name: Emma Radford
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 28
  • Nationality: Australia
  • Resides: Sydney, NSW

Support Personnel

  • John Maynard - pilot
  • Jannion Di Tommaso - handler / observer
  • Ben Maynard - pilot / observer
  • Andrew Keay - land support / documenter
  • Chris Guesdon - event monitor

Escort Vessel: Fang (Hobart, TAS)

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Standard textile swimsuit, silicone cap, goggles.

Route Definition


by Christopher Guesdon

There have been swimming events of various types and distances on the Derwent River since 1803 when Hobart was settled. These have been conducted by many swim clubs and individual organisations, namely regatta associations.

The Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation was formed in 1973 in Hobart to facilitate recognition of the new sport as this was not forthcoming from the pool orientated national body.

The foundation members and subsequent office bearers were Chris Guesdon (President), Deputy President Dick Campion, Secretary Sue Guesdon, John Koorey Executive Member. The body changed its name in 1980 to the Australian Marathon Swimming Federation. John Koorey became the President and the Australian Championships moved to Sydney, New South Wales. The Australian Marathon Swimming Federation ran the national open water swimming titles until FINA and therefore Australian Swimming Inc. took over open water in 1986.

The first Australian Swimming Inc, Open Water Swimming Committee was set up in 1988. Guesdon then became the Secretary of Australian Swimming’s National Open Water Swimming Committee and Koorey and Campion moved across as committee members of that national body.

From this beginning the movement of open water swimming was grabbing a foothold across the country. Health, fitness and elite competition programmes in open water and rather than swimming pools, were flourishing and here to stay. In 2018 there were as many individuals swimming in hundreds of separate events in Australia in open water competitions as there were members in pool swimming clubs. These numbers didn’t include those plunging into the open water on their own as an activity for health and fitness reasons.

In subsequent years many other nations and individual hallmark events followed the Australian lead and national and world bodies were formed

The Big Swim Derwent River Marathon

New Norfolk to Hobart – New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge 34km.

The Big Swim Derwent River in Hobart is considered one of the most difficult marathons to complete. The varying weather patterns can be extreme. Southerly weather brings winds from the great Southern Ocean via Storm Bay. The Derwent is a tidal river with the fresh water from the source and salt water stretching upriver for 20kms.

Chris Guesdon was the first to challenge the course on Australia Day (26 January) 1973.

The late, legendary Des Renford from Maroubra SLSC was the first to complete the distance on 25th January 1975. His time was 10h 54m.

Dick Campion set the fastest time in 1976. His time: 9h 19m.

Des Renford, Dick Campion and Chris Guesdon are all Honourees inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

1975 ILDSF World Champion silver medallist Jenny Anderson set the fastest time for a woman in 1976. Her time was 9hrs 44min.

39 years had elapsed before another success with Daniel Curtis of the USA. He completed the swim on 31st January 2015 in a time of 15 hours 57 minutes

Relay swimmers from Park Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, Geoff Marsh, Mike Watkins, Stephen Godfrey, Don Marsh, Gary Everingham & Don Hallett swam the 34 km in in 6 x 1hour relay. Their fastest time in 1974 was 7hrs 43min

  • Des Renford: 10h 54m 25th Jan 1975 - 1st person to complete the swim.
  • Dick Campion: 9h 19m 26th Jan 1976 – Fastest
  • Jenny Anderson: 9h 44m 26th Jan 1976 - Fastest woman
  • Daniel Curtis: 15h 57m 31st Jan 2015 - 1st non-Australian
  • Relay team Park Beach SLSC 7h 43m 1974. The Park Beach Surf lifesaving team used the English Channel relay model of the time of 6x1 hour recurring

The long swims on the River Derwent, New Norfolk are held on dates around or on Australia Day January 26th.

LongSwimsDB list: Derwent River Big Swim.

Swim Data

  • Start: 1 January 2020, 07:52 (Australia/Hobart, UTC+10).
  • Finish: 1 January 2020, 15:39
  • Elapsed: 7 hours, 46 minutes, 37 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 17.4 19.4
Air Temp (C) 19.4 22.4
Wind (knots) 0 20

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: 200ml every 30 minutes. Gatorade Prime, staminade, tea & honey, collagen & Ribena, tin peaches, honey sandwiches.

Observer Log

Download PDF

Swimmer Statement

What inspired you to do this swim?

I generally don’t like answering this question! The other variation of this being just an overall “why ?!?” to my swimming pursuits. I don’t feel that the answers I provide ever satisfy the person asking. I’ll try though –

A swimming friend of mine, Michael Teys and I had signed up to the North Channel in 2020 and we were discussing training options – being a focus on looking for cold water. Hailing from sunny Australia, it won’t surprise you that cold water options are somewhat limited. Travelling south to Tasmania, the southern most point of the country and closest point to Antarctica, seemed the best option to find the temperatures we were after. Michael briefly mentioned this Derwent river swim as a historical swim that the original Australian channel swimmers had completed – I’m assuming as he is on the board of Long Distance Swimming Australia, along with the creator of the swim Chris Guesdon.

Following up this comment from Michael, I began researching the swim and became increasingly interested – some of our swimming greats such as Des Renford and Dick Campion had completed the course and it appealed to me to follow in their footsteps. I’ve also always loved Tasmania – for its wild landscape left largely untouched and points of national significance.

So! the idea of swimming in this beautiful place and completing the historical course appealed to me.

Please describe how you planned for the swim.

This is the first marathon swim I have put together myself. My other swims (such as English Channel/Catalina etc etc) were really in the hands of the skippers I had signed up to. I was on a steep learning curve.

The biggest piece of the puzzle came easily – after mentioning the swim to a swimming coach in a defeatist attitude (how are we going to find a skipper in Tasmania !? ) she was on the phone texting Ben Maynard whom had run a ski paddling course for her and would likely have a boat of his own or know someone who did. Within 15 minutes he had written back saying he was keen for the job, and the rest became history.

Ben runs a ski paddling business out of Hobart, coaching beginners through to advanced paddlers, but had never encountered a marathon swimmer let alone supported a swim before. This proved to be irrelevant as he approached the situation with such professionalism and attention to detail. His scientific knowledge of the river was showcased across the planning and execution of this event.

Our two biggest questions to consider were the date of the swim and the start time. As I am a high school teacher, I gave Ben a timeframe of the whole Christmas holiday period (Mid December to late January). When he came back to me with New Years Day, I initially thought he was joking. Turns out he wasn’t – he believed there would be very low boat traffic on the water and this was our best option. Our intention in using NYD was not to make a statement, but rather a logistical consideration.

Start time came down to consideration of tidal flow, trying to meet the changing tide at the best possible time. My preference in these swims is to start in the early hours, swimming into the sunrise to make best use of daylight hours – I find it always keeps my spirits up. So I was hesitant towards the leisurely 8am start time we decided on. However on this particular day it proved to be the right choice.

Under the guidance of Chris Guesdon I put together all the other bits and pieces of the swim – such as correct documentation, notifying the councils and marine traffic authority and setting up my own SPOT tracker for the event.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

Almost everything ran like clockwork on the day – I don’t like to make a dog and pony show of these events. My crew consisted of Jai Di Tommaso (handler/observer), Ben and John Maynard (skipper/navigator) and Andrew Keay (land support). I don’t have a preference to use kayakers – I somehow find the process clunky and unnecessary, preferring to be just thrown feeds and shouted at from the boat. I know this isn’t common thought - but it was my swim and my logistics. Andrew collected Jai and I from the accommodation at 6:30am and travelled to the boat ramp where we met the skippers and put the boat in the water about 2km downstream from the start.

Chris and Sue Guesdon were there to see us all off which was lovely – I had been communicating with Chris for a few months now prior to the swim so it was nice to meet them in person and get a hug from Sue before the start.

With all four of us on board travelled to the start location of New Norfolk bridge. From the take off through to the finish it was pretty straightforward on the water. Although the tides didn’t behave quite as anticipated, hitting slack water for a longer period than we thought – I pummeled on and thought that aside from a slow feeling in the water, nothing was actually going wrong and no reason to not continue. One point of interest in this swim is the changing conditions throughout, the swim log clearly depicts rapidly changing conditions from feed to feed. The wind in particular is highly unpredictable and I would think has the potential to derail a swim.

One major oversight on my part was the amount of freshwater I had to swim through, and the increased fatigue this would cause. I knew the top section of the course was fresh water and I would swim into brackish waters about a third of the way in. About an hour into the swim I was aching much more than I ever would after this amount of time. It was an even ache on both sides (particularly my shoulders and hip flexors), so not an injury, I would say just a result of a lower body position in the water than what I would be used to. I kept looking forward to reaching the brackish water – but quickly realized it didn’t provide much relief. I train in a saltwater pool and off Sydney beaches on the weekend, so I’m not at all accustomed to fresh water and tired much faster when swimming in it. Further, when feeding I was even finding it harder to keep my head up when treading water, I just felt like I was sinking throughout each feed stop.

My crew did a great job of picking landmarks for me to sight. As the river twists and turns you have to keep picking new ones to swim to. This helped to break the time up until I eventually could see the Tasman bridge finish line. About a kilometer from the finish two unexpected dolphins swam past. I never get tired of seeing dolphins when swimming, the excitement is always the same, like seeing one in the wild for the first time over and over again.

I have an irrational fear not of sharks or deep ocean, but of pilons and old marinas. I HATE swimming around old poles and boat moorings covered in barnacles and moss. I think this stems back to my childhood and the old jetty we had – no one could ever convince me to swim under it. However! New year, new me!! I spent a good section of the swim talking myself into actually touching the old bridge – determined to not just swim under it to signal the finish. I somehow managed to swim straight up to it and put my hand on that spooky old tower to finish the job.


Click to enlarge.