Ross Youngman - Derwent River
New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge
34 km (21.1 miles)
9 hours, 10 minutes on 13 December 2020
Observed and documented by Robert Reid
- Name: Ross Youngman
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 59
- Nationality: Australia
- Resides: Sydney, NSW
- Mark Youngman - skipper
- Richard Fazackerley - support, feeding
- Rob Reid - observer
Escort Vessel: unnamed fishing boat.
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit, cap, goggles, lights.
- Body of Water: Derwent River
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: New Norfolk Bridge (New Norfolk, TAS) (-42.779304, 147.056788)
- Finish Location: Tasman Bridge (-42.864969, 147.343033)
- Minimum Route Distance: 34 km (21.1 miles) (map)
LongSwimsDB: Derwent River.
- Start: 13 December 2020, 03:19 (Australia/Hobart, UTC11).
- Finish: 13 December 2020, 12:29:25
- Elapsed: 9 hours, 10 minutes, 25 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (C)||15||16|
|Air Temp (C)||10||24|
Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Apple juice / Tailwind (350ml). Ginger beer. Rice pudding. Staminade / gel. Ibuprofen. Frequency 45m/45m/30m.
What inspired you to do this swim?
So when my English Channel attempt in August 2020 went pear-shaped I decided to refocus on other local swims and what better place to start than my home state beautiful Tasmania, the birthplace of Truganini, Errol Flynn and David Boon among others … and location of the mighty Derwent River!
Emma Radford, my friend from Vladswim had completed the swim in record time earlier in the year and my interest was piqued.
Tasmania, has been an every present part of my life. I started primary school at the East Launceston Primary School in 1966 and my father David had me swimming from a very early age. Summer weekends revolved around the Windmill Hill Swimming Baths in Launceston (now the Launceston Aquatic Centre) where we swam and trained, with the session always ending with a milkshake and a meat pie, “Breakfast of Champions” they say! No Latte’s or avocado on toast in those days! In the early 1970’s my coach was a local fireman Vic Chugg and I remember my father paying him the princely sum of $30 for the season to have him train me morning and afternoon through the summer. Seemed like a lot of money at the time. We swam competitively Thursday nights with the South Esk Swimming Club where both my father and grandfather had also been members. In my grandfather’s day they used to swim in the Launceston Cataract Gorge and dive off the steel bridge into the Tamar River.
Our heroes were swimmers like Shane Gould, Mark Spitz and the East Germans, like Kornelia Ender and Roland Matthes. Little did we know at the time that the East Germans were part of the one of the first systematic doping programs.
I retired from competitive swimming in 1971 with the highlight being a win in the Northern Tasmanian Under 10 Backstroke Championship! My father pleaded with me to continue but no … I had peaked at 10 and that was that!
Please describe how you planned for the swim.
Well we always try to make these things as much fun as possible so if it all goes wrong at least you have had a laugh along the way. Sometimes it’s the journey not the destination. Sitting on a boat for 10 hours or more isn’t generally the most exciting thing to do but I’ve had a great group of helpers.
Rob (The Professor) Reid who is a veteran of the 2013 EC relay campaign and the Rottnest Channel, is based in Brisbane and with Jeannie Baxter-Reid, his wife, is always happy to come at personal expense to help. Jeannie even stepped into the EC relay at the last minute to show up the boys. Rob is from Launceston, Tasmania, like me, and grew up about around the Windmill Hill Baths during the 1960/70’s. His father was a Lifeguard and Deputy Manager at the pool. He has been analysing the tides, flows, temperatures, salt water/freshwater relationship of the Derwent River like his life depended on it. Being a long-standing member of the constabulary, Rob is an expert in logistics which is what you need. Rob was the observer on the day.
Richard Fazakerley (Zac) is based in Hobart. We met day one at the Harvard of the south, The University of Tasmania, (yes there is just the one) in 1979. We were both captains of our high school swim teams and he was a very handy swimmer in his day, which it must be said was a while ago! Yes he pulled out of the 2013 EC relay at the last minute and has hardly been seen in a pool since. He kindly did the feeding on Rottnest 2020 and lined up this time to do support and feeds for me. He looks down from his house in Mount Nelson over the Derwent River and Storm Bay towards Bruny Island, where he loves to surf, and is constantly monitoring the changing wind conditions and providing detailed river charts and local contacts and knowledge.
My older brother Mark Youngman agreed to come down from Launceston Tasmania with his boat and be our skipper. Mark is an avid fly-fisherman who has represented Australia at the world championships. In his day as a surf lifesaver he was a very handy ski paddler. He’s plied most of the riverways and lakes in Tasmania at some point. Mark and I were inseparable as kids, doing everything together for better or worse, so it didn’t take much convincing to get him on board.
The strategy for the Derwent was to start early at New Norfolk around 3.30am, roll down the river with the flow, (albeit into the incoming tide) and arrive at Bridgewater, 14kms downstream at high-tide, hoping the river flow would more than nullify the tidal effect for that first part. By arriving at Bridgewater at around 7.30am, you can then swim the estuary part of the river over the rest of the morning on the outgoing tide, before the afternoon sea breeze comes up, which is particularly nasty if it comes in from the Great Southern Ocean into Storm. There is not much between Hobart and Antarctica. That was the plan at least!
The wild card is the wind. In Tasmania the water is cold (14-17 degrees) and the summer days can be quite warm creating the ideal conditions for strong sea breezes to get up from the south, sometimes even in the morning.
So we picked Sunday December 13th, a day with a very high tide around 7.00am in Hobart, 7.30am at Bridgewater and hoped that we would see light wind conditions from the north, rather than anything from the south, when the “PredictWind” Models kicked in, and a week before the event this is what happened so we were green light to go!
On Saturday 12th December we did a test run in the boat from New Norfolk to Cadbury Point to get a feel and then we headed back to New Norfolk for an early dinner and night ready for game time.
How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?
They say plan for the worst and hope for the best. Looks like we got close to perfection on conditions and strategy, and the old body held together for the swimming part thanks to good conditioning work from my coaches Vlad (smile be happy) and Jai. The support team were real pro’s and ran a very smooth support operation with no fuss, good humour and maximum encouragement.
All in all the day couldn’t have got more perfectly. Aside from some choppy water and light winds around the 8-12km mark when the river heads North East into the wind on the day, and the river trying to push me out of the channel into the eddy’s, the swimming part went smoothly. Physically my shoulders started to play up along the way after the 5 hour mark but as Vlad says in his Slovakian accent “Pain what is pain … keep swimming!”…. certainly nothing that a few ibuprofen couldn’t fix. The support boat did run aground at one point but my brother, who had his waders on, just jumped into the river and pushed the boat to deeper water, while I just kept swimming.
It was great to see the Tasman Bridge loom large on the horizon and I tried to finish on the same pylon as Emma Radford so I could attempt to replicate her athletic pose on the metal ladder but in the end I just touched the fist pylon I found and headed to the riverbank to be greeted by my wife and daughter.
Overall it was a great day at the office!
Click to enlarge.