Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist - St. Lucia Channel

St. Lucia to Martinique

33 km (20.5 miles)

10 hours, 37 minutes on 7 July 2019

Observed and documented by Tariq Edward

New course record for St. Lucia Channel swim

Contents

Swimmer


Support Personnel

  • David Bergquist - feeder/support
  • Tariq Edward - observer
  • Will Wilson - pilot

Escort Vessel: 17’ RHIB Mrs Puffs (Rodney Bay, St. Lucia)


Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Goggles, cap, women’s tech suit, sunscreen.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: St. Lucia Channel
  • Route Type: one-way channel swim
  • Start Location: Beach east of Cap Maison, north of Smuggler’s Cove Resort (14.100365, -60.950121)
  • Finish Location: Grande Anse, Martinique (14.409141, -60.885641)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 33 km (20.5 miles)

History

LongSwimsDB: St. Lucia Channel swims


Swim Data

  • Start: 7 July 2019, 05:31 (America/St_Lucia).
  • Finish: 7 July 2019, 16:08
  • Elapsed: 10 hours, 37 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 27 28
Air Temp (C) 27 28
Wind (knots) 12 18

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Carb/electrolyte drink, every 30 minutes.


Observer Log

Download PDF

Transcribed Observer Notes

Time Note
5:32 am Sandra entered the water and began swimming towards the boat. She got alongside the boat and began her course.
6:00 am Feeder shows Sandra message on index card, which read 5 mins
6:02 am Feeder blows whistle and throws in the feed to Sandra. Feed contained a mixture of Cyto Carb and Fiz. After feeding Sandra recommenced her swim. The swells were high 1.3m which drew her closer to the boat and as a result she kicked faster to move a few meters away from the boat. Due to the high swells waves hit her in the face and you could hear exclaimations very clearly ( woy!!)
6:26 am Sandra requested a change of googles and the feeder sent a message to her using the index cards. Sandra was given her second feed during this time as well. Approx distance covered was 2.4 miles. Sandra also exchanged googles during this time as well.
6:53 am Sandra stopped to fix googles, swells were high which forced her closer to the boat, feeder had to put hands out and use the term heads up so that she could avoid hitting the boat
6:56 am Feeder shows Sandra the message on the index card
7:00 am Feeder blows whistle and sends feed to Sandra. Sandra requested that he throw the feed futher during the next attempt.
7:04 am Sandra switched sides and began swimming on the right side of the boat. Sweels were high and again forced swimmer closer to the boat so the captain had to be navigating to avoid hitting her. Sandra also sighted well and made adjustment when necessary.
7:25 am Message shown to Sandra by feeder using the index cards.
7:29 am Feeder blows whiste and throws feeds to Sandra. Sandra did not hear the whistle the first time so feeder had to throw feed again but got it on the second attempt. Sandra requested that the feed be thrown in front of her the next time.
7:32 am Sandra stopped momentarilly to adjust googles. Boat was too far aheadso had to slow down so Sandra could catch up.
7:56 am Feeder showeed Sandra message on index card.
8:00 am Feed given to swimmer with addition of a gell mixture. The wifi at this point was not functional so details could not be obtained from the Sails free application.
8:27 am Feeder shows Sandra the message on the index Card
8:29 am Feeder distriubutes feed to Sandra and after feeding resumes her swim.

Narrative

by Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist

Watching Molly Nance’s little red dot crossing the St. Lucia channel opened up a window of opportunity. Here is a beautiful channel that has not been mastered yet. Sure it’s warm and salty but 21 miles of open ocean is inviting to any swimmer. After Molly’s swim I was looking for something different. Out of the box and after talking to her I decided this is a swim I want to be a part of. The environmental awareness and opening up new swimming opportunities to channel swimmers and locals. Next came the planning. Thanks to my family, husband, Molly and Paul and of course Sue Dyson,who was setting this up. We were able to book our tickets and got a reservation at the hotel, which also happens to be where the swim starts. Sue was able to get the boats reserved, pilots for the boats, and swim observers. She also set up a window for the swim to take place that was to take place the day after a local swimming race. My husband did most of the communication and found out about a month before that a fellow swimmer from Minnesotan was planning to attempt the channel too. Also all four of us were on the same flight! What are the odds? The entire swim seemed to proceed in this manner. Things came together day by day and each of the swims leading up to St Lucia seemed to give me small tests for the big thing.

Arriving in st Lucia is beautiful. Something out of a Jurassic Park movie. A Volcanic island with rain forest and crystal clear water and white beaches. It doesn’t take long for it to register that we were in paradise. But first we had to get from the airport to the hotel.

The ride from the airport to the hotel…need I say more? It was exhilarating. When we land we can’t find anyone associated with the swim so we call Sue and she’s stuck in traffic and will be there soon. Sue arrives and after quick introductions we hop into the 10 person van. Due to the traffic on the way it was decided we should take the back way to the North side of the island to Rodney Bay. Sue explains to us (while hanging out the side window) how she ended up in St Lucia and the history of the swim. Meanwhile in the back Kevin, Katie, David and I are holding on for dear life as the driver proceeds to take on the Volcanic island hills like a race car driver. We were happy for our stop at Dennery, the half way point across the island. This was our first real look at the island. From Dennery you can see the east side of the island from the mountaintops to the beaches.

We arrived at the hotel and were able to check in right away. the hotel was set up in bungalow houses split into rooms. each one was a bit different and beautifully decorated. we ate our first meal at the Naked Fisherman which ended up being the swim starting point. in the dark you can see Martinique and it’s lights. the next morning we were up early and ready to take on a day of the island. Our first order of business was breakfast. we went to The Cliff at Cap, eating outside looking over the ocean with the hotel cat Davidson. next we went to the beach to get some swimming in and eventually met up with Sue and meet Philip Rush and the rest of the swimmers. the water was paradise. that is all I can describe, the different colors and types of coral and fish. David and I eventually made It around the rocks and back a few times. We both took some detour’s to check out the ecosystems that we were swimming over. After we are done swimming we find Sue and the rest of the crew on the beach. We all make introductions and then the relay goes out to work on exchanges and swimming next to a boat. Kevin and Katie go for a swim of their own so Philip decided it was a good time to chat. He asked me how much I trained, what my goals were, what I thought I would swim this channel in. He asked what my my experiences were and the future of my swimming. He put everything so simple that it made me think of the swim in a logical way…. I trained for it, I put the work in, I know its going to hurt,but that is why I worked so hard. So why not put a nice swim together. Not complain or lollygag about things and get to the other side as directly and quickly as possible. Basically go out there and get the job done and that is all iI had to to. My responsibility was to swim the St Lucia channel that day. Only to swim not to worry about anything else. Trust my training and my crew and myself. It was invaluable advice and an experience I will never forget. Thank you Philip.

Friday we went to the final day of the St. Lucia Channel swim Clinic. it was one of the best experiences of my life. Hearing Philip Rush talk about how to swim an ultra marathon, his experience on the FINA open water circuit, Lac St. Jean double swims, escorting people across the cook straight, and his triple English Channel crossing. It was one of those afternoons that you just sat and absorbed all information possible. After the clinic we went for a little swim and then in search of supplies for the swim the following day. But first we had a 3k race/swim on Saturday! however that turned out to be a nice tension easer for us all and a good reason to get out and about instead of sitting around being nervous about the swim.

Walking down the steps to the beach all I can hear is the lap of the waves and bugs buzzing. As I get farther down I can hear people talking. The restaurant on the beach is open and there are people from the yacht club having breakfast and getting ready to send us off. Before David had left for the escort boat he loaded me up with bug spray, and a few coats of sunscreen. When Kevin came down he was covered in zinc and the thought came to me that it was probably a good idea. so i randomly stuck some on my shoulders and upper back as well as a big goop on my face. We were supposed to start at 5am. One of the volunteers gets a phone call at 5;05 telling us that the catamaran wasn’t going to be there until 5:30. we all are questioning why this is happening. it cant take that long to get from the marina to the beach. little did we know what was coming. slowly around the corning at about 5:25 a gigantic catamaran comes strolling up with everyone cheering and ready for us to go.

We slowly wade into the water as the sun starts to rise. We start going right around to the tip of the island to then make our trek across the channel. I start of slow and smooth. Realizing that I’m starting to get a little sloppy stroke and my minds wondering at the next feed I ask for p2life and change my goggles to mirrors. After the little switch I started to feel like myself a bit. During this entire time the waves are rolling and breaking. It’s still early and we are about 5 miles into the main channel heading northeast. This is when I started to notice the wind. The swells turned into whitecaps all around. I had many of those moments when you’re towering over the boat and then the next wave you can’t even see it.

I got a little dehydrated and didn’t pee until about four and a half hours in. After telling Dave that I haven’t peed yet, he got on me about finishing my feed bottles and it did the trick. It was hard to use different kinds water bottles then I was used to. I wasn’t able to drink it fast enough.

At around this time I look to see my crew gets their phones out and start taking pictures of something in front of us. There is nothing even close to us. Then I see them. A bunch of small fat dolphin like babies. This is like something out of a movie. you know those stories you hear…. “ i was struggling and then the dolphins came and swam me into shore” or something. I don’t know how to describe it but the experience is really cool to swim with a pod of baby Pilot Whales as i was later to learn.

As we get towards seven-eight hours in I thought this is going to be a twelve hour swim. I’m literally fighting the waves so ticked off that it’s so ridiculous for us to have gone out that day. Only to get the response from the pilot Willy “oh it’s like this out here every day ‘Mon’,” in his eastern Caribbean accent. I put my head down and think. Wow so this is why nobody swims this thing. Maybe I should just swim to Barbados because I’m not getting any closer. So I went through this melancholy for a bit. My crew had the main boat come over to cheer me on and congratulated Wes’s crossing in his kayak..

I knew I was going to finish it was just a matter of when. I didn’t look forward. I had gotten all turned around too many times. I trusted my pilot. I knew he was going to get me there as fast as possible. I had given up on the caps of the water bottles and had taken to screwing the caps off and on while dumping the contents all over myself.

At about two miles away from Martinique my crew told me I was about two miles away. well, they did mention the current or winds whipping around the south east end of the island. I didn’t say anything because my pilot Willy knew what he was doing. I knew i just had to trust him. At this time we had dropped my feeds to every twenty minutes because of hydration. At the first feed after the “2-miles” left comment, I knew I had made barely any progress and said sarcastically “only 2 miles left right guys”. About 3 more feeds, throwing the water bottles, and Philip Rush came up on the catamaran. He began taking off his shirt and and swinging it above his head saying only three kilometers to go. I put my head down to finish this thing. I just refused to look up until my hands could almost touch. I wasn’t even sure where I was landing. I knew only that it was a small beach. So, I run up on the beach and a local Martinique man pops out of lean-to tent. I say HI and then realize… thing oh gosh, this guy speaks French… “bonjour” I say and turn around give my crew a thumbs up and put my hands on my knees.

I had done it. I had swam to Martinique through some of the most intense and strong winds/waves I have ever been in, let alone swimming. At this point our Pilot Willy, beaches the boat so he and the observer can pee. They both did not quite understand the hands on job the boat pilot and crew have on a swim. and they felt they didn’t have time to go during the swim. It felt really good to know they sacrificed their comfort for my swim. I am truly thankful to everyone that helped that day. Sue Dyson for setting it all up and being our “swim mom” during the week in St. Lucia. Philip Rush for the encouragement and all of the very useful tip and advice. Willy Wilson, my pilot, and my observer were so great. they cheered me on relentlessly all day. Big thank you to my David for always being there to lend a hand and help in all of my adventures. My parents/David’s Parents and the rest of our family for the unending support and encouragement. And finally all of my swim family, from all over America and even across the world. You all always provide the motivation and encouragement I need.


Photos

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Video

Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist - St. Lucia Channel from MSF on Vimeo.