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Roger Finch
Swimming the world’s oceans

The Catalina Island Swim

In the summer of 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel. She also broke the existing record set in 1923 by Enrico Tiraboshi of 16 hours and 33 minutes, by completing the distance in 14 hours and 39 minutes. Overnight she became a celebrity; New York even honored her with a ticker tape parade.

On the other side of the country one of the interested observers was William Wrigley, Jr. Ederle's swim and all the publicity she received intrigued him. He decided to put on the Wrigley Catalina Island Swim. To insure numerous entrants from all over the world, he offered a $25,000 purse, winner take all. The race, on January 15, 1927, would go from Avalon to the breakwater at Point Vicente, a promontory landmark on the California coast. The straight line distance of the Catalina, or San Pedro Channel, was twenty-two miles, one mile further than the famous English Channel.

Wading into the chilly waters destined for the mainland were 102 swimmers, 87 men and 15 women. Of these, only one entrant completed the crossing. The swim was very successful, not only in publicity and also financially for Wrigley and the Island, but it touched off a new craze in marathon swimming. There was another Channel for marathon swimmers to conquer. It was no longer necessary for them to travel to England with the Catalina Channel in their backyard. Whether for the challenge or the preparation, swimming Catalina has become as important as swimming the English Channel to such top marathon swimmers as Florence Chadwick, Greta Anderson, Tom Parks, Lynne Cox, and Penny Lee Dean. The record dropped from 15 hours and 44 minutes to 7 hours and 15 minutes set by Penny Lee Dean in 1976. Since the 1927 swim, eighty-one other swimmers have successfully braved the treacherous Channel, bringing the total number of successful aspirants to eighty-two.

The Outrider - Support Boat

Outrider is a 50-foot fiberglass sport fisher built by Delta marine in 1976, purchased, rebuilt, and refurbished from 2 005 to 2007. She has been updated with all the latest, state of the art electronics, navigation and safety equipment, two radars, dual-screen Furuno fish finder, two chart-plotters with computerized navigation system, wesmar side-scanning sonar, satellite communications and two steering stations. The galley is equipped to provide a wide variety of meals, made to order, with seating for 7 passengers. The galley also includes a large flat screen tv and dvd player for entertainment.

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