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Roger Finch
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The 2012 HBF Rottnest Channel Swim

With thanks to http://www.rottnestchannelswim.com.au:

The 2012 HBF Rottnest Channel Swim will be held on Saturday, 25th February 2012. The race departs from Cottesloe Beach and finishes at Thomson Bay, Rottnest Island. The distance of the race is 19.7km.

The first person to complete a recorded crossing of the Rottnest Channel – from the Perth mainland to Rottnest Island – was Gerd von Dincklage-Schulenburg on January 24, 1956. On February 23, 1991, the first annual race was held with sixteen solo swimmers and seven teams of four. That day was also recorded as the hottest Perth day on record with the mercury hitting 46.2C but despite the sizzling temperatures, some swimmers still got hypothermia. Due to the success of their first race, the RCSA decided to make the Rottnest Channel Swim an annual event.

In 1994 the length of the swim was increased when the finish line was moved from the Natural Jetty to the foreshore of Thomson Bay. With its growth in popularity the Rottnest Channel Swim became the world’s largest open water swimming event in 1998, attracting 1,150 competitors. There are swims with a larger number of participants but these are conducted in the closed waters of bays, lakes and rivers, not through an open ocean channel.

In 2003, 160 individuals, 92 duos and 421 teams entered the swim with a wait list of 135 teams who missed out. The conditions were the worst in the history of the swim with 12 – 15 knot westerly winds and early squalls which meant turbulent water for the duration of the event. Many swimmers didn’t even start the event while others withdrew during the event for safety reasons. Only 43% of competitors entered that year finished. A clearly defined course was introduced in 2006 and compulsory gates were placed at the 10km, 15km and at Phillip Rock which swimmers had to swim through to avoid disqualification. Since the inception of the race in 1991, more than 16,500 people have crossed the Rottnest Channel. Whilst the popularity of the event is constantly increasing, only three swimmers have participated every year: Peter Hodge, Steve Rogers and John Guilfoyle. To date 931 solo swimmers have successfully completed 1,502 crossings and the swim has truly become an international event with swimmers from the United Kingdom, United States of America, India, Japan, South Africa and Ireland competing and making successful solo crossings.

In 2010, the Rottnest Channel Swim celebrated its 20th anniversary and record numbers of solo swimmers participated in this celebratory year. The wind and waves were unkind, as were some of the stings from creatures unknown however the conditions were better than had been feared. The 20th annual event of the 19.7km crossing from Cott to Rott, saw swells of up two metres at the 10km mark as a result of a rumoured plume from dredging in Fremantle Harbour and the affect of an unfavourable south westerly breeze. The cyclonic weather in the lead up to the 2011 Rottnest Channel Swim created some unusual conditions at Cottesloe Beach, with the start line washed away from the high tides leaving only a very small section of beach for swimmers to depart from. On the day of the event, 2300 swimmers battled an unusual north-north westerly swell to about half a metre on their 19.7km journey. At the finish line, swimmers were greeted by 10,000 spectators, volunteers and officials, friends and family as they crossed the finish line and celebrated their tremendous achievement.