Seal Spurs Swimmers on to Complete South African Freedom Swim

Henley Mermaid, Laura Reineke completed the Freedom Swim from Robben Island to Cap Town in South Africa across the Big Bay last Wednesday in 3 hours 12 mins.

Laura was swimming with Lee Saudan a fellow Henley Open Water Swimming member who is originally from South Africa.  Lee has completed the swim before in December last year and was hoping to swim both ways last week.

On Wednesday the weather conditions were not good for swimming and the water was a very cool 9-12◦C.  Laura comments, “The sea was choppy with waves, there was a horrible swell and it was freezing cold and raining.  Because the water was so cold the pilot insisted that we wore wetsuits.  I haven’t worn one for 3+ years.  We were running out days we could complete the swim so we had to go for it. Derrick our boat pilot was excellent and we had trust in him to keep us going in the right direction.”

The women swam 8.233km together in synchro  to complete the swim.  Laura exclaimed, “It was horrific, I’ve never been so terrified in all my life.  It was just awful.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it was hardest swim I’ve ever done by far and I nearly gave up.  Thank God Lee was there, not sure I would have done it on my own.  Because the conditions were so awful Lee only swam one way.”

Before the swim, Laura was terrified of seeing sharks.  She explains, “There were a lot of big shadows beneath us but I tried not to look.  Lee said she saw a pyjama shark and told me they weren’t dangerous.  We did however have Sammy the Seal who swam with us for 10 minutes.  At first I was terrified as seals can bite.  He swam up fast into our faces and had his mouth open showing his teeth then he started blowing bubbles, jumping over us and waving his bum in the air which was really cute.  It was a real lift as it was at a really difficult stage of the swim when we were exhausted and he moved us to finish.  He seemed to just know.”

Laura and Lee were privileged to meet a Marine Biologist Shark Specialist out there who told them that great white sharks have been decimated in the last few years.  On the way out to the start, they saw five whales, one of which was entangled in fishing nets and was being rescued.  Laura comments, “Henley Mermaids charity for this year is Surfers Against Sewage and this really raised our awareness of exactly what is going on.”

Before the swim on Wednesday, the women did a Swim camp where Laura did a qualifying time for the North Channel swim she is planning in June and Lee did a qualifier for a solo English Channel swim she’s doing later this year.

On completing the swim, Laura said, “I was so knackered, I’ve got terrible chaffing from the wetsuit and I was just grateful to be on dry land.  It’s not put me off swimming though.  I will be straight back in the water training for the Henley Mermaids River Thames Source to Henley swim which we’ll be starting once the river temperature goes up and the North Channel swim between Scotland and Ireland with fellow Mermaids, Joan Fennelly and Jo Robb.

If you would like to sponsor Henley Mermaids, please go to