Laura and Lee Overcome Challenges to Complete Manhattan Bridges Swim

Henley open water swimmers Laura Reineke and Lee Saudan overcame huge challenging conditions, sea sickness and obstacles to complete the Manhattan 20 Bridges swim (48km) overnight on Friday night in a brilliant time of 9hr 15mins.

Both swimmers have completed the English Channel swim and this swim was part of the triple crown of open water swimming – the last one they need to complete is The Catalina Channel, 32.5 km between Catalina Island and the California mainland.

The duo started the swim around 7pm local time by going out to a pier by boat where they jumped in.  They were navigated by two kayakers and a support boat with Lee’s husband Richard aboard who provided the feeds and medication needed which was given through a feeding line to the swimmers.

Laura said, “I was surprised at the sheer size of the rivers, which are actually tidal estuaries, each one very different. It was SO rough, swell, chop and masses of boats, Staten Island ferry, jet skis, sailing boats, speed boats, all scurrying around us, the water was messy. This is when my sea sickness began.   It was awful, I felt sick for over half the swim, I had to really battle with the demons in my head telling me I couldn’t do it.  I can tell you retching when you are swimming is not fun. But the Harlem River was lovely and calm, lots of bridges to tick off and I fought through and by the top of the Harlem and into the mighty Hudson I began to perk up.  The Harlem was a really long slog, when you go under the last bridge the George Washington, you still have 3 hours to go.”

Lee added, “This iconic swim was everything I hoped it would be – challenging and spectacular! It was quite surreal to be swimming around Manhattan Island as we circumvented boats, ferries, jet skiers and others that share the waterways initially in the very choppy waters of the East River, but as we ventured down the Harlem River and the night drew in, things calmed down and we were able to appreciate the incredible surroundings and the bright full moon! Reaching the Hudson River on the final long stretch felt like a massive achievement, but we still knew we had a long slog till the finish. First the spectacular George Washington Bridge and then the bright lights and skyscrapers of Upper Manhattan were a welcome sight as we were washed down the river by the strong tide! Seeing the Freedom Tower as we swam past was quite humbling, a reminder of all that New York has suffered, and for us a welcome relief knowing the finish was in sight.”

“Having swum the channel in 2022, I am no stranger to tough swimming conditions, whilst also enjoying every minute, this swim was one I will certainly never forget! I am eternally grateful to my incredible husband, Richard and the kayakers and boat crew from NYOW who guided us, fed us, encouraged us and kept us safe! And now time to recuperate and consider the next challenge!

The swimmers were awarded huge silver medals after completing the challenge.

Laura afterwards said, “We are really proud of ourselves! Huge thanks must go to Lee’s lovely husband Richard. He sorted our feeds, medication, motivated us throughout as well as taking videos and photos and updating the WhatsApp group.  We certainly couldn’t have done it without him. It was a total joy swimming in tandem with Lee, having such a wonderful friend beside me made it feel extra special.  Now onto Catalina Channel in California, 21 miles of very rough waters, which we are looking for sponsorship for. When I swam the English Channel I became one of only 27 British women over 50 to complete this iconic swim. If I complete the triple crown – English Channel, 20 Bridges & Catalina, I’ll become only 1 of 11 women to do so.  Quite cool stats for an old broad like me!”

The swimming challenge was raising money for Wildfish Conservation and the duo have raised over £5K.  If you would like to support their cause go to




Leave a Comment

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *