Swim­mer with MS still has high hopes for a strait cross­ing

Times Colonist - - The Capital And Vancouver Island - JEFF BELL jw­bell@times­colonist.com

Af­ter strong winds snuffed out her hopes of mak­ing a two-way swim across Juan de Fuca Strait at the be­gin­ning of Au­gust, Su­san Sim­mons is keep­ing a close eye on other dates to make her at­tempt.

She has her sights on next week­end or Sept. 1.

Tides and winds will de­ter­mine when Sim­mons sets out from Ogden Point on a swim to Port An­ge­les and back, a 70-kilo­me­tre jour­ney she ex­pects will take about 24 hours. She would be the first per­son to ac­com­plish that feat, with her swim sanc­tioned by the Mas­ters Swim­ming As­so­ci­a­tion of B.C.

Sim­mons said she still isn’t able to pin­point when con­di­tions will be good enough.

“We can’t tell about the weather yet,” she said. “It’s a bit too soon.”

To keep in shape, in the mean­time, Sim­mons ac­com­pa­nied fel­low long-dis­tance swim­mer Rama De­laRosa on a por­tion of her swim around Salt Spring Is­land and swims 10 kilo­me­tres sev­eral times each week.

Sim­mons, who has had mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis for more than 20 years, is also a mem­ber of the MS War­riors dragon boat team com­pet­ing this week­end at the Vic­to­ria Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val.

Fel­low dis­tance swim­mer Brent Hobbs, who has swum the English Chan­nel, said Sim­mons is tak­ing on a “ma­jor chal­lenge.” He said con­di­tions could be tough for her with the ef­fect of the cur­rent from the open ocean meet­ing the cur­rent in the strait.

Add a rise in wind speed dur­ing the at­tempt and that could put Sim­mons in rough wa­ter he calls the “wash­ing ma­chine.”

Sim­mons and fel­low Vic­to­rian Jill Yoneda made suc­cess­ful one-way cross­ings of Juan de Fuca Strait last year, and Yoneda has gone on to be­come the first per­son to do a backand-forth swim in the Strait of Ge­or­gia.

She made it from Nanaimo to Sechelt and back to Las­queti Is­land, swim­ming from late af­ter­noon Aug. 3 to early evening Aug. 4.

De­laRosa com­pleted 80 kilo­me­tres in 40 hours of swim­ming over six days in her Salt Spring swim, the sec­ond time she has done it in two years. She has raised thou­sands of dol­lars for the Ge­or­gia Strait Al­liance’s ef­forts to pro­tect orcas. Once do­na­tions hit $10,000, an anony­mous sup­porter will match it.

De­laRosa said that af­ter com­plet­ing this year’s ef­fort, she thinks she could do the swim in four days.

“This year was awe­some,” she said. “Even the day where we had re­ally strong op­pos­ing winds, there was a small-craft ad­vi­sory, we had gusts up to 20 km/h, I was just crash­ing through the waves with a big, old smile on my face. It just felt great.”

De­laRosa said she was happy to have Sim­mons join her for a stint.

“She came out for a sweet lit­tle sun­set swim on Day 5,” she said. “It was re­ally nice to share my neck of the pond with Su­san.”

ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Long-dis­tance swim­mer Su­san Sim­mons had to post­pone a two-way cross­ing of Juan de Fuca Strait this month due to poor weather. She’s hop­ing to make an­other at­tempt soon.

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