Sunday, October 8, 2017

Tsugaru Channel Crossings - Channel Aspirant Information

Photos of Adrian Sarchet of Guernsey crossing the Tsugaru Channel, courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi, Tokyo, Japan.

Ocean Navi of Tokyo, Japan and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association work with the Japanese Coast Guard and the local fishermen's unions in Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido to offer a safe, enjoyable experience in solo and relay crossings of the Tsugaru Channel.

Location

The Tsugaru Channel or Tsugaru Strait (津軽海峡 in Japanese) is a channel between the Honshu, the main island of Japan, and Hokkaido in northern Japan connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.

Oceans Seven

A crossing of the Tsugaru Channel is one of the swims in the Oceans Seven.

Most swimmers attempt to swim the 19.5 km body of water between Kodomori Cape or Tappi Misaki on the Tsugaru Peninsula in Aomori, Honshū and Shirakami Misaki on the Matsumae Peninsula in Hokkaidō.

The Tsugaru Current passes from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean, and winds, turbulence and waves can be very high in this area along with marine life including a variety of sharks including Great White Sharks.

Japan's territorial waters extend to three nautical miles (5.6 km) into the channel instead of the usual twelve, reportedly to allow nuclear-armed United States Navy warships and submarines to transit the strait without violating Japan's prohibition against nuclear weapons in its territory.

Swim Preparation

Ocean Navi and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association understand channel aspirants may have questions about the crossing and how best to prepared before entering the water, during the crossing and afterwards.

Day before the Crossing

1. There are no shops near the Tappi Misaki fishing port. Swimmers and their crew will need to buy food and drinks well outside of the Tappi area on the route between Aomori City and Tappi Misaki. The closest supermarket is about 41 km or a 45-minute drive by car from Tappi, and is called the Maeda store Kanita.

2. Next door to the supermarket, there is a homeware store called Nicot where swimmers can buy a wide variety of miscellaneous items including cushions, mats, large plastic crates, boxes, wet weather gear, hardware and other equipment. However, please keep in mind this is a very rural area and so the store will not have everything you might need or want to have for your challenge.

3. There are also two Circle K convenience stores on the road to Tappi Misaki which are closer than the supermarket. These are typical Japanese convenience stores which have basic prepared food, snacks and drinks (including beer), mostly Japanese style, but also a limited selection of sandwiches. The closest convenience store is about 12 km or a 15-minute drive from Tappi Misaki.

4. The other Circle K convenience store is about 17 km from Tappi Misaki, a further 10-minute drive away at the Imabetsu intersection where there are 2 petrol/gas stations. There is also another Nicot homeware store located next door.

5. If swimmers would like to train in the sea to acclimatise to the local conditions and water temperature, they are free to swim in most locations along the Japanese coast. The first location is on the east side of Tappi Misaki on the main route from Aomori City to Tokyo. It is near the closer (to Tappi) Circle K convenience store. The second location is on the Kodomari side of Tappi, not too far from the location of the swim start.

6. Swimmers will meet with the escort boat Captain Mizushima in front of the Dainana Koyomaru, his boat that will accompany the swimmers which will be moored at Tappi Misaki fishing port. Everyone will coordinate the start time, will discuss the swim, and ask/answer any questions. Ocean Navi will contact the swimmers to coordinate the time of the meeting, but Ocean Navi will also be in touch by email or telephone the previous day when we arrive in the Tappi area. Please confirm the meeting time and location in advance.

7. The final decision on whether or not the swim will be conducted will be made by the captain who coordinates with the Japanese Coast Guard and the fishermen's unions. The swim will only take place on the designated day or the designated alternate date and will not be held on another date for any reason. This is the strict rule of the Association in coordination with the Japanese Coast Guard.

8. Photos or videos may be taken during the meeting with the captain.

9. The observer will check the lights to be used during night swimming. If the equipment is not appropriate, the swimmer must use the ones prepared by Ocean Navi.

Escort Boat

1. The escort boat will be docked at the Tappi Misaki fishing port.

2. This ship has a simple toilet where the outflow goes into the sea.

3. There is no bench or chairs to sit on in the boat. The swimmers and support crew will have to sit on the deck. Ocean Navi recommends the swimmers and their crew bring a rug, cushion, mat or something soft to sit on. Chairs are not recommended as they are not stable in turbulent waters and may damage the deck or fall into the sea.

4. There is no main electricity or plug, so it is not possible to charge anything or boil water during the crossing. Please bring warm drinks in thermos bottles or other appropriate containers.

5. There is no roof or sunshade on the boat.

6. Be prepared to wear a life vest. All crew and passengers must wear the life vests which are available on the boat according to Japanese Coast Guard regulations.

7. There will be a ladder fixed to the side of the boat to make the swimmer’s climb in and out of the water easier.

8. There will be a colored swim streamer about 5 metres long, 40 cm wide and 3 meters deep suspended from a boom on the escort boat. The swimmer can swim alongside the boat, following the swim streamer as desired.

9. Do not put or hang anything on the swimmer’s side of the boat or in a location that will obstruct the captain’s view of the swimmer or the course.

10. Crew members should not obstruct the captain’s view when supporting or instructing the swimmer in the water.

11. Kayakers or pace swimmers are not allowed due to Japanese Coast Guard regulations.

Equipment Provided (free to use)

○ Swim streamer (with marks that guides the swimmer)
○ ladder(for the swimmer to board boat from sea)
○ toilet
○ life vests enough for all staff
○ large warning banner in Japanese in order to notify other marine vessels that a swimmer is in the water and a crossing is in progress
○ two Shark Shields
○ two (total operation time: twelve hours) small wall clocks
○ AED
○ rescue tube
○ megaphone
○ cooler
○ one large and one small hot water pot
○ 10 liters of fresh water
whiteboard (50 cm × 40 cm) and markers
○ blanket
○ one whistle
* Swimmers will be charged for damage to the boats or any of the above equipment

Day of the Crossing

1. Meeting point is located in front of Dainana Koyo Maru ship, moored at Tappi fishing port.

2. Start time will be decided at the meeting with Captain Mizushima.

3. Meet at the boat dock 30 minutes before the boat departs. Upon the captain's instruction, carry all the support equipment and personal effects to the escort boat. The captain will indicate where to store everything, usually in the hold.

4. The captain will indicate where to park the swimmer's car at the port.

5. Crew are advised to take a motion sickness medicine to avoid becoming sea sick before boarding the boat.

6. Prior to departure, the observer will conduct an alcohol test. If the equipment returns a positive indication, the swim will be cancelled.

7. Prior to departure, the swimmer’s blood pressure will be checked. If it is significantly outside the ideal range between 70 and 140, the swimmer’s health condition will be considered insufficient and the swim will be cancelled.

8. While on board, all crew members and passengers must wear life vests at all times.

9. It will take up to 90 minutes, often in the dark, to motor around to the swim starting point from Tappi Misaki. It is recommended to dress warmly.

10. Be careful that none of the swimmer's equipment or personal effects are blown away en route to the starting point.

11. The observer may take photos or video for documentation purposes.

The Start

1. The starting point of the swim is the shore of Cape Gongenzaki, Kodomari, Nakadomari-machi, Aomori Prefecture.

2. The captain and crew will prepare the boat after arriving at the starting point in Kodomari Bay. While this is happening, the swimmer and support crew should prepare for the swim.

3. Once the captain or observer gives you the signal that the boat is ready to begin the swim, the swimmer should enter the water quickly and swim to the shore of Gongensaki slowly - about 50 meters away. The swimmer will always need to wear a night light on their person/swim cap.

4. When the observer confirms that the swimmer touches the rock and waves to the boat, the observer will signal the start of the swim with an airhorn. If the sea is rough and it is not safe to touch the rock, the signal will be made near the rock without touching it. The boat will stay in the bay, so after starting, the swimmer should swim back directly to the boat. Once the swimmer is near the boat, the journey to Hokkaido will begin.

5. Please swim above the swim streamer alongside the boat to the extent possible without swimming into the boat. It is very dangerous to veer away from the swim streamer because that means you are outside the effective zone of the Shark Shield. Be aware that sometimes the water currents push the streamer under the boat, so if/when this occurs, swim alongside the boat.

6. The escort boat will take the best route possible for the swim. At times, the escort boat will turn in directions that is not aimed at the target point, sometimes in another direction than the goal. This means the captain is reading the wind and current, and is choosing the best course for the swimmer, so please do not be concerned.

7. For relays, the timing of changing swimmers is up to the team. However, if the sea conditions are difficult, the captain may give instructions concerning the swimmer changes.

During the Crossing

1. The Tsugaru Channel is located in international waters. It is not possible to prevent or divert a large ship’s route. Due to oncoming ships or the positioning of fishing nets, the boat (and the swimmer) may occasionally be required to pause or circle around the escort boat at the direction of the captain. Swimmers must follow the instructions of the captain.

2. Swimmers and their crew should collect and remove any garbage from the boat. Do not throw any cups or items in the sea.

3. The swimmer must swim above the swim streamer. If you ignore it and swim far away from the streamer or the boat, it will be regarded as a dangerous act and the observer will issue a warning. If the swimmer repeatedly disobeys, the captain has the authority to stop the swim.

4. Conditions in the sea are always changing, including the weather, tidal currents, waves, winds, water temperature, etc. The captain and observer judge the overall conditions, and if it is too difficult or dangerous to continue making forward progress towards Hokkaido, you must follow the directions of the captain.

5. Even after the swim has started, if the Japanese Meteorological Agency issues a weather warning, the swim will be halted.

6. If sharks or other dangerous marine life appear, the swimmer will be directed to board the boat at once. When safe conditions have been confirmed, the captain will direct you to start again from the same place that will be marked by GPS and noted in the observer notes.

7. The swimmer is generally allowed 14 hours to make the crossing which the captain may extend at his discretion. However, if other problematic circumstances arise before the 14-hours general time period, such as dangerous marine life (e.g., sharks), a swimmer lacking the power to continue, rough sea conditions, etc., the captain and observer will consult with each other and the escort crew and may decide to stop the swim. At or after 14 hours of swimming, the captain and observer may decide whether to continue or not after this consultation.

8. Dangerous and/or annoying behaviour by the escort crew is prohibited on the boat.

9. If the crew messes up the boat, please clean up before getting off at the Tappi Misaki fishing port.

10. Everyone on the boat must wear a life vest.

11. When the swimmers change for the relay, do not jump vertically feet first. This is extremely dangerous since there is a possibility of being drawn under the boat.

12. Do not place any luggage or equipment on the swimmer’s side.

13. Do not interrupt the captain’s view while on the boat.

14. If you experience any physical or mental difficulties during the swim and you think that is affecting your performance, the swimmer should be sensible and withdraw voluntarily.

The Goal

1. The finish is in the area of Fukushima-cho, Hokkaido.

2. The observer may take photos or video for documentation purposes.

3. The finish point will be determined by the captain or observer. When you are close to Hokkaido (the goal), and are several hundred metres from land, the boat will remain offshore while you complete the swim into the coast. The captain will indicate when to begin your swim to the shore.

4. The swimmer should proceed to the shore with care and keep an eye out for any dangerous objects, such as fishing nets. In the situation where it is night time when you reach the goal and/or there are big waves, and the captain cannot see you to confirm your landing on the shore, the final point to complete the swim will be a buoy or fishing net rope next to the shore.

5. When the swimmer lands onshore or touches the rocks, please indicate so by raising your hand and immediately return to the boat. If the swimmer takes any photos of the finish, they should do so as soon as possible and return to the boat. Supporters, crew members and observers can join the swimmer as long as they do not assist or touch the swimmer during the crossing. In the case of relay, all members can finish together.

6. When a swimmer returns to the escort boat, finish preparing the swimmer and their luggage and equipment to return, the boat will head back to Tappi fishing port. It can take up to 2 or so hours to return to Honshu from Hokkaido.

7. Again, please be careful and prevent any equipment or other belongings from falling into the sea or being blown away. The sea can be rough.

8. In the case of a two-way crossing, the swimmer can immediately turn around after finishing the first leg or they can rest for up to 10 minutes onshore as they wish. The two-way swimmer can be accompanied by their escort crew or observer or other supporters onshore as they wish in order to provide food, hydration, skin ointment, towels, new goggles or swim cap or swimwear, or a brief massage and encouragement. The time onshore shall be recorded and the time on the second leg will begin when the swimmer re-enters the water.

Returning to Tappi Misaki Fishing Port

1. Once the boat arrives back at Tappi Misaki fishing port, the swimmer and escort crew should remove all their equipment and belongings as soon as possible.

2. All waste must be taken off the escort boat.

3. Please check that nothing is forgotten on the escort boat.

4. If the escort boat is dirtied, the crew may be requested to clean the boat.

5. The challenge is finished and day is complete once the swimmer and support crew are all back on land at the port.

6. An official certificate from the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and Ocean Navi and marine chart [see below] will be provided to the successful swimmer.



































Captain’s Authority

Captain Mizushima makes all final judgements and decisions about the swim in all circumstances.

For more information, contact Shimasaki Yusuke at H.I.S. Co, Ltd. via email at shimasaki.yusuke@his-world.com or 〒163-6014 東京都新宿区西新宿6-8-1 住友不動産新宿オークタワー14階, TEL: +81-3-6692-9337. Alternatively, contact Masayuki Moriya at Ocean Navi, 株式会社オーシャンナビ 守谷雅之 at www.ocean-navi.com/ or via email at masayukimoriya@ocean-navi.com or 〒252-0303, 相模原市南区相模大野6-20-3-205, TEL: 090-3088-3434, FAX: 042-765-5606 or Steven Munatones at headcoach@openwatersource.com or +1-714-305-7374.

For additional information, visit Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

**************************************

Instructions about Tsugaru Channel Swimming

• The swim begins from the shore of Gongenzaki in the Kodomari area of Nakadomari-machi, Aomori and covers a straight-line distance of around 30 km. The target is the town of Fukushima-cho on Hokkaido.

• Swims are held between late June and the end of September according to a schedule published each year by Ocean Navi and Captain Mizushima.

• Completed swims will be registered as an official result with the international association Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association. Solo and relay swimmers may swim with wetsuits, but only swims that are swum without wetsuits and neoprene caps and are not interrupted by boarding of the escort boat (e.g., due to avoidance of sharks) will be officially ratified as successful unassisted solo crossings that adhere to the spirit of marathon/channel swimming.

• Two boats will provide support on each crossing, one lead boat providing navigation and one main boat providing direct support to the swimmer.

How to Apply

• Registration fee is 600,000 Japanese yen(tax included)per crossing(regardless of number of people) as of the 2016 season.

• Entry fees must be transferred to the specified bank account at least three months prior to the swim date (six months prior beginning in 2017) in order to secure a slot. Please note that the swim will be cancelled if receipt of payment cannot be confirmed by this date.

• All bank transfer-related fees are to be paid by the swimmer.

• There is no discount of entry fees even for returning swimmers who have previously attempted a Tsugaru Channel crossing.

• If the swim is cancelled by organizers or if the swimmer cancels after having arrived in Japan, refunds will be returned in Japanese yen. Entry fees will not be refunded in any of the following circumstances:

• If the swimmer decides to cancel on the day of the swim due to insufficient physical fitness or physical condition.
• If the captain determines after the start of the swim that conditions are too dangerous to allow the swim to continue.
• If the swim is cancelled due to the detection of alcohol in the swimmer during a test performed on the day of the swim by an observer using alcohol-measuring equipment.
• If the swim is cancelled because a blood pressure measurement performed on the swimmer by an observer on race day determines that the swimmer’s values fall significantly outside a range of 70 for the lower value and 140 for the upper value.

Included in Entry Fees

• Pre-swim contact and progress reports to relevant government agencies and related parties.

• All arrangements for providing two support boats: one lead escort boat for navigation and one main escort boat for athlete support.

* Local regulations require the use of two boats to ensure safety. Because the Tsugaru Channel is an international route, there is frequent traffic from large marine vessels. Additionally, long line fishing is performed in the area and fixed nets are in place in various locations on the Hokkaido side. As a result, both a lead navigation boat and main support boat are necessary to safely support the swimmer.

• One observer who will always be present on board.

* The observer’s role is not to perform tasks such as providing nutrition to the swimmer from the ship. It is the swimmer’s responsibility to arrange for support staff to handle tasks such as nutrition and photography.

Cancellation Refund Policy for 2016

• within three months prior to swim date: 40% refund (240,000 Japanese yen)
• within one month prior to swim date: 25% refund (150,000 Japanese yen)
• within one week prior to swim date: 10% refund (60,000 Japanese yen)
• departure is cancelled due to the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s issuing of warnings for typhoons or other natural disasters: 50% refund(300,000 Japanese yen)
* All bank transfer-related fees are to be paid by the swimmer.

Cancellation Refund Policy Beginning in 2017

The following refund policy will take effect beginning in 2017:
• within six months prior to swim date: 75% refund (450,000 Japanese yen)
• within three months prior to swim date: 40% refund (240,000 Japanese yen)
• within one month prior to swim date: 25% refund (150,000 Japanese yen)
• within one week prior to swim date: 10% refund (60,000 Japanese yen)
• departure is cancelled due to the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s issuing of warnings for typhoons or other natural disasters: 50% refund (300,000 Japanese yen)
* All bank transfer-related fees are to be paid by the swimmer.

Relay Entries

Due to limitations of boat size, the number of swimmers should not exceed six people for relay entries. It is the swimmers’ responsibility to determine the order and timing of relay exchanges.

Documents to Submit When Entering

1. Complete the application form and agreement document without omission and submit them as attachments to email by no later than three months prior to the swim date (or six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017). Applications will not be accepted after three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017).

2. Applicants must purchase their own accident and injury insurance and submit a copy of their insurance policy documents as an attachment to an email by no later than three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017). Failure to submit these copies by three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017) will result in cancellation of the swimmer’s entry.

3. Health certificates are to be sent by regular mail. Health certificates must be dated within three months prior to the date of application. Failure to submit a health certificate by three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017) will result in cancellation of the swimmer’s entry.

Applications will be considered complete when receipt of entry fees and the items listed in the above three points have been confirmed.

4. The Health Waiver can be obtained from Shimasaki Yusuke, Ocean Navi or Steven Munatones.

Copyright © 1988-2017 by Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

Monday, September 11, 2017

Prabhat Raju Koli Shows Immense Gratitude & Grit

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya, Japan.

18-year-old Prabhat Raju Koli of India started at 4:42 am in 21.5℃ and proceeded to knock off his fourth Oceans Seven career swim with a 9 hour 52 minute crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan from Honshu to Hokkaido.

"Finally after fighting with those freaking currents, I completed the Tsugaru Channel.

Thanks to my pilot Captain Mizushima, he is the best for this swim. Tomokazu Sakurai did an awesome job and Ladybird Lee, the translator on board, was amazing; he was encouraging me all the time.

Thanks to Yusuke Shimasaki for his awesome organising efforts and not to forget [my coach] Sal Minty-Gravett MBE. She wasn't here, but I couldn't have done without her help and encouragement.

And thanks to GR Krishna for all the help and support
."

When Koli finally walked on the cape at Shirakami Misaki, he set the new record for the youngest person to successfully swim across the Tsugaru Channel at 18 years 1 month 15 days, breaking Honoka Hasegawa's previous record of 18 years 4 months 20 days.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Adrian Sarchet Completes 6th Oceans Seven Channel

Courtesy of Ocean Navi, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi reported Adrian Sarchet of Guernsey completed his sixth Oceans Seven channel on August 30th with his 14 hour 2 second crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido.

His slow curving course is shown here which indicates he hit a tough, steady west-to-east Tsugaru Current as he approached the finish in Hokkaido.



Sarchet talked about another Oceans Seven challenge achieved and more life lessons learned. "This year’s challenge was the 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan.

The first lesson we learned was that if you think you have mapped out all the potential risk factors on a swim – newsflash – you haven’t. August 2017 marked the arrival of a hitherto unknown swim hazard – North Korean ICBMs.

We were awoken the morning before the day of the swim by the Japanese Civil Warning Public Address System which advised us that a missile was passing over the area and that we should take cover in a suitable basement.



The second lesson we learned was that despite differences in culture, food and religion, open water swimmers and those that support them are simply good people. We have been stunned by the generosity of spirit of the Japanese people we have encountered, including most especially observer Masayuki Moriya, Captain Mizushima and the staff of Hotel Tappi.

The third lesson was a more personal one for me. That lesson was that you do a marathon swim with the conditioning you’ve got; not the conditioning you’d like.

Training had been going incredibly well until mid-June when I was struck down by extreme stomach pain, lost 10 kg in body weight in two weeks and ended up having a week in hospital including keyhole surgery on my stomach. I lost a month’s training at a critical time and doubted whether I’d be able to complete the Oceans Seven at all, let alone complete Tsugaru nine weeks after surgery.

Even as I lost my own faith in the project, my wonderful wife and crew kept theirs. Over the following weeks they nursed my body, then my mind and finally my swim confidence back to health.

I was nowhere near where I wanted to be in terms of conditioning, and in possibly the worst shape I’ve ever been in approaching the date of a marathon swim. But my crew and I knew it just might be possible to grind out a successful swim.

The swim itself turned into just that...a grind. The first few hours of the swim were in choppy, sloppy water, but I was fresh enough to batter my way through it. We then had a few hours of calm seas and I got into my rhythm and covered some good distance.

Then we hit the current that Tsugaru is famous for. It was running east to west at about 7 kph. Trying to cut a 7 kph current when my maximum speed is 3.5 kph was a nightmare. I just didn’t have the speed to cut across the current and hit the targeted landing zone. What followed was something of an ordeal as my crew motivated me to keep swimming at maximum pace hour after hour until we finally reached the outer edge of the current zone. I exited the current zone absolutely exhausted and could see the coast of Hokkaido ahead of us, I just didn’t appreciate that it was still a good 10 km away. My crew wisely informed me that we’d cleared the current and that if I could grind it out, we’d get there. And grind we did. Finishing hours later in a time of 14 hours 2 minutes 9 seconds.

Marathon swimming is a solo event; but a team pursuit. And once again I owe my success on this swim to my sea crew of Pete Rowland, Mandy Mackelworth and Simon Davies, to my land crew of Andrea Sarchet-Luff, Ine Davies and Anna Davies, and to the Guernsey Swimming Club. I owe a debt of gratitude to all
."



Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jorge Crivilles Villanueva Triumphs In The Tsugaru

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Jorge Crivilles Villanueva from Alicante, Spain is gradually knocking off all kinds of goals in the open water swimming world: Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, 24-hour Club, and is en route to the Oceans Seven with four crossings of the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, and as of today, the Tsugaru Channnel.

Crivilles completed a fast 8 hour 29 minute crossing from Honshu to Hokkaido today - the first Spaniard to swim the Tsugaru Channel.

Tom Morgenstern of Revista Open Swim reported in Spanish, "Increíble experiencia la vivida en el Cruce Canal Tsugaru hoy en Japón. Jorge Crivilles ha demostrado una vez más que es un impresionante deportista, superando, a base de fuerza física, y sobretodo mental a un Canal Tsugaru que nos ha mostrado su cara más fea."

[Jorge had an amazing experience during his crossing of the Tsugaru Channel today in Japan. He has shown once again that he is an impressive athlete, surpassing, based on physical strength, and mostly mental to a channel that has shown us its ugliest face.]

The Tsugaru Current and winds whipped up during the crossing that started at 12:52 am in water that ranged from 19°C to 22°C. "It was a great time and ideal pacing for the channel that was so turbulent today," remarked Steven Munatones.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crossing Channels And Cultures

Courtesy of WOWSA.

We love it when we see photos, videos and conversations between swimmers, escort crew members, and pilots from different cultures, especially when those people are brought together by their passion for the open water.

In 2015, Mexican entrepreneur Antonio Argüelles traveled to northern Japan and crossed the Tsugaru Channel in 12 hours 38 minutes.

Now the two-time 57-year-old Triple Crowner is making his final preparations for swimming between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Brad McVetta Makes Another Attempt On Tsugaru

Course courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi between Honshu in the south and Hokkaido in the north across the Tsugaru Channel

Four years ago almost to the day, Brad McVetta of New York attempted his first crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan.

After 17 hours 13 minute across and against the Tsugaru Current, he ultimately gave it his all, but did not finish.

While the conditions were acceptable and the water temperature was comfortable at the start of his second attempt today in Japan, the elements in the Tsugaru Channel proved too much again for McVetta.

As he approached his goal of Hokkaido, he had to fight against the strong Tsugaru Current that pushed him away from his goal. He also faced water temperatures that steadily dropped from 19.5°C at the start near Honshu to 12°C at the end near Hokkaido.

The Tsugaru Current whips around the southern edges of Hokkaido around Shirakami Misaki and kicks up some large, unpredictable eddies that draw up the colder water from the depths to the surface. It is a double punch that has taken down more than one experienced channel swimmer.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Beth French's Adventure Is Not Over, Merely Changed

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Sandwiched between two escort boats in what that was tough, but not impossible, Beth French voluntarily exited after swimming for 10 hours 33 minute in Japan's Tsugaru Channel.

The British channel swimmer explains why she felt comfortable and transformational in gradually making to her decision.

"I reached my destination before I reached the end of the line. I elected which life lesson I learned on this swim.

Normally they get scoured out of the depth of your soul on channel crossings. The lessons I have learned since the English Channel in 2012 are indelibly marked on my body in tattoos so I never overlook them again. I cherish each one and employ them daily. I am my own hero. I am capable and brave. I am blessed. I can go beyond what is considered possible for me and for most.

I am also the mother of an autistic son. When I started this project in 2012, Dyl was 3 years old. Now, he is 8 and I am having to homeschool him for the last two years. Juggling life as a self-employed lone parent is tough
."

Her son Dyl travels with French en route her Oceans Seven swims from New Zealand to Molokai to Japan. French has had to fund five people, including Dyl, on her journey to attempt a Calendar Year Oceans Seven challenge.

"My previous single channels he has been so proud, but the stress of so many so close together has sent his anxiety through the roof, which then damages his self esteem. I am a lone parent with little back up, so I so aware of my actions and how they affect him.

Swimming offered me balance and adventure which I craved. But since the Molokai Channel, I have had a different perspective. I have not been able to sleep solo for eight months. It is getting worse. Dyl's anxiety peaks around the swims. He had been getting more violent and tempestuous. We both love the travel that it has allowed us. We love adventure.

But the fallout for Dyl is that he is feeling awful about himself as he is not able to control his stress levels and gts terrified about hurting people because of it.

I hope he learns it is OK to know when to back down. I started channel swimming for him, and I ended this project for him
."

French made a significant decision in the latter half of her Tsugaru Channel crossing.

"The lesson that I chose today is to let go. I knew I can be driven. I am tenacious and I absolutely believe that I could achieve the Oceans Seven in a year. But the cost to my son is too great."

French made her decision within 5 hours of her start, but she carried on for another five and a half hours. "I swam on for over five hours after I wanted to end it. I have never wanted to get out before. I believe it is the right thing to do for my family. My perspective is that this adventure - something that has no defined outcome - has taught me so much. I do not need to prove anything.

There is an incredible community of people who are willing to invest in your dreams. I hope I continue to inspire others not just to challenge themselves, but that it is also OK to not get where you thought you were going.

I found grace in the water today. It was always a decision that I would make in the water. I want to regain the joy and spontaneity that open water swimming gives. I ended up swimming for everyone else, feeling bad for myself and my son. The adventure is not over; it has merely changed
."

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Ion Lazarenco Tiron Goes Six For Six

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Ion Lazarenco Tiron completed his sixth Oceans Seven swim with a relatively straight Tsugaru Channel crossing from Hokkaido to Honshu.

In addition to an 8-day 235 km stage swim Moldova and an Ice Mile in his adopted Ireland in 3.3ºC (37.9ºF) water, he has completed crossings of the Strait of Gibraltar (2014 in 4 hours 41 minutes), the English Channel (2014 in 13 hours 34 minutes), the North Channel (2015 in 16 hours 23 minutes in 11-12ºC water), the Catalina Channel (2016 in 12 hours 1 minute), the Molokai Channel (2016 in 18 hours 11 minutes), and the Tsugaru Channel in 11 hours 20 minutes today.

With his wife and Captain Mizushima on his escort boat, his crossing was impressively straightforward [see below]. Plotting of his course across the Tsugaru Current and 19.5 km channel in northern Japan is courtesy of Masuyuki Moriya of Ocean Navi:







































Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tough Toshio Tominaga Tackles Tsugaru

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya, Ocean Navi, Japan.

In his younger days, Toshio Tominaga (富永俊夫 in Japanese) played water polo and swam in school. He was competitive, but then he began his professional career at a Japanese electronics corporation.

As the intervening decades passed, Tominaga stayed in good shape, but he had to dramatically reduce the number of hours that he trained in a pool.

But after retirement at the age of 62, Tominaga took to the oceans surrounding Japan and started to make up for lost time.

For years, he did numerous ocean swims from Okinawa in southern Japan and occasionally traveled overseas to swim in the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey (2009) and the English Channel crossing (2013). But the most difficult ocean swim in Japan, the Tsugaru Channel, was in his sights. He trained and trained and got himself physically and mentally prepared. He studied the logistics and different strategies of crossing the technically difficult channel.

On September 7th in northern Japan, the 73-year-old retiree finally achieved his dream swim.

"Tominaga-san had marvelous conditions as he started from Gongenzaki Cape on Aomori Prefecture [shown on left] on the main Japanese island of Honshu," explained Steven Munatones. "With Captain Mizushima at the helm, he started much later than other Tsugaru Channel swimmers, entering the water after 7 am."

Then he started to head north towards Hokkaido with a slight bearing just west of his goal. On his main escort boat, Captain Mizushima continued to adjust his course based on the strength of the currents and wind. On his secondary boat to his left, his 67-year-old wife Yukiko cheered him on.

"Imagine looking at the palm of your hand with your thumb outstretched. The ideal start is at the tip of your thumb and you are heading for the tip of your forefinger," explained Munatones who crossed in both directions in 1990. "Due to the tidal flows caused by the difference in water levels between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, the Tsugaru Current is swift and always pushes swimmers eastward. Plus, channel swimmers nearly always have to deal with giant swirling eddies that are caused by the topography and shoreline of Hokkaido as they approach their goal."

But Tominaga was lucky.

He was able to swim on nearly a straight shot between his start on Gongenzaki Cape to the town of Fukushima on the southernmost part of Hokkaido, taking only 9 hours 58 minutes to cross.

"His time was the seventh fastest in history. He kept up his stroke and maintained a great pace throughout his crossing. Without a doubt, it was a remarkable swim for anyone, but is especially great to see a swimmer his age take on this challenge. His time reflected his preparations, his navigational strategy, and the generous conditions offered by Mother Nature."

Photo and video courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mariel Hawley Dávila Tries Tsugaru

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Mariel Hawley Dávila knew the risk of attempting a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel that sits between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Her crew, including Nora Tolendo Cadena and Gela Limonchi Gomez, knew the risk due to strong winds, waves and the tides.

But with the escort pilot's recommendations, they talked and decided to give it a go given the weather predictions.

"I started to swim [from Honshu] against a lot of waves and wind, but I swam with peace and faith that everything would be fine. As the hours went by, the wind increased its strength and the swells became more complicated. I tried to swim flowing with the waves; however, at 5 hours, my coach Nora decided to suspend the swim thinking about my safety."

She explains in her native Spanish, "Aún y cuando sabíamos que las condiciones para nadar no eran las mejores, debido a fuerte viento, oleaje y marea, hoy era mi oportunidad para intentar el cruce a Tsugaru ya que el capitán nos comentó durante la madrugada que hoy sería mejor opción que mañana; adicionalmente el pronóstico del tiempo mostraba que el viento iría disminuyendo durante el día. Por lo anterior decidimos intentar el cruce.

Empecé a nadar con mucho oleaje y viento en contra pero con mucha paz y fe de que todo iría bien. Conforme pasaron las horas, el viento aumentó de fuerza y el oleaje se hizo más complicado, en un momento reflexioné que estaba en medio de un mar muy bravo pero también recordé que la naturaleza siempre manda y traté de nadar fluyendo con el oleaje; sin embargo, a las 5 horas de nado mi Coach Nora Toledano decidió suspender el cruce pensando en mi seguridad
."

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Elizabeth Fry Heads North To Hokkaido

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Elizabeth Fry trailblazed another channel to add another notch in her illustrious International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame career.

Fry, a 57-year-old financial services expert from New York, took off from the eastern peninsula of Honshu, the main island of Japan, and landed in Toi on the southern cape of Hokkaido, the northernmost major island of the Japanese archipelago after a tough 15 hours 48 minutes.

The Tsugaru Channel with only 19.5 km separating Honshu island from Hokkaido is a deceptively difficult strait to cross with its relentless winds, notorious currents and unpredictable eddies. "I was in shock as I had no idea how bad the current was," said Fry.

Her zig-zag crossing took her across the Tsugaru Current. "I am happy I never looked back." Compared to times of her other marathon swims and channel crossings, tackling the Tsugaru was indeed a challenge:

2016: Tsugaru Channel Honshu-to-Hokkaido, 15 hours 48 minutes (19.5 km)
2016: Molokai Channel tandem swim, 17 hours 30 minutes (42 km)
2016: Catalina Channel, 12 hours 37 minutes (32.5 km)
2015: English Channel, 12 hours 15 minutes (32.5 km)
2015: S.C.A.R. Canyon Lake, 7 hours 27 minutes (28.8 km)
2015: S.C.A.R. Saguaro Lake, 7 hours 32 minutes (30.4 km)
2015: S.C.A.R. Apache Lake, 15 hours 47 minutes (54.6 km)
2015: S.C.A.R. Roosevelt Lake, 6 hours 18 minutes (20 km)
2013: Round Jersey: 9 hours 33 minutes (65.9 km)
2011: English Channel two-way, 13 hours 20 minutes (34 km EF) and 11 hours 20 minutes (34 km FE)
2011: In Search of Memphre (Lake Memphremagog), 13 hours 25 minutes (40.2 km)
2011: Ederle Swim two-way, 11 hours 5 minutes (56.3 km)
2009: Manhattan Island clockwise, 11 hours 41 minutes (45.8 km)
2008: English Channel, 12 hours 1 minutes (34 km)
2007: English Channel, 11 hours 11 minutes (34 km)
2005: Catalina Channel, 8 hours 56 minutes (32.5 km)
2003: English Channel, 9 hours 5 minutes (34 km)

Upper photo shows her course from Honshu to Toi, Hokkaido. Lower photo shows Liz Fry with her sister Peggy Gaskill on the escort boat in the Tsugaru Channel.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

American Swimmer In The Water Seeing Stars

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Japanese fishermen and escort boat crews often fly a flag that says 遠泳中 when a swimmer is swimming alongside their boat.

The three-character word is pronounced "en-ei-chu". The three characters, in order from top to bottom, mean in English "distance" (or long or far), "swimming", and "in the middle" (or ongoing or current). In other words, "a swimmer is in the water (on a long distance swim)".

The flag was most recently flown when American marathon swimmer Liz Fry swam across the Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido on Honshu's eastern peninsula on September 11th in 15 hours 48 minutes.

"I am happy I never looked back. After 9 hours of thumbs up, I was told that I had to swim super hard for the next hour to reach a certain point past the shipping channel otherwise the Japanese Coast Guard would pull me," reported Fry on her Facebook page. "The sun was starting to set with clouds that didn't help. Apparently I made the mark as I was allowed to continue.

I was in shock as I had no idea how bad the current was. I did not expect to swim in the dark here in Japan; however, I left my Catalina supplies with Peggy when I traveled to Seattle after Nora's and my Catalina swim. Luckily, it included beacons and every light stick the San Pedro Marina store had had.

They swapped my dark goggles for polarized grey goggles and the beacon. And off I went. Unfortunately I was swimming against a 1+ mile/hour current at a pace of 2 1/2 miles/hour. My team would say just 2 more miles, several times...until I was done. I returned to the boat, we were all very happy. The boat pilot Ataka-san was very happy. He did an extraordinary job. He told me today that he knew I could make it because he read about my double crossing of the English Channel
."



Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association. He did an extraordinary job. He told me today that he knew I could make it because he read about my double crossing of the English Channel."

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Motoko Honma Solos Across The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Motoko Honma (本間素子) is a Japanese open water swimmer who has participated in a number of relay channel swims.

She was a member of Team Umiou (海王《うみおう》that completed a 12 hours 45 minute crossing of the 19 km Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan in 2013 together with Tomokazu Sakurai, Nobu Arihirsa, Yuko Isozaki, Shinpei Kamata, and Fujiko Kawasaki.

Then she crossed the 43 km Sado Channel in western Japan on the Ocean Navi relay that took 16 hours 18 minutes to swim across Sado Channel together with Masayuki Moriya, Hidehiko Kato, Kaori Fukusima, Noriko Kawasaki, Ayako Kawasaki, Yoshimitsu Kitazawa, Noriko Kimura, Jun Kuwabara, Kumiko Koizumi, Maki Sakamoto, Akira Shima, Etsuko Shima, Akiko Niide, Isami Mitsuhashi, Kyoko Morikawa, and Eriko Yoshino.

Then in June this year, Honma made her second Sado Channel crossing on a relay. This time, she and Hiroko Kasahara, Noriko Kimura, Kumiko Koizumi, Maki Sakamoto, Daisuke Tanaka, Mayumi Doi, Rei Yamazaki, and Masayuki Moriya completed a crossing in 13 hours 40 minutes.

Finally, she was ready mentally and physically to attempt a solo crossing.

Last month on July 22nd, Honma finally realized her dream and completed a solo wetsuit crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in 13 hours 26 minutes.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Terrific Toshio Tominaga Tackles Tsugaru

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

In his younger days, Toshio Tominaga (富永俊夫 in Japanese) played water polo and swam in school. He was competitive, but then he began his professional career at a Japanese electronics corporation.

As the intervening decades passed, Tominaga stayed in good shape, but he had to dramatically reduce the number of hours that he trained in a pool.

But after retirement at the age of 62, Tominaga took to the oceans surrounding Japan and started to make up for lost time.

For years, he did numerous ocean swims from Okinawa in southern Japan and occasionally traveled overseas to swim in the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey (2009) and the English Channel crossing (2013). But the most difficult ocean swim in Japan, the Tsugaru Channel, was in his sights. He trained and trained and got himself physically and mentally prepared. He studied the logistics and different strategies of crossing the technically difficult channel.

Today in Japan, the 73-year-old retiree finally achieved his dream swim.

"Tominaga-san had marvelous conditions as he started from Gongenzaki Cape on Aomori Prefecture [shown on left] on the main Japanese island of Honshu," explained Steven Munatones. "With Captain Mizushima at the helm, he started much later than other Tsugaru Channel swimmers, entering the water after 7 am."

Then he started to head north towards Hokkaido with a slight bearing just west of his goal. On his main escort boat, Captain Mizushima continued to adjust his course based on the strength of the currents and wind.

On his secondary boat to his left, his 67-year-old wife Yukiko cheered him on.

"Imagine looking at the palm of your hand with your thumb outstretched. The ideal start is at the tip of your thumb and you are heading for the tip of your forefinger," explained Munatones who crossed in both directions in 1990. "Due to the tidal flows caused by the difference in water levels between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, the Tsugaru Current is swift and always pushes swimmers eastward. Plus, channel swimmers nearly always have to deal with giant swirling eddies that are caused by the topography and shoreline of Hokkaido as they approach their goal."

But Tominaga was lucky.

He was able to swim on nearly a straight shot between his start on Gongenzaki Cape to the town of Fukushima on the southernmost part of Hokkaido, taking only 9 hours 58 minutes to cross.

"His time was the seventh fastest in history. He kept up his stroke and maintained a great pace throughout his crossing. Without a doubt, it was a remarkable swim for anyone, but is especially great to see a swimmer his age take on this challenge. His time reflected his preparations, his navigational strategy, and the generous conditions offered by Mother Nature."

Photos courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stephen Junk Crosses The Tsugaru Channel On Second Try



Stephen Junk heading toward the coast of Hokkaido shown below.

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Stephen Junk took a while, but he finally crossed the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan off his Oceans Seven list.

"Last year, I went to Japan to attempt the Tsugaru Channel swim. But, unfortunately, I got very bad food poisoning from some interesting slug that I ate. This year, I kept away from food that was too adventurous. It played off," he explained.

On August 19th, Junk set out from the Honshu side of Tsugaru at 3:20 am. "At first, the conditions were great. There was a beautiful sunrise under partly cloudy conditions. I progressed quickly to the halfway mark. Then, as swimmers quickly become aware, a strong current came directly at me. Captain Mizushima [the boat pilot shown below] measured it at 4 kilometers per hour that made swimming quite tiresome. The water temperature dropped to 18°C (64°F) at this stage which was quite refreshing in the hard conditions."

After 11 hours 2 minutes of hard swimming without slugs, he climbed onshore on Hokkaido by pulling himself up onto rocky coastline. "I was very glad for that hard swim to be over."



Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association