Friday, July 19, 2013

The Journey Continues Across Channels

What is truly admirable among endurance athletes and marathon swimmers is their passion and interest in the success of their colleagues, comrades and compatriots. Fast or slow, young or old, newbie or veteran, the open water swimmers pull for each other, knowing that Mother Nature is the greatest foe.

As the channel swimming season kicks off in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Pacific Rim nations, the crème de la crème extend their best wishes to those who follow. Darren Miller sends his regards to the multi-national group of swimmers who will attempt the Tsugaru Channel this season:

Swimmers,

Congratulations on setting a date to challenge the mighty Tsugaru Channel!

Your swim will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, as the Tsugaru Channel is one of the most beautiful, yet challenging bodies of water on the planet. The Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan is an incredible landscape of lush forest, vast countryside and a lifestyle which has been in place for thousands of years.

Please do not be fooled by the relatively ‘short’ distance of this crossing – it turned out to be the most difficult challenge I have faced in my marathon swimming career. Looking back, I am so thankful to the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and my amazing crew – including Steven Munatones, Masayuki Moriya, Captain Mizushima, Matthew Miller and Noel Brown, as well as the remarkable Yuko Matsuzaki, who was so instrumental with coordinating the journey prior to my departure from the United States.

It was also an honor to have the inspirational and determined Stephen Redmond following along throughout the night while awaiting his attempt from the Japanese coast. Stephen is a man with a wonderful heart and unwavering determination. I will never forget his excitement and powerful hug upon my return to the harbor at Tappi Misaki - a true gentleman and someone I am proud to call a friend.

Without the assistance of these fine individuals, this would have been possible.

It was a blessing to have such fantastic people by my side while so far from home.

I urge you to view my daily videos from Japan via my YouTube channel at ‘teamforeverswim’, or contact me via email at dmiller@darren-miller.com with any and all questions. I wanted to fully document my journey so that others could benefit from my experience. I will do everything in my power to calm your worries, assist with planning or offer up friendly advice and positive thoughts for your adventure.

You will be successful – all you have to do is believe in yourself.

With admiration,


Darren E. Miller

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Mother Nature Rolls Out Welcome Mat For Brad McVetta

12 hours into his Tsugaru Channel attempt and the winds remain uncharacteristically light and the waves nearly non-existent. Brad McVetta has taken advantage of the conditions, but he still has to push hard against the viciously wicked Tsugaru Current before he reaches the distant shores of Hokkaido.

The challenge continues as the sun starts to set in the northern reaches of Japan during the Tsugaru Channel kick-off swim today.

Photo by Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi.

Update 8 km from Hokkaido. The water temperature has shifted between 15ºC (along the coasts) and 20ºC (mid-channel) as McVetta closes in 8 km from shore, but the tides have shifted, the water is getting colder, the sun is setting, and he is now battling slowly against the wall of increasingly moving water.

Final outcome is posted here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

The Tsugaru Current Runs Strong Unpredictably

The notorious Tsugaru Current turned its back on yet another accomplished marathon swimmer this late evening in northern Japan.

Brad McVetta, a Triple Crown swimmer with successful swims across the English Channel and the Catalina Channel, and around Manhattan Island, struggled across the calm 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel for 17 hours 13 minutes. The fluctuation of the water temperature in the channel also did not help matters. The water varied between 15ºC (59ºF) at the start on his swim on Aomori Prefecture to 20ºC (68ºF) in mid-channel, and then back down to 15ºC as McVetta was approaching Hokkaido.

The Tsugaru Current whips around the southern edges of Hokkaido 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 tough channel swimmer. With the sun setting, McVetta could not make any progress against the Current that no hurry to turn, so he retired with 8 km to go.

Photo courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

What Does The Tsugaru Channel Look Like?

Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi photographed and filmed Triple Crowner Brad McVetta's valient 17 hour 13 minute attempt of a Tsugaru Channel crossing from numerous angles above, below and at the water's surface.

The illustrative video created with a GoPro shown below gives a great idea of how the Tsugaru Channel looks on a calm day, but the story is always different under the surface of the clean, fast-moving, always temperature-variant water where the notorious Tsugaru Current and its resultant eddies can quickly and easily turn its back on channel swimmers.



Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Team Ocean-navi Sets Tsugaru Relay Record

The first team up on the blocks for the 2013 Tsugaru Channel season, Team Ocean-navi, set the wetsuit record for a single relay crossing during yesterday's collective effort.

The Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association confirmed the time of the rapid relay in 6 hours 44 minutes under the steady helm of Captain Mizushima.

Coached by Masayuki Moriya of Tokyo's Ocean-navi, the relay went more smoothly than expected between Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan. The team took nearly the straightest shot on record from their start on Kodomari Cape to their finish on Shirakami Misaki.

"It was incredible," said coach Moriya. "The conditions were good. The team shot across the Tsugaru Channel like no other relay before. Everyone swam well and they all did a great job."

Team Ocean-navi #1 from Tokyo included Takahashi Yuri (高橋ゆり), Takahashi Yuichi (高橋雄一), Kobayashi Noriko (小林範子), Kobayashi Shinobu (小林忍), Miyazaki Kyoko (宮崎京子), and Tamaru Atsuko (田丸厚子).

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Why Are Two Boats Used In The Tsugaru Channel?

"Way back in 1990 when Steven Munatones crossed the Tsugaru Channel, he used 2 escort boats," explained Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and daughter of the former director of the Japanese Coast Guard. "While each major channel in the world has its own traditions, the Japanese always have good reasons for their marine laws and requirements."

Team Ocean-navi #2 was a typical example of why two escort boats are required in the Tsugaru Channel. The 4-person relay under the guidance of Captain Mizushima started at 4:00 am and finished nearly at 6:00 pm for a 13 hour 56 minute crossing.

The crossing was successful as the relay cut across the Tsugaru Current and sliced across the usual Tsugaru winds. All in all, the swim went according to plan and fortunately as the team neared their finish on Hokkaido, the winds stopped. Things in the Tsugaru Channel became calm, but they faced other problems.

As they were swimming towards the Hokkaido coastline, they had a very difficult time to land in Hokkaido due to longline fishing net.

The Tsugaru Channel season coincides with the tuna fishing season. The Tsugaru fishermen's union set its net for longline fishing and these nets always change their location. To protect their very expensive nets, the fishermen's union orders swimmers to use two escort boats. One guides the swimmer staying close and one to scout ahead to make sure no longline nets are damaged or crossed. It's not a wish to abide by their decree. It is a flat-out order that all swimmers must follow at the risk of having all future swims cancelled due to the power of the local union.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

It Takes A Team And All Day

13 hours 41 minutes after starting on Kodomari Cape on the main Japanese island of Honshu, Team Ocean-navi's 4-person relay finished on Shirakami Misaki on the northern island of Hokkaido.

It was a long haul, but Hiroko Minami (南浩子), Toshihiro Katsumata (勝亦俊弘), Michiko Ito (伊藤美智子), and Masaru Suzuki (鈴木優) battled the Tsugaru Current and finished to become this season's second successful wetsuit team across the Tsugaru Channel.

Patiently following one another hour after hour, the quartet never lost confidence that they would finish. It was only a matter of time given the generally calm conditions. Slowly but surely they made their way across the tricky channel, sometimes caught in eddies and pushed in unexpected directions.

Starting out before the sun rose, it took all day. And it was well worth the effort.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association