The Spirit Orcas distance-swimming team is doing the first in a summer series of swims today as members look ahead to taking on the English Channel within the next few years.
Marathon swimmer Susan Simmons leads the team, which is made up of people with developmental disabilities. She said the team is divided into two groups — J-pod and K-pod.
Preparing for the English Channel involves a multi-year training plan that includes this summer’s forays in the ocean, known as the Big Tough Swim. There are four 15-kilometre swims planned, beginning with today’s Jordan River-Muir Creek leg.
Next is Muir Creek to Whiffin Spit on July 3, Whiffin Spit to the Shelter Islands on July 10 and the Shelter Islands to the Colwood waterfront on July 24.
Last summer, team members covered the distance from Brentwood Bay to Colwood in eight 10-kilometre segments, and Simmons said she thinks they’re ready to take on more this time.
“The 15-kilometre distance is going to be tough, but they are dedicated and have been training all year,” she said.
There will also be an attempt to swim around Hornby Island and cross the Strait of Georgia this year, and cross Juan de Fuca Strait in 2022.
The plan is for the English Channel swim to follow in 2023 or 2024.
Simmons, whose resume includes a 70-kilometre double crossing of Cowichan Lake in 2014 and a 33-kilometres swim from Ogden Point to Port Angeles in 2017, established the Spirit Orcas about four years ago.
The members put a lot into their swimming, she said, with practices at Willows Beach on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“This is their raison d’être,” Simmons said.
She said their efforts this year are accompanied by a friendly challenge to the public “asking them to donate their time to help members of the community living with disabilities set and achieve goals.”
“We think the greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of time.”
Follow the Spirit Orcas’ swims on Simmons’ Facebook page, where you can leave posts for the team.
“We read them out to the swimmers so they know they’re supported,” Simmons said.
Today’s swim is set for about 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Water temperatures are expected to be about 10 C with currents up to four km/h.