Swimmer still has high hopes for a strait crossing

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.

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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 back-and-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.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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