Two Victoria women complete swim across Juan de Fuca Strait


Susan Simmons and Jill Yoneda completed their fundraising swim across Juan de Fuca Strait on Monday.

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Simmons, 52, arrived at Ogden Point about 5:30 p.m.; Yoneda arrived just after 4:30 p.m. at Clover Point. 

They entered the water near Port Angeles and their journeys took between 10 and 11 hours.

CHEK News has video here.

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After a one-day delay, two Victoria swimmers left Port Angeles this morning on a 30-kilometre journey across Juan de Fuca Strait.

Click here to track their progress across the strait.


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Two Victoria swimmers hoping to conquer Juan de Fuca Strait today in aid of good causes will likely have to postpone their frigid 30-kilometre journey due to high winds.

“It’s 80 per cent that it will not be a go,” Susan Simmons, a 52-year-old distance swimmer with multiple sclerosis, said Saturday evening. 

A small-craft warning in effect on Saturday looked likely to remain in effect today, “and I’m a small craft,” she said. The same goes for Jill Yoneda, 42, who suffers from left-foot drop and degenerative disc disease in her neck and is recovering from the most recent of nine surgeries on her right leg.

The weather warning is a result of forecast 30-knot winds. Simmons’ crew will be up at 5 a.m. to do a weather check to make the final determination. On Sunday morning, the swim was postponed.

“We think that Monday looks really promising,” she added. Tuesday is another possibility; otherwise the swimmers will have to wait two weeks for favourable tides or they’ll end up being carried to the San Juan Islands, she said.

Simmons is raising funds for a foundation she started called the MS Wellness Centre, aiming to establish a space where people with disabilities can exercise with proper equipment, once available at the recently closed MS Society on North Park Street. Yoneda is raising money to send Ahousaht youth from the Tofino and Ucluelet area to surf camp.

Simmons will wear only a swimsuit, despite the numbingly cold water; hypothermia is her enemy, not the endurance to go the distance, despite her disease, she said. She is also keen to emulate previous crossers Marilyn Bell and Vicki Keith in that regard. Yoneda will wear a wetsuit for pain relief and buoyancy, as she will propel herself almost entirely by her upper body.

Both women demonstrate that disabilities do not preclude athletic achievement.

“We’re always being told ‘no, you can’t,’ and being told ‘no, you can’t’ makes you sicker,” Simmons said.

The women expect to start their swims from Dungeness Spit east of Port Angeles between 6 and 8 a.m. but do not plan to start at the same time. Yoneda is likely to outpace Simmons to Clover Point, but Simmons said she would love to make it to the Inner Harbour— four or five kilometres farther than Clover Point.

There have been eight recorded successful swims across the strait, the first by Washington logger Bert Thomas in 1955, the last by Washington state resident Andrew Malinak in 2015, who required just six hours and 59 minutes. In 1994, current New Westminster MP Fin Donnelly did the swim in 10 hours 10 minutes, and the most famous crossing was by teenage sensation Marilyn Bell in 1956.

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