Meet our swimmers
Port to Pub swimmer profiles
Meet our 2018 swimmers
1. Sue Oldham
At 71, WA’s Sue Oldham is attempting regain her record as the oldest woman to cross the English Channel. Sue is proof that you’re never too old to take up swimming (and even challenge some world records!)
I couldn’t even swim twenty five metres when started swimming at the age of 48! Playing basketball and horse riding had been my interests. At the beginning of my swimming career I competed in lots of the open water swims of various lengths (usually 5km and 10km). I completed first Rottnest swim in 2002 in a time of 10 hours 44 minutes, and 48 seconds.
Today, I have completed ten solo crossings, two duos around ten team swims.
There have been some disappointments along the way. I have had about four DNF. The most memorable was in 2006 at the 10 km mark. The weather was bad and I was using a catamaran so skipper declared, “we have finished.” It was his call to make and I didn’t ever query that. That was the first year I swam the English Channel. I was a member of the oldest team ever to swim the English Channel, and we were awarded the “Australian Masters Team of the Year 2006". It was very exciting, needless to say.
A few key dates in my swimming career include:
2006 Became the oldest woman in the world to swim the English Channel
2010 Regained the title as above swimming the English Channel solo
2012 Member of a four man relay team (at the time Roger Allsopp was the oldest man and I the oldest woman to swim the Channel)
2014 Unsuccessful attempt for another solo crossing of English Channel
2017 After two unsuccessful attempts to complete a tenth Rottnest Channel solo crossing, I finally made it in late May at the age of 71 and six months!
I have had surgery in both shoulders and really believe that having a great coach, improving my technique, and wonderful physiotherapist is the only reason I can continue to swim long distances.
Meet our 2017 swimmers
#8 Team of six: "The Dirty Half Dozen" Kath Warden, Anna Bartlett, Michelle Smith, Sarah Rose, Cathy Muir, Lucy Curnow
We are the Dirty Half Dozen. Some of the more questionable swimming talent out of (swim coach) Ceinwen Roberts’ stable, we are six mothers to eighteen children united in our quest to reach Rottnest so we can get a Port to Pub cap & look hardcore.
Our team is comprised of our captain, the amphibious Kath 'the torpedo' Warden who is as blisteringly fast on water as she is on land, our imported talent Sarah 'ote & abote' Rose who rides like a Mounty & swims like an Aussie, team pharmacist Anna 'keeping the people of Rockingham smiling one prescription at a time' Bartlett, couples swimming safari aspirant Cath 'should we swim a little deeper so we don't keep beaching ourselves' Muir, interior designer in-residence Michelle 'shark shield' Smith (anything she doesn't know about shark deterrent technology isn't worth knowing), who will do up our team boat in Dulux 'denim drift' between swim legs, and sixth member Lucy 'is there any KLF on your playlist because I can't butterfly to this' Curnow.
We are in the expert hands of skipper Moose '7 or 8 solos' Muir & paddler Doug 'Grant Kenny' Warden who will administer a poke with the oar to laggards. Two first time Port to Pub swimmers amongst us, we are really excited and a little bit nervous about the swim and can't wait to celebrate with everyone at the finish line
#7 Michael Berry - 25km ultra-marathon
The first swim I did was 4 years ago, I managed 1.2km in one hour and went home, exhausted, for a sleep. Then swimming became a way of life, it started to be two sessions a week then three... then came the open water swimming events. At first it was 2km and then a 4km swim... then a 5km first team event that I entered where we swam to Rotto. I kept going and we kept going, soon I had a squad of people that I could train with and share a coffee afterwards... then the Port to Pub came up and I thought why not?
The spring and summer became watching black lines, dodging stingers and getting sore. Last year it was 25km of grinding out. I can't wait to try it again and even though it is a struggle and it is hard it all puts it into perspective when you think about the reasons you do it. Angelhands is a charity that works to support victims of violence, domestic violence and traumatic events. It gives hope and works on reconnecting individuals.
#6 Team of 4: Peter Woods, Emma Richards, Kate Hardcastle and Tim Macpherson | Team name: Hootie and the Boatfish
We are a group of old friends (and family) who have been involved in the waters around Rottnest and Fremantle for quite some time. A couple of us swam the Port to Pub last year in different groups and post-race had a chat about the 2017 event. Not too dissimilar to the Lebron, Wade and Bosh (‘Big 3’) move to the Miami Heat, we decided to form a super group. Enter ‘Hootie and the Boatfish’. For those not born until after 1987, Hootie and the Blowfish were a mediocre 1990s band who had some success with songs such as, ‘Let her Cry’ and another one which escapes us now...but we digress. Here is our team:
Peter ‘Perkins’ Woods has swum across the Channel several times in a team of 4 and in a duo. He is a keen squad member down at Swim Smooth in Claremont, a coconut oil advocate and lover of all things outdoors.
Emma ‘Rice’ Richards is a veteran of the open water swim scene. Having been living over in New York in recent years she will be in her element on race day and later on at the Hotel Rottnest.
Kate ‘Klim’ Hardcastle is a pretty big deal around the Perth social scenes. When she's not signing autographs, she is most likely working out. Fair to say health and fitness are big parts of Kate's life and whilst we’re not sure her swimming training program could be considered world class (or has actually begun yet?), come race day, she will eat the channel for breakfast.
Tim ‘Trickett’ Macpherson is also a member of the Swim Smooth squad down at Claremont pool. Having seen through many London winters, Tim has found a whole new appreciation for the WA coastline and will be in the thick of it come race day.
Good luck Hootie and the Boatfish!
#5 Solo: Hayley McInnes
Swimming to Rottnest solo has always been on my bucket list. Having completed the swim in a team a number of times over the years, I was looking for the next challenge. Since my last crossing I have had two children, so it certainly has been a challenge fitting in my training sessions. However, so far I am really enjoying being back in the water. I love feeling fit again, doing something for myself, and it has been a welcome and positive distraction allowing me to focus on something outside of the daily routine that comes with looking after a family.
I grew up in Perth but I am currently based in Avalon on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. When people ask what I’m training for they think I’m plain crazy. “You’re swimming to an island that’s 20km away in shark infested waters? You’re mad!” Admittedly there have been numerous occasions in the past six months where I have been consumed with self-doubt and questioned what I am doing, but I deal with this by not thinking too far ahead, focusing on completing the next training session one set at a time. There is a phenomenal outdoors culture in Sydney, much like Perth, and everyone loves to swim at the beach but, bizarrely, another challenge I have faced living up here is finding a 50m pool to train in. Other than ocean pools, which certainly have come in handy for my training, the closest pool is 20km away. As a result, I have been doing the majority of my training in a 25m pool. Counting the 320 laps for an 8km swim is somewhat mind numbing. Helping me through these gruelling training sessions enduring bluebottle stings, tiredness and sore shoulders, I know that not only am I doing it for the personal challenge but more importantly I’m raising money for the Children’s Cancer Institute of NSW. This is an independent medical research institute wholly dedicated to putting an end to childhood cancer.
Aside from the challenges (my fear of sharks is another one but I won’t talk about that…) this is an amazing part of the Australia and I am incredibly lucky to be able to swim in some of the best beaches in the world. I know, I know you can’t beat Perth beaches and I tend to agree. The white sand and turquoise water is unlike anywhere I’ve seen before and that’s why I can’t wait to get back there in March and be a part of this awesome event that is the Port to Pub!
# 4 Duo: Gwyn and Sian Williams | Team name: Bilbo and his Precious
Father and daughter duo Gwyn and Sian Williams - aka Bilbo and his Precious - are training hard in the lead up to the Port to Pub 2017 event.
Swimming has long been a part of the Williams family. With all members having completed countless Rottnest channel crossings in some form or another over the years (solos, duos, teams and, most prestigious, as support crew), this is the first duo for Gwyn at the ripe age of 71.
Gwyn has a long history as a pool swimmer, beginning his career in Wales where he was selected as a team member for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games back in 1962. A shoulder injury prevented him from competing, but Gwyn still competes in both pool and open water swims. Gwyn is still competitive in his age group, and rarely misses an opportunity to swim across a bay or do some laps in the pool.
Sian was a competitive swimmer throughout her teens competing in, and winning medals in, national competitions. Whilst no longer an elite pool swimmer, Sian's competitive streak comes out to play each year for the Rottnest channel crossing.
Sian was the overall 20km solo winner last year for the first ever Port to Pub event, and Gwyn was part of a team of 6, which finished first in their age group, so both swimmers are fairly competitive. I guess you could say swimming is in the Williams' family bloodstream!
#3. Swimming365 Teams 1 and 2
Swimming from Leighton Beach to Rottnest Island is no mean feat. To get across the finish line, it takes months of dedicated preparation and training, a high level of strength and fitness, and luck with weather conditions on the day. But what if, on top of that, you had serious health considerations as well? Meet the two teams of six from Swimming365 – four of the swimmers have Type 2 diabetes.
Swimming365 is an aquatic exercise program especially set up for the prevention and management of Type 2 Diabetes. The program is now in its third year and has been providing significant ongoing benefits to the health of about 50 participants.
Swimming365 founder and managing director Tom Picton-Warlow says the Port to Pub’s teams of six category has enabled the Swimming365 swimmers to challenge themselves to swim across the Rottnest Channel, with the reduced distance per swimmer plus the allowance of strong, non-diabetic swimmers to join each team.
Four Swimming365 swimmers look part in the inaugural event – Rae Foale, Colin Castensen, Don Scott, and Chari Pattiaratchi accompanied by Aidan Schubert and Sally Mauk, completing the swim in 6 hrs 36 mins. They had to pay attention to diet and health management during rigorous training sessions and, during the Port to Pub, had to experiment with changeover times to make sure everyone maintained stamina.
The sense of achievement was huge and this year, Swimming365 has entered two teams of six in the 2017 Port to Pub.
Swimming365 Team 1: Rae Foale, Don Scott, Tom Picton-Warlow, Sally Mauk, Dr. Sarah Cox.
Swimming365 Team 2: Tim Monaghan, Dr. Katy Langdon, Dr. Simon Erickson, Jonica Grayling, Peter Michael & Tracey Monaghan
Tom says, “This year, we will be using innovative approaches to diet and nutrition as part of the preparation. We are excited to have seen some great results health-wise from the 2016 swim and hope to build on that. Moreover, the sense of achievement for our swimmers was huge last year, and they’re excited to take on the next challenge.” As Dr Katherine Langdon said of Swimming365 in Medical Forum W.A. – “Swimming365 is an innovative, sustainable and inclusive community based program offering professional expertise while providing a regular social forum … The main beneficiaries in this program are the participants. There is no further translational step required to take the evidence base to the group who needs it most.”.
Tom is thrilled with the way Swimming365 is growing and developing and the important information it’s gathering in relation to the impact of an intense swimming regime on the health of Type 2 diabetics and those at risk.
Tom is a previous Swimming Australia and Swimming WA board member. He wanted to see how the health benefits of swimming could be applied to non-communicable diseases like diabetes using high performance principles. Swimming365 formally started in early 2015.
The Swimming365 program provides professional water aerobics instruction and swimming lessons conducted by accredited exercise physiologists and instruction on advanced swimming technique by high performance swimming coaches. There are also presentations on diet and nutrition and morning teas provided per program to encourage positive overall health in all areas of life. The program is evidence-based and presents information about participant progress which provides important insight into their health and fitness.
In addition to overseeing swimmer training – and his own – for the Port to Pub swim, Tom has recently set about expanding the program to Vanuatu and has just returned from his first mission. Port to Pub donated some of its leftover swim caps from the 2016 event, which were given to swimmers who will join the Swimming365 program. Vanuatu provides an excellent location for Swimming365 there are 83 islands surrounded by ocean that ranges from 22-28 degrees Celsius year round. The Vanuatuan’s have a long tradition of engagement with the ocean, they also love singing, music and dancing which Swimming365 will be providing as part of a revamped aquatic program. The Vanuatu Swimming365 program will be overseen by Nancy Miyake - Regional Development Officer at the Oceania Swimming Association which is the continental governing body recognised by FINA and conducted by Frank Vira from Wan Smolbag and the Vanuatu Aquatics Federation.
The Port to Pub swim will become an annual challenge for Swimming365 participants and Tom hopes to see the number of teams entering the event grow each year!
#2. Duo: Caroline Dyer and Helen Wilson | Team name: Loose Lips Sink Ships
Sisters Caroline Dyer and Helen Wilson were the first to enter the 2017 Port to Pub. They had enjoyed the inaugural swim as members of a team of four and decided to challenge themselves to a duo.
They have both completed the gruelling 100km Oxfam Walk three times, but already feel that their duo swim is a much greater physical challenge. They’ve been training fairly seriously for two months, competing each weekend in the ocean open water swims on offer around WA.
Of course, you have to look the part when you’re in your bathers for the whole day – they’ve been busy looking at hundreds of different bathers to choose the ones that will help them swim fast and look stunning as they run through the finishing chute!
Caroline and Helen are members of Maida Vale Masters Swimming Club and whilst Helen lives near the beach and can swim in the ocean, most of Caroline’s training is achieved in an indoor heated 25 metre pool in the foothills. Both girls work as nurses and have to fit in swims around their rosters, so they are often up very early, either trail walking in the hills or swimming together at the beach.
Good luck Caroline and Helen!
#1. Aaron Ellis-Kerr
Pilbara-based Aaron Ellis-Kerr will compete in the Port to Pub as a solo swimmer in 2017. Training in a hot climate and in an isolated town has its challenges, but as Aaron is proving, it’s far from impossible. Here’s his story:
Work brought me to the Pilbara in 2010. I joined local football clubs in Newman and Port Hedland. Looking for ways to maintain my fitness during the football off-season, I decided to revisit swimming. Growing up in Perth, being involved in swimming clubs and surf clubs as a little tacker, I loved to swim; it had just been a while. Years, in fact.
In 2014, I organised a team to partake in the Virtual Rottnest Swim in Karratha. At that point, it was a couple of lads trying to keep fit during the off-season of football, swimming twice a week. This was the motivation I needed to get back swimming again. Since the Virtual Rottnest Swim, I have completed a Rottnest duo crossing and a Rottnest Solo crossing. I have also completed a number of WA Open Water Swim Series events.
This year I have yet again decided to take my swimming to the next level. I am currently training to complete the 8km solo Cocos Keeling Island Swim, held in November each year, and the solo Port to Pub in March 2017. Teaming up with Red FM's Breakfast Show I will doing the10km swim at Lake Argyle, in Kununurra in May 2017. The Breakfast Crew are planning on joining me in the event. This will be my first freshwater marathon swim.
Swimming in Port Hedland has presented some challenges. Some of my long swim sets are commonly swum in 45 degree heat, during the wet season. Cyclone events close the pool for extended periods. Each time, water samples are sent to Perth for testing; the process takes a minimum of a week to gain re-opening clearance. The most recent maintenance issues closed both pools in the town for three weeks. These have been ongoing over the year. Massive tidal movements make open water swimming extremely unsafe and therefore virtually impossible in Port Hedland.
To help me achieve my swimming goals I have sought the help of swim coach Ceinwen Roberts. Ceinwen sends me challenging daily swim training plans. My wife has also recently started swimming. Swimming with my wife makes it more enjoyable as we can train, meal plan and organise to take part in swimming events together. I am really glad that it is a hobby we are both thoroughly enjoying.
I am planning to continue my swimming and look forward to seeing where it takes me in the future.
Meet our 2016 swimmers
#1: The Smoothy family
In the Port to Pub’s inaugural year, four members of the Smoothy family will take to the water.
Dad, Martin (55), middle son Samuel (17) and youngest daughter Esther (16) will be competing in the 25 kilometre event. Youngest son Luke (13) will be competing as a duo team with coach Claire Evans.
The Smoothy family’s love for swimming started due to health reasons. Martin wanted to increase his fitness following kidney failure and a heart condition. Martin then took Samuel to the pool in an effort to help him get fit while recovering from cancer treatment involving steroids. Sam wasn’t the best at other sports however he was attracted to swimming as he found it was a sport he enjoyed. After missing out on a Rottnest Channel Swim duo ballot in 2014, Martin and Sam decided to train for a solo crossing, which they completed earlier this year. In another extraordinary feat, Martin and Sam swam the English Channel together in July this year.
Sister Esther competed in a team of four this year. Luke began competing in open water events after watching his brother Sam enjoy swimming competitively.
The Smoothy family all train in Shelley Taylor Smith’s squad.
We wish all the Smoothys the best of luck in the Port to Pub swim!
The Smoothy family.
#2 The Over-Armers
Team members: Hamish McIntosh, Nick Unmack, Cameron McIntosh, Karri Steele, Stuart McIntosh and Jodie McIntosh
The Over-Armers’ team instigator is Hamish, who completed solo Rottnest Channel Swim crossings in 2014 and 2015. When he saw the option to register a team of six in the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub, he saw this as a great opportunity to get his family involved in a fun yet challenging event. Hamish’s brothers, Cameron and Stuart, were keen to be involved, having all competed in channel crossings before. They convinced Hamish’s partner Karri, and Stuart’s wife Jodie to take part, and then enlisted good mate, Nick Unmack, to complete the team of six! Nick is also a past Rottnest solo swimmer.
Jodie and Karri say they are the least experienced swimmers in the team. “We are totally out of our comfort zone, but are rising to this challenge!” They are following the swimming program put together by Port to Pub’s swim coach Ceinwen Roberts http://porttopub.com.au/p/preparation-and-training, which they’re finding to be a realistic and achievable training schedule.
The Over-Armers say the best part about being in a team of six means that the stronger swimmers can support the weaker swimmers, yet everyone gets a turn at some long distance swimming.
“Our aim for the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub event is to have fun and get to Rottnest Island as quickly as possible! We’re praying for calm waters with a slight easterly wind to provide that extra nudge across!”
Happy training and good luck Over-Armers!
Five of the six members of the 'Over-Armers' team.
#3 Legends of Lane 4
Team members: Lindsay Dodd, Chris MacKinnon, Gus Firth and Andrew McLean
The Legends of Lane 4 will take on the 20km event as a team of four in the inaugural Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub swim in 2016. They say they're looking forward to the chance to compete as a team, after a long period of training together in Paul Newsome’s Swim Smooth squad.
Given the different combinations for the Rottnest Channel Swim, the team are excited at the opportunity to swim to Rottnest together in the Port to Pub after so much training together. And it's also given them an excuse to prolong their regular Friday morning coffee after training where healthy banter is enjoyed over long macs and brekky wraps.
Lindsay and Gus completed solo Rottnest Channel Swim crossings in 2015. Lindsay will be attempting the solo again in 2016, while Gus is joining forces with a friend to take on the duo. Chris and Andrew will also be crossing as a duo.
As for their swimming credentials, Andrew was a 'swimmer' at school but then did little in the water over the next 15 years. On returning to Perth in 2014 after a stint overseas, he rediscovered his love of the sport and has been training regularly again for the last 18 months.
After a hiatus of similar length, Lindsay got back into pool swimming in 2013. “Claremont Pool was the scene of my greatest swimming triumph, the 1992 Swanbourne Primary School 100 metres!," he boasts.
"Claremont Pool hasn’t changed much since then, and neither has my love of the swim. I enjoy the fitness and camaraderie that come with squad swimming, but mostly I’m in it for the Friday coffee and bacon brekky wrap!”
Gus was an accomplished swimmer at school and, after a long time out of the pool, is once again a keen swimmer all year round. The Port to Pub will be his 7th crossing of the Rottnest Channel. Since hurting his back playing football, Chris has discovered a passion for swimming, especially with mates.
Good luck Legends of Lane 4!
The Legends of Lane 4
#4 Team Legs Eleven
Team Legs Eleven is likely to be one of the more remarkable teams in the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub swim this year.
The instigator and main driver of the six-man team is Garry Lymn. Garry recently had to have his left leg amputated above the knee and, to prove he's kept his good sense of humour, decided to name his team ‘Legs Eleven’. A keen swimmer for over four decades, Garry was back in the pool training just two months after surgery and is determined to successfully lead his team across the Channel to Rottnest Island.
Garry says his main task is to work out how to coordinate his changeovers on the boat but, with the promise of a few celebratory ales at the Quokka Arms at the end of the swim, he’s determined to work it out and get it right.
It’s something of an historic swim for ‘Legs Eleven’ with four of the six members of the team successfully completing a Rottnest Channel Swim together 20 years ago in 1996.
Whilst they joked about ‘getting the gang back together’ for a 20 year anniversary swim, they thought it probably wouldn’t happen given they are not quite as fit and able bodied as they were back in 1996!
The launch of the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub swim offered them the opportunity for a six-member team, which they decided would make the crossing more achievable. Team ‘Legs Eleven’ was formed and was one of the first teams to register in the inaugural Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub swim.
The team has begun serious training and four members of the team have already completed their qualifying swim, including Garry.
Garry, you’re an inspiration to all, and especially to your team. Good luck Legs Eleven!
Richard Mazzachelli, Russel (Chook) Fowler, Gwyn Williams, Garry Lymn and Kim Bingham. Missing from the picture is Steve Cockman.
#5 Aqua Commandos
Team members: Gemma Banfield, Kath Warden, Janelle Rock, Bianca Edwards, Jacqui MacGeorge, and Tam Gibbons
The six members of the Aqua Commando’s team say they’re very excited to be taking part in the Port to Pub’s inaugural year.
They first came together participating in a weekly personal training group through Positive Lifestyle Training, run by Ceinwen Roberts and her husband Andy. When they started three years ago it was a group of 8 – this has now grown to 20!
All dedicated mothers and with 18 kids between them (yes 18!!), they have come a long way since the early days of pushing themselves to get into the ocean for a rare open water training session.
Gemma is the team leader; the reason the group came together in the first place. Always positive and a jet in the water, she has completed both a duo and a team of four in the Channel Crossing. Her 12-year-old son is now blitzing her in the pool, which she says keeps her on her toes.
Kath is the gun of the team! Frustratingly fast, both in and out of the water, even with little or no training. This is her first crossing, and the team are pumped that she is on their side so they can get there a little faster.
Janelle will be coming off a solo swim to Rottnest in the Channel swim. She is determined, ever reliable and, thankfully, as fit as a Mallee Bull. “I’ve just bought a new car, so now I need the number plates,” she said.
Bianca declares that she is possibly more suited to the land, having trained and completed marathons over the years. With her persistence, dedication and a little help from those long arms she has continued to improve no end, taking out the ‘Aqua Butts’ award this year.
Jacqui has become more of a Yoga Queen in the last six months, but continues to maintain her condition in the pool. Always making the group laugh, she would much prefer to take up water walking, but the team won’t let her.
Tam grew up in the middle of nowhere, hence didn’t learn how to swim until three years ago, blowing bubbles at the end of the pool with Ceinwen. “Swimming has changed my life for the better in so many ways, and I hope we will all still be swimming together when we are 80,” she said.
Together, the team are bonded by their love of exercise, the thrill of a challenge, being mothers, great conversations and French champagne.
Best of luck to the Aqua Commandos!
#6 Stephen O'Keefe
Stephen O’Keefe started squad swimming in 1964 when he and his three sisters turned up at Beatty Park to start swim training. Back then, Beatty Park was the first public pool in Perth post the 1962 Empire & Commonwealth Games.
Stephen went on to win a state title and regularly participated in many Swim Thru events, mainly through the river based swimming clubs – the only swimming venues prior to the opening of public swimming pools.
Stephen then progressed from a pool swimmer to surf lifesaving. He became a life time member of the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club in 1971 and competed at national championships throughout Australia – many of which he used to drive many thousands of kilometres to attend!
While attending the University of WA, Stephen was introduced to water polo, competing regularly in the intervarsity competition in places such as Townsville. He recalls driving a bus with his team mates for the 10,000km round trip as quite an adventure to say the least.
Stephen is also a life member and the foundation President of the City Beach Water Polo Club - now the largest and most competitive club in Australia. He still plays the game with a group of colleagues who have competed at the FINA World Water Polo Championships in locations such as Riccione Italy, Boros Sweden and Montreal Canada.
Recently he has turned his attention to the Rottnest Channel. He first started swimming to Rottnest 20 years ago and he has since completed over 20 team swims to the island. This year will be his first and only solo swim – one he figured needed to be done soon.
With swimming remaining a huge part of his life, Stephen still trains 5 – 6 times a week with the Tanham Squad and WGARA squad. Together they make up an eclectic group of both young and experienced swimmers, breakfast debaters and friends.
Good luck for your first solo crossing Stephen!
#7 Les' 1956 Team
Les Stewart (80)
Les began swimming at a very early age with the beaches of Leighton, Swanbourne and the Mosman Park river just on his doorstep.
He joined Belmont Swimming Club as an 18 year old and competed in many river swims and at competitions at the Crawley Baths. The blue ribbon event at that time was the 4.4km Swim Through Perth.
On 24 January 1956, Gerd von Dincklage-Schulenberg became the first person to swim solo across the Rottnest Channel. The local paper, The Weekend News, challenged anyone interested to follow in his ‘steps’ and take on a race to Rottnest Island.
Around 30 people entered but only those who could swim from Fremantle to Perth were allowed to compete. The qualifying event was held a week before the official Rottnest event, with nine swimmers finishing. On March 25 1956 seven swimmers started the Rottnest swim with only 4 finishing – Les was one of these brave people.
“I entered to see how far I could go and was pleasantly surprised to find I could actually make the distance!” he said.
Les went on to compete in a number of other open water events as the sport grew, including a number of 8km swims. He also participated in the Cocos Island 8km solo and Masters competitions in Alice Springs and on the Gold Coast.
In 2006 he was a member of the Barracudas English Channel six-man relay team which went on to be the oldest relay team in the world – a record they held for six years. He was also chosen to be a part of the Australian Masters All Sports Team of the Year.
Les has completed five solo Rottnest Channel crossings in his career, the last in 2007 starting at Leighton Beach at the tender age of 71.
Michael Stewart (51yo)
Michael first became involved in swimming competitively as a junior, before taking a break and joining West Coast Masters swimming club in 1988.
He’s competed in masters competitions both locally and interstate in Alice Springs and the Gold Coast, and was also a member of the team competing in the World Masters in Torino, Italy.
With many years of experience as a swimmer, skipper and paddler for the Rottnest Channel swim, Michael has completed three solo crossings and several duo and team crossings. His last solo Rottnest swim was topped off by completing solo in the Dunsborough to Busselton swim the following weekend.
“Along with the fitness gained from swimming, there have been many good friendships formed along the way,” he said.
“I find that long swims can be very relaxing. Being in the water can block out other distractions and it often makes a solution to a problem seem very clear.”
Sue Oldham (70yo)
Les Stewart introduced Sue to swimming in 1991 at the age of 48 when she joined the West Coast Masters Swimming Club. At that stage Sue could not swim more than 25 metres without tiring.
Since this time, Sue has completed 8 solo Rottnest crossings, 2 duos with Les, and numerous team crossings. In 2006 she became the oldest woman in the world to swim the English Channel and was a member of the six-man relay team which also held the age bracket world record for 6 years. The same relay team went on to win the 2006 Australian Sports Award Masters Team of the Year.
Sue completed another solo English Channel crossing in 2010, regaining her title having lost it in 2007 to an English swimmer. In 2014 she was a member of an English Channel 4-man relay team which included Roger Allsopp (who was the oldest man in the world to swim at that time), Irishman Tom McCarthy who did breaststroke on all his rotations, and Kathy Phillips from the local Barracudas Swim Club.
Sue has set her horizons on another English Channel solo crossing in 2017 having failed in 2014 due to weather.
“Once I start, I find it difficult to stop swimming as I love the feeling of serenity swimming gives me. It’s also a wonderful contributor to good health and the friendship and camaraderie within the swimming fraternity, both local, interstate & worldwide, is fantastic,” she said.
Andrew Stevens (60 yo)
Andrew was 52 when he started swimming, recently emigrating from South Africa.
“When I arrived down at Mullaloo beach, Les was one of the first people I met with his friendly face, big grin and a mischievous look in his eyes,” he said.
“Les has been an enormous inspiration to me over the years and a source of great encouragement and humour. He has also become a good friend.”
Andrew has completed three solo Rottnest Channel crossings. He has also completed the 8km solo swim from Coin de Mire Island to Grand Baie on the mainland of Mauritius.
“I have future plans to do many more medium distance Open Water swims combining it with travel,” he said.
“The benefits that I have received from Open Water Swimming are many – lower blood pressure, weight loss management, better sleeping and eating and a great feeling when the endorphins kick in. We mustn’t forget the important cup of coffee and the chat with friends after our daily swims.”
“It is indeed a great pleasure to be involved with Les on his 60 year commemorative swim.”
“Associating with people such as Les and Sue and the enthusiasm they share gives credence to the words, Impossible, Improbable, Inevitable.”
Debbie Hart (54 yo)
Debbie is an elite swimmer, having been a part of the GB International Swim Squad from 1975 to 1978. She has also won silver medals in the 50m Butterfly and 100m Butterfly at the 2014 FINA World Masters in Italy.
After retiring from competitive swimming, Debbie opened up a Swim School in London in 1980. It is still running today with over 500 children attending and 300 on the waiting list.
Since moving to Perth Debbie has opened up a very small Swim School at the Kinsgway Goodlife Health Club.
“I love to completely switch off and almost meditate while swimming,” she said.
“It's great for my well-being, flexibility and general fitness. And a fantastic way to start your day!”
Chloe Hart (24 yo)
Chloe is a seasoned swimmer, having represented her school in the English School Games in 2004, the British Swimming World Class in 2005, and the World School Games in Athens in 2006.
Chloe has also represented Great Britain in the European Youth Olympics in Italy, ranking first place in the 4x2 freestyle relay team.
“I like swimming because it gives me a feeling of peace and relaxation. I love going into the zone and I love the feeling of giving it my all and achieving goals that I set myself,” she said.
Chloe now teaches early childhood education at the Pearsal school in Perth.
#8 Champagne Cruisers
With an engineer, psychologist, journalist, stylist, pharmacist and 17 children between them, the Champagne Cruisers have nothing to prove!
The team have a cross-section of swimming experience in their team, and say they're looking forward to working together to complete the inaugural Port to Pub crossing.
"With the more experienced ocean swimmers in our team we will be able to overcome nerves and share in the excitement of achieving a goal," said Monica, the journalist in the team.
"Scheduling and juggling our busy lives in order to do early morning training, and training in all kinds of conditions to prepare ourselves fully for whatever challenges occur on the day has been our focus up to this point."
"Now we are just looking forward to enjoying the day together, supporting each other, crossing the finish line together and… drinking some well-deserved bubbly of course!"
Good luck ladies!