01 January 2009

Four American swimmers to attempt Strait of Magellan crossing from the End of the Americas to Tierra del Fuego

On the 20th, 21st or 22nd of January, 2009, four American swimmers will attempt a crossing of the Strait of Magellan, from the end of the Americas to Tierra Del Fuego in Punta Delgada, Chile.

The swimmers are: R. Cristian Vergara, 50, a Chilean-American accountant and accomplished distance-swimmer from Brooklyn; Rachel Golub, 32, a New-York based musician and writer; Mark Lautman, 59, Chair of the Economic Development Commission of New Mexico and coach of 1972 Olympic gold medalist Cathy Carr; and his brother, Olympic trials finalist and 200-meter butterfly world-record holder (50-55) Scott Lautman, 55, Human Resources Manager for Alaska Airlines in Seattle. The four will swim the icy, choppy waters in simple bathing suits, caps and goggles, with escort boats provided by the Chilean Armada.

The water temperature will be close to 4 degrees celsius, or 40 degrees fahrenheit. The swimmers will be in the water for one hour or more, depending on conditions, swim speed, and currents over the 2.4-mile distance. Only two swimmers have successfully completed the crossing, which is complicated by strong currents, unpredictable weather, and frigid water temperatures.

Mr. Vergara and the Lautman brothers have numerous worldwide adventure swims under their belts. Ms. Golub, a relative newcomer to open-water swims, has been training year-round at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York with Mr. Vergara. She is optimistic about the swim: "when we realised that we were capable of raising our cold-endurance threshold, we set upon a common dream: to complete a swim that very few have done, distinguished by Antarctic currents-- an environment inhospitable to both people and ships. In the spirit of Fernando de Magallanes and the intrepid Portuguese explorers, we are setting out on a great adventure in Nature. This challenge is within reach because we have learned, with careful training and utmost attention, to balance our minds and acclimate our bodies for cold-water swimming."

For their crucial pre- and post-swim warm-ups, Vergara, Golub and the Lautmans will be using parkas by the 15 below project, a weatherproof, lightweight all-season garment designed for free distribution to the homeless by Canadian advertising firm Taxi. The coat is easily insulated with newspaper, tightened into balls and stuffed into the coat's Aquamax shell, which folds up into a backpack. In initial tests, the coat retained warmth for eight hours in temperatures as low as -29 degrees Celsius (-20.2 F).

"Rachel, our two other training partners and I have all read extensively about hypothermia, core temperature and so-called 'survival thresholds' for ocean waters," says Vergara. "Unlike many who suffer the elements day in and day out, we are lucky to have the resources to experiment with extremes of temperature in a controlled situation. The 15 below project, which reaches out to the homeless, is close to our hearts, and to our cores."

For more information about the 15 below project:


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