On Oct. 12, six young athletes will attempt to break the Uneven Open Relay record and raise money for charity by swimming 20.2 miles of the Catalina Channel overnight. The current record of 7 hours and 4 minutes was set in 1985.
The athletes, who have dubbed themselves the Channel Chasers, are members of the elite Senior Champ team at Rancho San Dieguito (RSD) swim club in Solana Beach.
RSD coach Gracie Van der Byl, an open water swimmer record holder and former Women’s Open Water Swimmer of the Year Award nominee, will lead the two female/four male team of Robbie Andrews (16), Cathedral Catholic High School, Taylor Lyon (16), Torrey Pines High School, Mason Morris (16), The Bishop’s School, Drew Schmidt (17), Santa Fe Christian Schools, Revere Schmidt (14), Santa Fe Christian Schools, and Kyle Wong (16), Cathedral Catholic High School.
The Catalina Channel is known as one of the most grueling open-water routes in the world, due to cold water and strong, unpredictable currents. The Channel Chasers will begin the relay at 9 p.m. from the shores of Two Harbors with each team member swimming in rotations throughout the night.
According to the official rules of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits, just one porous suit and one swim cap. The swimmers can eat and drink as needed, but they cannot lean on the support boat or use any flotation support. They hope to arrive in San Pedro before 4 a.m. on Oct. 13.
The event will raise money for the Pardee Aquatics Center at the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito. The Pardee Aquatic Center hosts more than 700 swimmers of all ages daily, including the RSD Swim Team, Solana Beach Swim Masters, Boys & Girls Club swim lessons and community lap swimmers. Nearly 8,000 swim lessons are taught each year and many are free to local youth. Years of use has taken its toll on the aquatic center and much needed repairs and enhancements are needed for sustainability. With the help of their coach, the Channel Chasers have undertaken the Catalina Channel swim as a way to give back to a community resource that has been instrumental in their development as elite athletes.
“A record would be great, but mostly I hope this experience inspires them to do more and grow as young adults,” says Van der Byl. “When you realize that more people have reached the summit of Everest than have crossed the Catalina Channel, it is even more impressive.”
To help support the Channel Chasers, visit weblink.donorperfect.com/ChannelChasers