Penny Palfrey

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Penny Palfrey setting a world record in the Cayman Islands - Image by Spike
Penny Palfrey, Image by Spike
Penny Palfrey setting a world record in the Cayman Islands - Image by Spike
Men's team and women's team, including Steve Junk, Mark Cockroft, Dougal Hunt, Chris Palfrey, Stephen Spence, Julie Bradshaw, Michelle Macy, Barbara Pellick, Penny Palfrey, Lucy Roper, and Heather Osborn on Lake Taupo for the Taupo x 3 world record setting relay
Penny Palfrey is one of the world's most adventurous and accomplished marathon swimmers, specializing in channel swims around the world.

She is a mother of three, a grandmother of one, and a 2010 inductee as an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. The member of the 24-hour club is originally from England with dual citizenship of Australia.

Formerly a world-class pool swimmer, Penny has reached her stride in channel swimming as she has set records in the Strait of Gibraltar, Molokai Channel (12 hours 7 minutes) and Santa Barbara Channel as well as completed swims in the Cook Strait, English Channel, Catalina Channel, Tsugaru Channel, Molokai Channel. She has completed 6 out of the 7 channels of the Oceans Seven and various other swims from Lake Taupo in Australia to the Cayman Brac Channel in the Caribbean Sea. She also attempted to cross the 72-mile Kaieiewaho Channel twice in 2010 between the islands of Kauai and Oahu and a 168 km crossing from Cuba to Florida across the Florida Strait in June 2012 without the aid of a shark cage.

She was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year and made worldwide news by completing the Bridging The Cayman Islands swim (see finish below). She also attempted a solo swim across the Straits of Florida before she exited the water 41 hours 6 minutes from the start due to powerful oncoming currents from the Gulf Stream.

She is married to fellow marathon swimmer Chris Palfrey. They are both members of the Rottnest Channel Swim Honour Board, the only husband-and-wife team to achieve this accomplishment.


2012 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Nomination

Her marathon swims in 2012 were nominated for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year awards. Her World Open Water Swimming Association nomination reads,

The mere mention of the name Penny Palfrey in the open water swimming world elicits immediate respect and awe. Whether she dramatically succeeds or is involuntarily pulled from the water, Palfrey is a true adventurer in the classic sense. She searches for improbable and seemingly impossible courses, and then melds her body and mind to achieve her goals. The 50-year-old underwent an outrageously demanding training schedule that would flat-out exhaust world-class athletes half her age. Palfrey attempted the most difficult hot-cold water double marathon swim in history. She got nearly 80 miles under tropical heat, while stung from head to toe with venomous jellyfish, in her Florida Straits swim between Cuba and Florida. Then less than 2 months later, swam nearly 12 hours into her North Channel attempt between Scotland and Ireland before she was involuntarily pulled due to hypothermia. These swims were not defined as failures; they were audacious attempts that demonstrated her remarkable physical tools and unworldly mental strengths. For her unique view of the Earth as a marathon swimming oasis, for her aquatic adventures of unprecedented difficulty, for her ability to organize and attempt swims around the globe, Penny Palfrey's back-to-back marathon swims are a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

Taupo x 3 Relay

Palfrey was a member of the Taupo x 3 relay, a three-way crossing of Lake Taupo by a 6-person male team and a 6-person female team of experienced open water swimmers in January 2009. The Taupo x 3 relay teams set a world lake swimming record by completing a 126 km (78.2 miles) triple-crossing of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand under organisers Chris Palfrey, Penny Palfrey, and Julie Bradshaw. The swim started at 5:33 am on 5 January 2009.

The men's relay team finished in 33 hours 31 minutes 15 seconds and included Steve Junk (Australia), Mark Cockroft (New Zealand), Dougal Hunt (Australia), Chris Palfrey (Australia), and Stephen Spence (Australia) with New Zealand legend Philip Rush as the escort pilot. The women’s relay team finished in 33 hours 33 minutes 45 seconds and included Julie Bradshaw (England), Michelle Macy (USA), Barbara Pellick (Australia), Penny Palfrey (Australia), Lucy Roper (England), and Heather Osborn (New Zealand).

The plan was to start at first light from near Tokaanu, at the southern most point of the lake, heading roughly north east past Motutaiko Island, cutting close to Rangitiri point, before finishing on the beach in front of the Waikato River. The distance by GPS for one lap was 40.2 km. The second lap retraced the course back to the starting point and the final lap was a repeat of the first.

The men finished the first leg of 40.2 km in a time of 10 hours 22 minutes; the women finished in 10 hours 28 minutes. The men finished the second leg of 40.2 km in 12 hours 15 minutes; the women finished in 12 hours 19 minutes. The men finished the third leg of 40.2 km in 10 hours 54 minutes; the women finished in 10 hours 53 minutes. Both teams broke the world relay record set in December 2008 by 2 teams of 50 swimmers, each doing 2 km, who covered 100 km in 37 hours 6 minutes.


Marathon Swimming Career

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