Red Triangle

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Red Triangle in the Pacific Ocean
Farallon Islands Course in the Red Triangle
The Red Triangle is the colloquial name of a roughly triangle-shaped region off the coast in northern California, extending from Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, out slightly beyond the Farallon Islands, and down to the Big Sur region, south of Monterey, California.

The area has a very large population of marine mammals, such as elephant seals, harbor seals, sea otters, and sea lions, which are favored meals of Great White Sharks. Around 38% of recorded Great White Shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle — and 11% of the worldwide total.

The area encompasses the beaches of the heavily-populated San Francisco Bay Area, and many people enjoy swimming, surfing, windsurfing and diving in these waters. However, even with an ever-increasing numbers of people entering the water, sightings and encounters with the elusive sharks are still extremely rare.

The term "Red" in the name refers to color of the blood in the water, after a shark has made its attack.


Marathon Swims in the Red Triangle

A standardized 30-mile course is governed by the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation and is renowned to be one of the two most difficult, coldest, most perilous marathon swims in the world.

Water temperatures can range from 50°F (10°C) to 55.4°F (13°C), but temperatures have been recorded lower on several occasions. The water conditions are usually extremely rough with cresting ocean swells up to 20 feet. Currents and tides often exceed the speed of the fastest swimmers. It is a swim not lightly attempted.

History of Swims in the Red Triangle

There have been multiple attempts to swim from the Farallon Islands, but to date only two solo swimmers and two relays have accomplished this incredible feat.

1. Lt Colonel Stuart Evans The first successful swim was by Lt Colonel Stuart Evans in August of 1967. He landed by Bolinas after swimming 13:44:52 seconds, covering 18 nautical miles. He wore a neoprene cap from looking at his picture and greased himself up fairly well. He also landed on shore and walked on the beach under his own power in accordance with English Channel rules. Stuart is now deceased and no communication available.

2. Ted Erickson The second attempt completed was by Ted Erickson. On his first attempt in 1966 he went completely hypothermic and was reported "dead". He was revived, started life anew and failed again on his second attempt. He said he waited a year this time, brought the man upstairs along, and success.

Ted completed his swim on September 17th 1967 in 14:38 by swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge, covering 26.4 nautical miles. This is now the official start and finish line according to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation.

Ted is very much alive living in Chicago and his website is here. He is a little hard of hearing so emails are much preferred and he is most open and cordial in sharing so much wonderful information. Ted's latest interview is here.

3. Dolphin Club The members of the Dolphin Club and the South End Rowing Club challenged each other to a race from the Farallones to the Club house each living side by side at Aquatic Park. They did the race in Sept or Oct of 1969. The records are being pieced together as we speak and this may be updated from time to time.

The Dolphin Club relay swam to the shores of Aquatic Park in 14 hours and defeated the South End Rowing Club, who got swept south then made it under the Golden Gate Bridge in 16 hours, but was forced to quit after encountering the beginning of the ebb.

The names of all the teams are being verified but two noteworthy people are Bob Roper, who swam for the South End Rowing Club - still swimming daily at age 70.

Also a 50m sprinter, triathlete, motorcycle racer and now world famous winery owner Bill Harlan, who swam for the Dolphin Club. Bill is 70 and has built one of the most famous wineries in the world Harlan Estates, scoring routine 100 ratings from Robert Parker.

All the people I spoke with confirmed proper relay rules, no sharks, but everyone was scared - they were all honest. Water temperature ranged from 55 to 62 degrees F depending on who you talk to and they started the race at 11pm.”

4. Night Train Swimmers Completed swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands. May 20, 2011, covering 26.4 nautical miles. Time finished: 14:45:08. The team members were Phil Cutti, Darin Connolly, Dave Holscher, Vito Bialla, John Mathews and Kim Chambers.

5. Night Train Swimmers Completed swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands. June 4, 2011, covering 26.4 nautical miles. Time finished: 16:29:08. The team members were Kim Chambers, Laura Vartain Horn, Cathy Delneo, Melissa King, Patti Bauernfeind and Lynn Kubasek.

Sharks in the Red Triangle

Around 38% of recorded Great White Shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle — 11% of the worldwide total.

For more information, the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation provides the following links:

Farallones Marine Sanctuary
Tagging of Pacific Predators
Shark Research Committee
Stanford University


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