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Big Swim Derwent River Marathon

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Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame honors Australian marathon swimmers

The Big Swim Derwent River Marathon or The Big Swim (Tasmania) or Derwent River Big Swim or The Big Swim - Derwent River Marathon is a 34 km marathon swim that starts from the New Norfolk Bridge and finishes at the Tasman Bridge in Hobart along the River Derwent in Tasmania, Australia. The water temperature ranges from 13-15°C (55-59°F) and the river is subject to strong winds against the swimmer and escort craft that blow from Antarctica. No full body fast suits are allowed; only swim briefs and no wetsuits. The event is under the authority of the Australian Marathon Swimming Federation and one of the World's Top 100 River Swims.


The Big Swim Derwent River and other Derwent River Swims and Courses


History There have been swimming events of various types and distances on the Derwent River since 1803 when Hobart was settled. These have been conducted by many swim clubs and individual organisations, namely regatta associations.

In Tasmania, the long-distance swims, the swimming marathons, were pioneered by Chris Guesdon in 1961

The Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation was formed in 1973 in Hobart to facilitate recognition of the new sport as this was not forthcoming from the pool orientated national body. The foundation members and subsequent office bearers were Chris Guesdon President, Deputy President Dick Campion, Secretary Sue Guesdon, John Koorey Executive Member

The body changed its name in 1980 to the Australian Marathon Swimming Federation. John Koorey later became the President and the Australian Championships moved to Sydney, New South Wales. The Australian Marathon Swimming Federation ran the national open water swimming titles until FINA and therefore Australian Swimming Inc. took over open water in 1986.

The first Australian Swimming Inc, Open Water Swimming Committee was set up in 1988. Guesdon then became the Secretary of Australian Swimming’s National Open Water Swimming Committee and Koorey and Campion moved across as committee members of that national body. From this beginning the movement of open water swimming was grabbing a foothold across the country. Health, fitness and elite competition programmes in open water and rather than swimming pools, were flourishing and here to stay.

In 2018 there were as many individuals swimming in hundreds of separate events in Australia in open water competitions as there were members in pool swimming clubs. These numbers didn’t include those plunging into the open water on their own as an activity for health and fitness reasons. In subsequent years many other nations and individual hallmark events followed the Australian lead and national and world bodies were formed

The Big Swim Derwent River Marathon

New Norfolk to Hobart – New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge 34km.

The Big Swim Derwent River in Hobart is considered one of the most difficult marathons to complete. The varying weather patterns can be extreme. Southerly weather brings winds from the great Southern Ocean via Storm Bay. The Derwent is a tidal river with the fresh water from the source and salt water stretching upriver for 20kms. Pioneer marathon swimmer Chris Guesdonas the first to challenge the course on Australia Day 1973 The late, legendary Des Renford from Maroubra SLSC was the first to complete the distance on 25th January 1975. His time was 10h 54m. Dick Campion set the fastest time in 1976. His time: 9h 19m.

Des Renford, Dick Campion and Chris Guesdon are all Honourees inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. 1975 International Long-Distance Swimming Federation World Championship silver medallist at the 1975 Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli was Jennifer Anderson; she was Australia’s first FINA World Championship medalist in open water who set the women’s fastest time in the Derwent River Big Swim in 1976 in 9 hours 44 minutes.

Fastest time man or woman The long swims on the River Derwent, New Norfolk have mostly been held on dates around or on Australia Day January 26th In 2019 the Derwent River Big Swim was named as one leg in the Marathon Swimmers Federation World’s Toughest 13 Swims. In 2020 The Derwent River Big Swim was named in the Australian Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming along with the NSW Palm Beach to Shelley Beach swim and the WA Channel 7 Port to Pub Rottnest Hotel swim

Derwent River Big Swim All-time Results

1st: 25 January 1975, Des Renford in 10 hours 54 minutes, first person to complete the swim
2nd: 26 January 1976, Dick Campion in 9 hours 19 minutes
3rd: 26 January 1976, Jenny Anderson in 9 hours 44 minutes
4th: 1974, Relay team Park Beach SLSC in 7 hours 43 minutes with Geoff Marsh, Mike Watkins, Stephen Godfrey, Don Marsh, Gary Everingham and Don Hallett rotating on 1-hour legs
5th: 31 January 2015, Daniel Curtis in 15 hours 57 minutes, first international swimmer
6th: 1 January 2020, Emma Radford in 7 hours 46 minutes
7th: 7 March 2020, Lynton Mortenson in 11 hours 10 minutes
8th: 13 December 2020, Ross Youngman in 9 hours 11 minutes
9th: 7 January 2021, Richard Jones in 10 hours 8 minutes
10th: 9 January 2021, Brenda Norman in 7 hours 4 minutes (new record for fastest woman)
11th: 24 January 2021, Sharon Young in 9 hours 53 minutes
12th: 30 January 2021, Anna Strachan in 7 hours 31 minutes
13th: 12 February 2021, Stuart Donnachie in 7 hours 54 minutes
14th: 13 February 2021, Val Kalmikovs in 7 hours 58 minutes
15th: 28 February 2021, Eric Bateman in 10 hours 27 minutes
16th: 8 March 2021, John van Wisse in 6 hours 49 minutes (new overall fastest swim)
17th: 12 March 2021, Doug Hughson in 9 hours 29 minutes
18th: 20 March 2021, Luke Richards in 9 hours 37 minutes

Other Derwent River Swims and Courses

There are numerous courses swum on this great river Derwent, across, up and down the river. There are three bridges used as starting and finishing lines. The history on the Derwent swims is therefore not restricted to one course and a few swimmers. There are many swimmers and courses. Since the beginning in 1973 when the Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation was formed, 46 swimmers have competed in the various races in the Derwent at marathon distance. The body was run by volunteers who in fact underwrote the sanctioned events both financially and with manpower. The organisers provided accommodation, boats, watercraft & personnel. A number of swims have commenced and continue in the Derwent River, but most are not of marathon distance. There are other swims across the river of about 2k-5k. One of which is the Trans Derwent Royal Hobart Regatta Race 1.5k which is the second oldest continuously run race in Australia. Other distances across the river reach 5k. The 15k event from Kingston Beach to Constitution Dock Hobart. Other swims have commenced in Hobart and finished in Kingston and/or in the opposite direction. One of our swims the Kingston to Hobart 15km was the Australian Championship race.

Top Australian and New Zealand competitors included, record holder for the fastest triple crossing of the English Channel, Philip Rush NZ. Australia’s John Koorey: 1st Australian man and 2nd Aus. swimmer to cross the English Channel. Another winner was Graham Bruce, English Channel conqueror & member of the 1983-84 & 1996 Australian Open Water Teams The first to complete the swim on that course was in the opposite direction from Hobart to Kingston. 15km distance was swum by Chris Guesdon in 1981. That then became the race course for most of the swims between those towns.

Triple Crown of Australia

The Big Swim Derwent River Marathon is part of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming Australia and includes the following 3 marathon swims:

External links