The Windermere 12-way Warriors is an international group of open water swimmers who included Liane Llewellyn, Thomas Noblett, Keith Bartolo, Michelle Lefton, Michelle Sharples and Dee Llewellyn. The 6-person team set the world's non-stop lake distance swimming record. Their 3-day adventure of endurance, teamwork and patience was held in Windermere in the Lake District of England. The team did 12 non-stop crossings of Windermere that broke the existing record of 118 miles, set by the Night Train Swimmers in Lake Powell in Arizona, USA in 2010.
The Windermere 12-way Warriors swam 126 statute miles (202 km) over 65 hours 42 minutes. The team was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
Their first lap was 6 hours 45 minutes.
Their second length was 5 hours 45 minutes.
Their third leg was 6 hours 15 minutes.
Their fourth lap was 6 hours 2 minutes.
Their fifth length was 6 hours 25 minutes.
Their sixth leg was 6 hours 6 minutes.
Their seventh leg was 6 hours 54 minutes.
Their eighth lap was 6 hours 19 minutes.
Their ninth length was 6 hours 10 minutes.
Their tenth leg was 6 hours and 2 minutes.
Their eleventh leg was 6 hours 24 minutes.
Their twelfth leg was 5 hours 54 minutes.
Fresh water relay swim World Record smashed
Furnished by the Windermere 12-way Warriors:
The World Record for the longest relay swim in fresh water (Lakes) was smashed at 10:42 last night by the 12 Way Warriors of Dee Llewellyn (Bradford), Keith Bartolo (Malta), Liane Llewellyn (Bradford), Michelle Sharples (Manchester), Thomas Noblett (Windermere) and Michelle Lefton (Windermere). The venue a very cold (10°C water temp) Lake Windermere, Cumbria, England.
The team of six swimmers started their epic journey with Dee Llewellyn entering the water at 6:40pm on Friday 26th May to swim from, a rainy overcast, Ambleside south towards Fellfoot. An hour later, roughly 2.5miles down the Lake near Red Nab, Keith Bartolo completed the first change over. Liane Llewellyn then made the second change over just approaching the islands. Liane took us through the islands and into the dark of night. Then it was Michelle Sharples' turn. All the while the wind was steadily increasing with speeds up to 25 knots and the water becoming more difficult both for the boats to navigate through and the swimmers to power through. Thomas Noblett and Michelle Lefton then followed taking us nearer to Fellfoot through the stormy conditions. Dee re-entered the water and took us to the first turn in 6 hours 45mins. At this stage we all had grave doubts of succeeding with this challenge as the weather forecast had said that Saturday / Sunday would be the worst days and the pilot of the mothership, Ken Birchill, had communicated with Thomas and Dee that he felt the wind predictions in this period would lead to him having to dock the boat for a large period as it would be unsafe to sail. We made arrangements for extra support crews and safety ribs to help us if this was to be the case. But if Friday night was meant to be the best conditions what would the rest of the swim have in store for us?
Time constraints with work and other swimming commitments had limited the team to a very tight window in which they could make the attempt and opportunities to rearrange the challenge for alternative dates were very sparse. With the ash cloud already causing problems to travel we had already spoken to our Maltease member and he had changed his travel plans so as to arrive earlier.
The wind died away throughout the early hours of Saturday morning and made conditions much more swimmer friendly and at 8am we reached Ambleside to complete the second length in 5hrs 45mins. Saturday was a grim day with a strong wind and squally misty conditions making it very unpleasant to enter and exit the water. We reach Fellfoot for the second time at 14:14 to complete the third leg in a time of 6hrs 15mins. Conditions remained very similar for the return leg to Ambleside and we make the forth turn at 20:16 in a slightly faster time of 6hrs 2mins. At this point the team are happy to have surpassed their previous attempt of October 2010 and all plans were going full steam ahead.
The fifth and sixth laps also followed in a similar nature. We reached Fellfoot 6hrs 25mins later at 02:42 and then Ambleside a further 6hrs and 6hrs 6mins into the journey at 08:48. Towards the end of every swim we would be looking for the next team member to appear at the back of the boat so we knew we only had another few minutes to suffer. After every swim we got out feeling cold, speech slurred in some instances, and after 5-10 minutes started to shiver. We got changed as quick as possible, sometimes assisted by other members of the team when the hands were so numb and shaking was uncontrollable, whilst another member of the team prepared the long awaited warm drink. The dreadful weather put an halt to the usual cheering of team members as by the time you had warmed up (usually between 1 and 2 hours) nobody really wanted to go and get wet and cold again, well at least not before their next swim!
The wind really started to cause disruption to our course on the seventh leg, hitting us head-on for the full duration with gusts of up to 45 knots irregularly hitting us from the side. This made it very difficult for the swimmers to complete the recovery phase of their stroke and made it incredibly difficult for the kayakers and boat crews to hold their course. Resulting from this we took a much longer route so that the mother ship could take some shelter and our average lap time increased substantially when it took us 6hrs 54min to get to Fellfoot. We were made up with this achievement as this was our original target that we set ourselves back in October 2010.
Liane Llewellyn made the turn at 15:41 and in her true “Hardcore” style powered through the rough water to give us a good start on the eighth leg. We reached Ambleside at 22:00 in 6hrs 19mins to complete leg eight and we turned at Fellfoot for the Ninth leg at 04:10 with a lap split of 6hrs 10mins. In the second half of the swim the beds and sleeping bags were frequently used and at some points everybody apart from the swimmer in the water would be in the same bed trying to warm each other up.
The tenth leg to Ambleside was accomplished at 10:12 on Monday am with a length time of 6hrs 2mins. With only two lengths remaining this was a very emotional part of the swim for team captain, Dee and a few tears were shed as the realisation kicked in that the team was going to achieve their dream. The sun made an appearance and things started to look up as we approached the end of the eleventh leg and we turned at 16:46 with a 6hrs 24mins lap. With normal Windermere conditions in our favour everybody dug deep to give everything they had left for their final hour swim and we completed it in 5 hours 54 minutes.
Finally at 22:42 Michelle Sharples only 2.5 minutes after the changeover with Liane, with an entourage of supporters, crossed the finish line to set the New World Record of 126 statute miles / 202 km in 65 hours 42 mins 42 secs beating the old American Record of 118 miles by 16 km. This swim also sets records for being the first 6-way, 8-way, 9-way, 10-way, 11-way and 12-way Windermere relays.
The organisation behind such a challenge was phenomenal and something that Captain Dee “Madfish” Llewellyn and Vice Captain Thomas “The Gladiator” Noblett spent many hours working on. Throughout the swim there were still on-going changes being made to the plan, supplies being ordered and communication to land based officials to coordinate changeovers of our backup team.
We are indebted to Ken Birchill of the Hydro Hotel on his boat the Hydro Therapy and the many very experienced skippers that he organised together with all the kayakers, rowers, observers, Andy Wright who manned the BLDSA rib and land based officials of Pat Llewellyn and Jean Wilkin-Oxley who helped us all the way through the three storm systems and never doubted our abilities.