With her finish of the 20 Bridges Swim in Manhattan, NY, Baylor Tri-Masters Coach Jenny Smith has now officially completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. Membership of the Triple Crown requires the authenticated completion of three famous marathon swims: 21 miles (33.7 km) across the English Channel between England and France, 20.2 miles (33 km) across the Catalina Channel in Southern California, USA, and 28.5 miles (45.8 km) around Manhattan Island in New York, USA. She completed these three swims in less than one year, and is now recognized by the World Open Water Swimming Association as the 174th athlete to complete the Triple Crown ultra-distance races.
“The reason I love swimming open water is because there is no competition. It is you and the water (and your awesome support crew),” says Smith.
Smith explains that the English channel rules state that you may only wear a swimsuit, cap, and goggles, and not touch or be assisted by your crew or boat in any manner. Food is thrown to you from the boat, and there is to be no contact with the boat, kayaker, or persons. “My swims are arranged years in advanced and require securing a pilot, crew, travel arrangements, and secure approval for a sanctioned swim by the governing swim body,” she says.
Coach Jenny Smith finished the English Channel Swim in August of 2017. With her crew consisting of her husband Will and two sons Max and Zane, she swam the grueling race in 11 hours and 13 minutes, and swam a total of 28 miles. The distance across the English Channel is approximately 21 miles or 32 kilometers. The fastest that anyone has made it across the English Channel is 7 hours, while the slowest is 27 hours. Unfortunately, her swim coach Anne Cleveland passed away two months before her English Channel swim. She received support and encouragement from her Cork Distance Week (days of swimming in Sandycove, Kinsale, Cork Ireland) swim family. The English Channel is a unique and demanding swim, considered by many to be the ultimate long distance challenge. It isn’t just the distance that is the challenge, but more, the variable conditions that you are likely to encounter. These may vary for mirror like conditions to wind force 6 and wave heights in excess of 2 meters. The water is cold and, there is a good chance of meeting jellyfish, seaweed and the occasional plank of wood. It is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers passing through and 200 ferries/sea cats and other vessels going across daily.
Jenny completed the Catalina Channel Swim in 10 hours and 45 minutes in October of 2017. The Catalina Channel, also known as the San Pedro Channel, is a 20.2-mile (32.5 km) waterway located between Santa Catalina Island and Southern California, USA. During this swim temperatures fluctuate, there is a midnight start for the swim, and the currents are very unpredictable.
The final piece to the Triple Crown was the 28 mile 20 Bridges Manhattan Island Marathon. She finished this swim in 8 hours and 52 minutes, which is a ultra-distance swim around the Island of Manhattan. The warmer water in the Hudson River can make this swim very challenging.
“I train 4-5 days a week, a combination of pool workouts and open water. I swim in the Tennessee river when temperatures are 41F-56F. I need cold water to swim,” Smith explains. “I prefer oceans, I like the salt water, waves, current, and the marine life.”
A challenge that faces Smith to date, is the lion mane jelly. The North Channel, which takes you from North Ireland to Scotland, is littered with them. “The lion mane jelly sting is a beautiful with an unrelenting sting, burning, and very painful. They are very large creatures and getting tangled in their 40-120 foot tentacles is no fun.”
Smith has a window from August 19-24 to complete the North Channel Swim, which is a 45 km swim from Northern Ireland to Scotland.
Coach Jenny Smith has been heading up the Baylor Tri-Masters program for the past two years, and has grown the program from 2 adult masters swimmers to over twenty. Baylor TRI-Masters Swimming is dedicated to helping adults 18 years of age and older to incorporate healthier lifestyles through the sport of swimming. Any level of swimming is welcome! Baylor offers state-of-the art training in an Olympic-sized pool and ongoing support for all goals whether you are a beginner swimmer, lap swimmer, fitness swimmer, tri-athlete, open water swimmer, or competitive swimmer. Fortunately, the Baylor School campus sits on the Tennessee River, making for an excellent training ground for open water swimming.