Indian open water swimmer Sampanna Shelar has completed what is believed to be the first swim from Prongs Lighthouse, which marks the entrance to Mumbai Harbour, to Vashi Bridge, one of the four entry points to the city, connecting it to the Indian mainland across Thane Creek. The distance was about 30km.
Shelar’s coach, Jitendra Khasnis, says it wasn’t completely straightforward.
“Firstly, closure of our pool for renovation limited the amount of time Sampanna could train in the water, so we added more iron in the weight room,” he says.
The additional weight training seemed to pay off as Shelar was able to achieve fourth place in the annual 5km Sea Swimming Race from Sunk Rock Lighthouse to Gateway of India in Mumbai on 10 Feb, less than a day before he started his attempt at the long distance solo.
“We could not actually anchor and embark on the lighthouse due to high tide and a big swell, so Sampanna had to jump from a trawler parallel to it,” says Khasnis.
Shelar then headed inland through the hot, silty and sometimes polluted water towards the crossing. His goggles, which he describes as his lucky pair and had worn without problems in the race the preceding day, irritated him throughout as they filled with muddy, salty and sometimes oily water.
“My eyes were really swollen afterwards,” says Shelar, adding that he lost time through having to frequently adjust them.
For the tough conditions he was compensated by the appearance of a school of dolphins near the start. He says he found the final 2km particularly tough because he trained a lot for speed and not so much for distance due to time constraints.
He now plans to tackle a 39km swim in Gujrath.