The Indian amateur open water swim team The Sea Hawks set a new world record this month for the longest open watersix-man relay in the sea, swimming a distance of 433.11km in 119hrs 59mins. We broke the previous record of 380km in 123.2hrs set by an Israeli team that swam from Cyprus to Israel in October 2014. The swim was also aimed at raising social awareness and donations for encouragingthe education of girls in India.
India is surrounded on three sides by water – the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Indian Ocean in the south and the Arabian Sea to the west. The Konkan Coast is a 720km section of the western coastline on the Arabian Sea, outlining the states of Maharashtra and Goa. We decided on the section of the Konkan Coast from Goa to Mumbai for our record attempt. The section is approximately 423km long, and the swimming distance from Dona Paula in Goa to the Gateway of India in Mumbai is estimated at 490km. We expected to take a minimum of 156 hours to complete the swim.
The Sea Hawks comprise Wing Commander Paramvir Singh (team leader), Sergeant G Narhari, Sergeant AK Patel, Leading Aircraftsman Vicky Tokas, Head Constable Ganesh Palande and Manav Mehta. Independent observers from the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) and the Indian Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) were on board to observe and ratify the swim.
I started the swim from Dona Paula, Goa at 16.25 (IST) on 13 February 2015. The swim continued in relay format, i.e, one hour for each swimmer in the sequence as set at the start of the swim. The sequence of swimmers through the swim was Param, Ganesh, Manav, Patel, Narhari and Vicky. The challenges faced during the swim, apart from the human aspects, included changing tides (24 times), rough sea with strong winds, rocky coast especially near Harnai Port and Malvan (Sindhudurg), heavy marine traffic (as this is a very important trade route), contaminated waters containing chemical effluents, trash and garbage as well as marine life such as jellyfish, etc, all along the route. The majority of us were seasick for at least a day during the initial part of the swim.
On 18 February, the fifth day into the swim, owing to extremely strong winds and weather warnings for the evening, leading to safety concerns for the swimmers, it was decided to culminate the swim at the nearest land area. The swim finally ended at Kashid beach in Alibaug, near Mumbai at 16.24 hrs (IST) on 18 February 2015, about 57km short of the planned destination at the Gateway of India.
The Sea Hawks broke the Israeli team’s record by 53km, taking 119.59 hours to swim 433.11km. The government of India endorsed the team’s mission to encourage social awareness of a worthy cause, as well as our feat of endurance.