Catalina Channel: A history in numbers

Catalina Channel: A history in numbers


The first in a series of posts taking a statistical look at the history of Catalina Channel swimming. These analyses have not been validated or endorsed by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation and should be considered “unofficial.” 2011 swims are included, but are unofficial until the ratification banquet on November 5. CCSF’s official list of successful swims is available here.

I should note that Penny Lee Dean did some similar statistical work in her authoritative History of the Catalina Channel Swims Since 1927. However, the book has not been updated in 1996, and in any case, the stats chapter seems to have been removed from the online version.

The Catalina Channel was first conquered in 1927 by George Young of Canada, in 15 hours, 44 minutes, 30 seconds. Since then (through September 2011) there have been 259 successful solo crossings by 220 individuals, including 7 double-crossings.

The short list of double-crossers includes some of the greatest marathon swimmers in history.

From the mainland (M-C-M):

  • John York – 16:42 in 1978
  • Dan Slosberg – 19:32 in 1978
  • Tina Neill – 22:02 in 2008
  • Cindy Cleveland – 24:30 in 1977

From Catalina (C-M-C):

  • Penny Lee Dean – 20:03 in 1977
  • Forrest Nelson – 23:01 in 2010
  • Greta Anderson – 26:53 in 1958

Of the 252 one-way crossings, only 19 went from the mainland to Catalina (M-C). Penny Lee Dean still holds the overall record for this direction: 7:15 in 1976. With the exception of the Swim 22 relay last year, there hasn’t been a one-way M-C crossing since 1977. The most recent M-C crossing was achieved by Suzie Dods in 2010.

The remaining 233 one-way crossings started at Catalina and finished on the mainland (C-M). The 10 fastest C-M crossings are as follows:

  • Karen Burton – 7:43 in 1994
  • Todd Robinson – 8:05 in 2009
  • Hank Wise – 8:07 in 2010
  • Chad Hundeby – 8:14 in 1993
  • Blair Cannon – 8:18 in 2011
  • Gemma Jensen – 8:20 in 2006
  • Jim McConica – 8:27 in 1983
  • Rendy Lynn Opdycke – 8:28 in 2008
  • John York – 8:32 in 2000
  • Penny Lee Dean – 8:33 in 1977 (first leg of a C-M-C double)

My 8:55:59 ranks as the 24th-fastest swim, a mere 11 seconds ahead of David Blanke, Elizabeth Fry, and Marcia Cleveland’s tandem crossing in 2005.

The slowest C-M crossing was achieved by Paul Chotteau of France in 1936 – a herculean 33 hours, 50 minutes! The median C-M crossing is 11 hours, 10 minutes.

Of the 240 C-M crossings (including legs en route to a double):

  • One was faster than 8 hours (Karen Burton);
  • 26 were between 8 and 9 hours;
  • 38 were between 9 and 10 hours;
  • 51 were between 10 and 11 hours;
  • 32 were between 11 and 12 hours;
  • 26 were between 12 and 13 hours;
  • 23 were between 13 and 14 hours;
  • 8 were between 14 and 15 hours;
  • 17 were between 15 and 16 hours;
  • 10 were between 16 and 20 hours;
  • and 8 were longer than 20 hours – the most recent being Jamshid Khajavi of Iran in 1995 (20:47).

Four swimmers have crossed the channel using a stroke other than what we now call “freestyle”:

  • Henry Sullivan – 22:45 breaststroke in 1927
  • Vicki Keith – 14:53 butterfly in 1989
  • Tina Neill – 10:37 backstroke in 2008
  • Jason Lassen – 15:59 breaststroke in 2010

To be continued…

7 Responses to “Catalina Channel: A history in numbers”

  1. Chicken O'C

    2011-10-09T21:24:09+00:00

    I hope Monsieur Chotteau wasn’t on the Butt Scratcher

    Reply
  2. Donal

    2011-10-12T03:35:20+00:00

    Nice, I like this. For me, naturally, it’s the ones who take the longest who deserve enormous respect. Your time is fantastic in context also!

    Reply
    • Evan

      2011-10-12T14:18:06+00:00

      For me, I like both the fastest & the slowest. It’s the ones in the middle I have no respect for. 11 hours… screw those guys :-) Totally kidding, obviously. Anyone who even tries something like that is pretty much amazing in my book.

      Reply
  3. Chicken O'C

    2011-10-12T15:50:00+00:00

    Donal you should try the Catalina swim. If you want some nice cold water to train in, we have plenty in Chicago.

    Reply
  4. Penny Lee Dean

    2011-10-26T06:48:19+00:00

    Nice work. I am sorry I stopped working on this in 1996 but that is when I became sick. Maybe I should slowly begin to update it. Thanks!
    Penny

    Reply
    • Katie

      2011-10-26T15:59:28+00:00

      Penny, if there’s any way I could help with the updates, I’d love to pitch in.

      Reply
      • Evan

        2011-10-26T17:33:13+00:00

        Penny, I read the book cover to cover, and would be happy to help, as well.

        Reply

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