Van Cornwell - Lac Annecy

Albigny to Doussard

13.8 km (8.6 miles)

4 hours, 10 minutes on 15 October 2022

Observed and documented by Lindsay Bruinsma



  • Name: Van Cornwell
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 52
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Fairfax, California

Support Personnel

  • JC Marcel - pilot


Lindsay Bruinsma

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit, silicone cap, goggles.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Lac Annecy
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Plage du Doussard, just west of public beach (45.793095, 6.218714)
  • Finish Location: Plage d’Albigny (45.904380, 6.148127)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 13.8 km (8.6 miles) (map)


Previous swim of a slightly different route by Martyn Webster in July 2020. MSF Documentation

Swim Data

  • Start: 15 October 2022, 08:46:10 (Central European Time, Europe/Zurich, UTC2).
  • Finish: 15 October 2022, 12:56:24
  • Elapsed: 4 hours, 10 minutes, 14 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 16.7 16.7
Air Temp (C) 16 19
Wind (knots) 1 4

General Conditions: Initially very windy on the north side of the lake. Much calmer in the protected south end. Throughout the swim the wind remained relatively mild and was blowing only lightly by the time we reached the finish to at Plage d’Albigny.

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: See observer log.

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Van Cornwell

This idea for this swim occurred because of a suggestion from Evan Morrison to talk to Martyn Webster. I knew I’d be in Europe to support a friend’s English Channel swim and wanted to add to the trip with a swim of my own. I had met Martyn at SCAR earlier in the year and Martyn had swum the length of Annecy before and suggested it strongly. My plans for that swim meshed fully when I connected with JC Marcel who agreed to pilot the swim for me with his ski boat at the lake.

Arriving in Annecy was amazing. The lake, the town, and the community are vibrant and beautiful. My friend Lindsay Bruinsma who lives in Dublin agreed to join me and observe the swim. Aside from the swim we had a lot of fun seeing the area and enjoying the beautiful environment.

The date of the swim was moved several times as the weather forecast continued to change. Ultimately, we decided to go on Saturday, Oct 15th, which was coincidentally the day after my birthday. Although the forecast was good, the morning of the swim was quite windy on the south side of the lake where we were staying and planned to start the swim. JC suggested we motor upwind to the south side of the lake and start there at Plage de Doussard. Within roughly 30 min we reached the south side of the lake where conditions were calm. Mountains circling that end of the lake protected it from the winds and offered a great starting point.

After a short swim from the boat to the beach at Plage de Doussard I exited to dry rocky sand and waved to start the swim time before walking into the lake and starting to swim. The south portion of the lake, or the Petite Lac, was calm and pleasant. Water temp was comfortable around 17-18C (63-64F).

At about 1 hr into the swim I passed close to Chateau Duingt, which marks the corner that ends the Petite Lac and starts the Grand Lac heading north. Once into the Grand Lac I swam nearly directly north near the East side of the lake.

Feeding was regular at 45 min, and included my typical random mix of gels, energy drink mix, hot chocolate, and I even threw in some potatoes and a Swedish chocolatey version of Twinkies called a Pinguini.

At the end of the swim, at Plage d’Albigny I exited the water by climbing a short rock wall and walking out to a grassy dry park, waving to the boat to indicate my finish.

Notable post swim activity – we made good use of the ski boat and all had a turn at wakeboarding and water skiing. Not easy post-swim, but we had to make the most of what ended up being an extraordinary warm glassy afternoon.

by Lindsay Bruinsma

Van reached out to me in August 2022 with an idea to swim across Lac d’Annecy, a region of France that I had visited nearly 10 years prior, and always had wished to return to (even maybe live some day!). I was elated by the chance to support Van in this swim; not only was it in a uniquely beautiful place just near the Alps, and only a couple of hours from my life in Dublin, but I was finally going to have the opportunity to “show up” for Van in one of his epic feats. A couple years prior, I had planned and hoped to support with his English Channel swim, but Covid and immigration challenges prevented me from getting there… then we had the idea of lake Geneva… Third time’s the charm - Annecy was happening. I was 100% in.

There was lots of movement in the actual day of the swim, as weather patterns kept shifting - at first it was Friday, then Sunday, then plans landed on Saturday. This was ideal because it meant we got to maximize Friday - Van’s birthday - and explore the area, including a brief rainy swim/dip mid-way down the western edge of the lake. Conditions were looking good for Saturday however there was some wind in the evening prior, which made it difficult to predict how the following day would unfold.

The morning of the swim we drove towards the southern edge of the lake, where we had planned to meet JC Marcel, our pilot. As we drove over, we could see the wind howling and some chop on the water. It had the potential to be a very long day. While JC seemed ready to support any plan, and Van was unwavering in his commitment to take on the swim, JC had the creative thought to flip the direction of the swim; by starting at the other end of the lake, it would likely be sheltered by mountains and allow some time for wind and rain to settle. Van also carries an attitude of being able to shift plans as needed and so we hopped into the boat and took in the sunrise while cruising to the opposite end of the lake, which was calm and peaceful as predicted by JC. Van got sorted and quickly jumped into the water and swum up to the beach at Plage de Doussard. Here we were, sunrise on the lake, mountains in each direction and Van ready to bring this next goal to life.

He jumped into the water and settled into what would be a steady and smooth pace across the lake - approximately one stroke per second. I took down some notes, and was able to settle in myself. JC played light music on the radio and focused on positioning optimally near Van. I set timers every 45 minutes for observations and feeding. At the 45 minute mark, I’d flag him down, shuffle a choice of calories in front of him, check in on his conditions/talking, etc. and then he’d happily carry on. The conditions seemed to only improve as we made our way across

the lake, soon coming to the end of the Petit Lac, by a castle and then eventually with a coastline in the far distance. Soon the sun was shining, the clouds had shifted, Van was reporting feeling good (sufficiently hydrated and balanced energy).

And then, before we knew it (or at least from my perspective!), we were nearly at the shore. Without hesitation and looking nearly as steady in the final strokes as in the first, Van stepped onto the beach at Plage d’Albigny. Goal achieved. Day spectacular.


Click to enlarge.