Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Open Water Adventure of a Lifetime

It seems that it may take some time to learn the authenticated details of Jennifer Figge's adventure across the Atlantic Ocean for which she has recently faced heavy criticism. According to her spokesman David Higdon, the catamaran carrying Jennifer and her crew suffered severe damage to both hulls when it was washed up against shoreline rocks and slowly sunk just off the Tobago coast. Much of the material and equipment onboard was apparently lost or damaged.

In answer to the criticisms that Jennifer faced because she wore a wetsuit and boarded her escort boat for a large majority of her adventure, we believe that Jennifer made her intentions very clear BEFORE she started and she never intended to swim under the established rules of marathon or English Channel swimming.

From the very beginning, Jennifer's plan was to swim a certain amount of time per day under the approval of her escort boat captain. If the conditions were unsafe, then she was not allowed to swim. These were the pre-stated terms of her adventure.

This is why she did not swim some days and swam as few as 21 minutes on other days. With waves as large as 30 feet in the early part of her swim, it must have been extremely dangerous to swim. One crest of one wave could have easily dashed Jennifer against the boat or against her shark cage and either severely wounded or killed her. Even with waves of 9 feet as she faced in the later parts of her swim, Jennifer was placing herself in a very dangerous condition to swim near her escort boat and shark cage. Smashing into anything under those conditions could have caused broken ribs, caused deep lacerations or punctured her skin and vital organs. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, such injuries would have presented a very serious condition indeed. As is, her swim was delayed several weeks due to the weather and her boat recently sank.

From our understanding and frequent communications with her team before, during and after the adventure, Jennifer never once planned or professed to swim the entire distance across the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the captain has yet to confirm what exactly he did when Jennifer was on board, we cannot imagine he dropped anchor or killed the engines and simply floated with the currents, especially when he was facing 30-foot seas in much of the first half of the swim. Under those conditions, any experienced captain would have had to navigate his/her boat with the engines on.

At the end of the day, Jennifer kept to the rules that she originally set forth. In this limited case, we are supportive of a swimmer who wore a wetsuit and jumped on her escort boat during a swim. It was a personal adventure – it was not a race or solo swim that fell under specific rules of any governing organization.

Reasonable people can disagree on the purpose or validity of her adventure – but it is clear that Jennifer's swim will provide her and her support team with a lifetime of memories and, hopefully, the sting of the public’s outcry over her adventure and the loss of their escort boat will diminish over time.


Ahelee said...

Perhaps Jennifer and her crew set the bar for a new kind of openwater swim challenge. Real adventure similar to swims by Lynne Cox and Martin Strel.

I've read the many critic's take on Jennifer's swim.

But I'd rather read about their personal challenges into the open water.
Maybe beyond swims that hundreds of people have accomplished.

Steven Munatones said...

Thank you very much for your much-appreciated observations and perspective. Jennifer was roundly criticized in many circles, but Jennifer set an admirable goal under her own terms and achieved her goal at considerable personal risk using her own assets. The world is 70% water and there are innumerable challenges for people to do - in my opinion, not all of these challenges must strictly adhere to the standard rules of authorized English Channel attempts or standard FINA rules.