The sixty-second Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim is this weekend. This 8km ocean race will be challenging teams and solo swimmers alike; with about 100 contenders of all ages taking part in this iconic Townsville event. We caught up with the youngest swimmer — 14-year-old Claire Dowling — and the most mature — 61-year-old Peter Barty — to see how they are feeling ahead of the race.
Claire Dowling, 14
Have you done the 8km solo Maggie Island swim before? I haven’t done it solo before, however I participated in a relay team (four people) in 2013.
How are you feeling ahead of the event? I’m not nervous yet, but I’m sure that will change as the event gets closer. Usually the nerves hit as I await the start and run through race strategies through my head.
“The most rewarding part will be the sense of accomplishment when I finally come out of the water on the Townsville shore and think to myself, “Wow, I just swam 8km”” – Claire Dowling
What’s it like being the youngest swimmer — does it have a special significance? I didn’t actually realise that I was the youngest solo competitor until now. Some people may think that I must be ‘talented’ to be able to swim such a big distance at my age, but I’m not actually that young to be doing something like this. When I went down to Nationals last year, there were girls in my age group for the 5km event who had raced 10km the day before and still finished in top places.
What will the most challenging aspect be? The mental side: I know that I’m physically capable of swimming the distance, however, it’s all about whether I can get in the right mindset to do it successfully.
What are you most looking forward to? The most rewarding part will be the sense of accomplishment when I finally come out of the water on the Townsville shore and think to myself, “Wow, I just swam 8km”.
Do you have a particular goal? Mainly to complete the race. I’m also aiming to do it in around 1hr 45min.
What are your top three ocean-swimming tips? Find someone’s feet and stay with them; go hard at the beginning to get a good start; and be brutal if you have to — i.e. don’t be afraid to ‘accidentally’ kick another swimmer (not you Dad!) [Claire’s Dad Brad is also doing the race as a team].
What training have you been doing in the lead-up? I’ve generally been training five or six times a week doing around 4km a session. I also row through my school [Townsville Grammar], which contributes to my fitness.
When did you start swimming? I started lessons at around the age of four and have trained at the same pool [Tobruk with coach Luc Senent] ever since.
What do you love about it? When I dive into the water I forget about everything that has happened that day and I concentrate on the present.
What’s your biggest swimming achievement to-date? It would have to be 12th place in the 5km at the National Open Water Championships.
What’s next for you? Not sure!
Peter Barty, 61
“My wife said — although she is extremely proud of me — she cannot understand why I want to swim this passage when you can buy a ferry ticket for just $20!”
Have you done the 8km solo Maggie Island swim before? This is my maiden voyage — I have considered it since I was the paddler for my nephew who did the swim four years ago.
How are you feeling ahead of the event? I do feel a little apprehensive, but with my preparation over the past two years I feel confident that I can complete the swim. Regardless of that fact, my wife said — although she is extremely proud of me — she cannot understand why I want to swim this passage when you can buy a ferry ticket for just $20!
What’s it like being the ‘most mature’ swimmer — does it have a special significance? I was not aware that I was the eldest competitor until last weekend. My goal was to complete the event in my 60th year (last year), however a four-metre croc foiled my plan, so I continued my preparation for this year’s event. Also, how good would it feel to beat a few of my younger rivals!
What will the most challenging aspect be? The monotony of being in the water for over two-and-a-half hours and the effect that the cold water might have on my body.
What are you most looking forward to? The beach on The Strand, my beautiful family, a hot coffee and — of course — the feeling of achievement. Not to forget the ‘Barty Party’ afterwards!
Do you have a particular goal with this event? To finish this event in less than 2hrs 37mins, which is the time it took my 35-year-old nephew, Ben Madden, four years ago — it’s a family thing. But mostly to complete the distance.
What are your top three ocean-swimming tips? To quote my old coach from 50 years ago, “Head down and bum up!”, following a straight line (I will be relying on my paddler Richie for this), and — lastly — don’t race.
What training have you been doing in the lead-up? Two years regular training with ‘Luc the Torturer’ at Tobruk Pool every week and maintaining a swimming base over the past 50 years.
When did you start swimming? When I was seven years old in the Mackay Swimming Club. I then moved to the Surf Lifesaving Club where I found the motivation to continue swimming into my later life.
What do you love about it? Swimming has introduced me to many lifelong friends and enables me to keep meeting motivated like-minded people.
What’s your biggest swimming achievement to-date? I’ve had varied achievements in swimming from winning several [Surf Life Saving Australia] Ironman events, success in masters swimming events, and now competing in my first Magnetic Island to Townsville event.
What’s next for you? A short rest and a few sleep ins!
Entries have closed for the 2016 Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim, but you can still watch all the action from The Strand beach (next to Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club) on Sunday, July 31. If that gets you keen; the Best of Magnetic Ocean Swim Classic is coming up on September 18 — check out our events calendar and the Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim Facebook page for more info.