Sea swimming group Bárurnar (the Waves) reached the coast of France yesterday after completing their relay swim across the English Channel. The trip took the six women 16 hours and four minutes in total, and its last part was against the clock and in choppy waters, as the weather was turning.
Bárurnar consists of Guðmunda Elíasdóttir, Elsa Valsdóttir, Sigríður Lárusdóttir, Harpa leifsdóttir, Jórunn Atladóttir, and Bjarnþóra Egilsdóttir. “We are just regular women, mothers and grandmothers,” Guðmunda told Iceland Review. “We’re no athletes or elite swimmers, just a group of middle-aged women.” While the idea to swim across the English Channel was first sparked some years ago, the group only started regular training last autumn.
“Some of us had a solid background in swimming,” Guðmunda noted. “While others were just starting to learn the front crawl stroke in August of last year!” Being regular women with regular lives, the group has its ups and downs, and last year, during preparations for the swim, one of its members got an ostomy bag. She did not let it interrupt her practices and became the first ostomate to cross the Channel. The group also includes two surgeons. With their relay swim, they want to raise awareness for the condition, inviting those who followed their travails to support the Icelandic Ostomy Association.
The shortest distance between the coasts of the UK and France is 34 km, but their route was a little longer as they had to swim with the heavy Channel currents amid high waves. The women swam 54 km in total, taking turns swimming for an hour at a time.
The group had its doubts about whether they would set off for their swim yesterday morning due to the bad weather forecast and their accompanying boat captain’s pessimism. Still, as it was the only feasible day in the seven-day window they had planned, they set off anyway. The six swimmers took turns swimming for one hour at a time while the other five tried to keep warm in the boat. The temperature of the water was about 13.5°c.