By Justin Bercovich
This Saturday, 12 members of the UC Santa Cruz swim team will take turns swimming 26 miles across the Monterey Bay in the seventh annual Ian Carney Memorial Transbay Swim.
The team will begin at sunrise on Saturday, while the substitute swimmers will accompany them on kayaks and boats. The water temperature is expected to be in the high 40s and low 50s. Rotating every 20 minutes, the swimmers will huddle together between shifts to keep warm while keeping an eye out for sharks and other unwanted visitors.
No Great Whites have been encountered in the past, but if the situation arises, the swimmers will immediately be pulled up onto the boat.
"I’ve heard that people have seen sharks before and I know that last year we saw three humpback whales less than 100 feet away from our boat," team captain Jason Martin said. "It’s pretty intense."
According to team coach Kim Musch, the team occasionally spots 400 pound starfish, however jellyfish are a bigger concern. Last year’s swimmers had to absorb a number of jellyfish stings because participants do not wear wetsuits. The team carries vinegar and ammonia to help with the jellyfish stings.
Martin doesn’t think that wildlife will be his biggest problem.
"The biggest obstacle will be trying to stay warm when you’re not swimming," Martin said. "I’m not really looking forward to the cold water."
Junior swimmer Erin Hunter agreed with Martin.
"I’m just nervous about being cold," Hunter said. "I’m not afraid of anything in the water. It’s challenging to make yourself jump into really really cold water."
Despite the low temperatures, Hunter is eagerly anticipating the event. "It’s something that you won’t ever get to experience anywhere else."
Coach Musch was inspired to create the event by Cindy Cleveland, a woman who swam the entire distance from Santa Cruz to Monterey in 1980.
"That was the single most phenomenal athletic event that I’ve seen and been a part of," said Musch, who was a member of Cleveland’s support crew. "For these kids to do just a sixth of what she did tells these kids just how tough she was."
The event, the team’s biggest fundraiser of the year, is named after former UCSC swimmer Ian Carney, who participated in the event before his death in a hiking accident in 2005.
The event usually raises between $6,000 and $8,000, but this year, Musch has set a goal of $10,000.
At the conclusion of the event, the team will begin to gear up for November’s Speedo Cup, their first competition of the year. Musch believes that the team has incredible potential. "Last year’s team was the best that we’ve ever had, but this year’s team is by far even better than last year," he said. "We should break a number of team records."