Swimming: Coronavirus pandemic sees adventurer Bellamy switch challenges

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Adventurer Cameron Bellamy’s bid to break the record for the longest swim has been put on hold by the novel coronavirus but being stuck at home during the pandemic has only increased his list of goals.

The 37-year-old South African has over the last six months completed the longest open ocean channel swim and then rowed, with five others, across one of the most treacherous stretches of water.

Fresh from completing some 800km across Drake Passage, from the tip of South America to Antarctica, Bellamy had next set his sights on the longest unassisted swim across Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

It runs some 180km from one end to the other and would have allowed Bellamy to break Sarah Thomas’s record of 168.3km across Lake Champlain, on the Canada-U.S. border.

He set out from his San Francisco base to train in Cape Town, where he grew up, and then Australia before the coronavirus outbreak but being locked down for five weeks along with the rest of South Africa, meant Bellamy had to put those plans on hold.

More than 2.14 million people have been reported to be infected by the new coronavirus globally and 143,744 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

The pandemic meant Bellamy also had to shelve his project to swim across Issyk-Kul but time stuck indoors has got him thinking.

“I’d like to now try a really cool swim in South Africa, maybe around the Cape Peninsula or a stage swim from Port Elizabeth to East London, or both,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Either would be arduous in freezing waters at great peril.


Bellamy, a former international rower, spent days in hospital in September after enduring severe sleep deprivation, acute overheating, ‘salt mouth’ and extreme fatigue after 56 hours swimming 151km from Barbados to St Lucia.

But within three months he was off again, rowing for 12 days from Cape Horn to Antarctica for another world first.

“I really enjoy training my body to do these extreme things. Initially, at the outset, the goals I have seem insurmountable. However, when you start training and, bit by bit, feel yourself getting stronger you realise the body is capable of anything,” he said.

“I love the actual events too. There’s no better feeling than standing on a beach looking out over the ocean and knowing you have to swim 150mkm through unchartered waters and uncertain obstacles until you reach land.”

Bellamy, who has 10 different world records to his name,a added that he was coping through the lockdown.

“We have a small pool and I’ve created a mechanism whereby I tie my feet to elastic chords and swim in place for an hour at a time. Most afternoons my brother and I do a body weight workout in the garden. Otherwise I’m working quite hard doing remote work for my company.”

But Bellamy said he had not forgotten about the Kyrgyzstan project. That is now planned for mid-August next year.

Editing by Ken Ferris