Kings County residents preparing for Big Swim 2014

Two women among 50 swimmers who will swim Northumberland Strait for charity

John Decoste
Published on August 8, 2014

On a map, the distance from Cap Jourimain, N.B. to Borden-Carleton, P.E.I. is about 14 kilometres.

The crossing takes around 15 minutes on the Confederation Bridge. Swimming the distance takes a whole lot longer, and requires a whole lot more endurance.

On Aug. 17, 50 swimmers will brave the distance as a fundraiser for Camp Brigadoon, a non-profit camp located at Aylesford Lake that is committed to bettering the lives of children and families living with chronic illness.

Aylesford native Beth Hamilton, 24, and Greenwood resident Sarah O’Reilly, 19, are among the participants in Big Swim 2014.

Hamilton did the Big Swim last year, while this will be the first time for O’Reilly. The two have been training together in preparation.

Read about Big Swim 2013.

“As soon as I hit the shore on P.E.I., I wanted to do it again the next day,” Hamilton said. “It was such an overwhelming feeling. You forgot all the hard work and other stuff that went into it.”

Both Hamilton and O’Reilly previously swam competitively with the Greenwood Dolphins.

“Our former coach, Janice Beaver, does triathlons.  She suggested I enter the swim (in 2013), and I talked her into doing it with me,” Hamilton said.

O’Reilly saw the journey the two were taking and was immediately interested.

“The way they described it, it sounded like a fun challenge, and something I thought I’d like to be a part of,” she said.

O’Reilly swam with the Dolphins for nine years, followed by three years of coaching and lifeguarding.

“My whole life has revolved around swimming,” she said. “My biggest challenge will be swimming in the ocean instead of a pool.”

Hamilton was also inspired by three Brigadoon employees that are taking part this year.

“Some are even learning to swim to do it. I was a competitive swimmer for eight years, and also coached. I can understand the commitment they’re making,” she said.


Big endeavour

Each swimmer will be accompanied by a kayaker during the Big Swim.

“They’re our first line of response, and they’ll carry all our supplies. They keep us on track, and when we take the breaks we’re allowed, we can hang onto the kayak,” Hamilton said.

The route starts almost under the bridge.

“The current pulls you out, then in toward the bridge. You’re basically underneath and alongside the bridge. It gives you a whole new appreciation of the bridge structure” and particularly its magnitude, she added.

The distance across the strait varies depending on the route and the currents involved. Last year Hamilton ended up swimming 15.87 km.

“My longest training swim was eight kilometres. You’d expect your shoulders would be the sorest, but for me, it was my abs,” she said. 

She completed the distance in four hours, 57 minutes.

“That’s almost five hours of swimming.  We were allowed to stop every kilometre. You can hang on to the boat, but you’re not allowed to stop moving.”


Looking forward to the challenge

O’Reilly said she’s “really looking forward to it,” and is very excited.

“I was nervous at first, but once I did eight kilometres in training, I started to feel better,” she said.

Swimming in itself, she said, isn’t going to be a challenge. “Swimming that distance, and in the ocean, will be a challenge,” she said.

“It’s an advantage to train for something like this with someone who has done it before. Beth and I have known each other for a while, but we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better through this.”

Hamilton said she’s most excited this time is to see the reaction of the people she’s trained with, like O‘Reilly, when they reach P.E.I.

As of Aug. 5, the, Big Swim had raised over $219,000 for Brigadoon. At approximately $1,000 per child, that will help 219 children go to camp.