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8 Bridges Swim Continues In The Hudson River

A 120-mile Hudson River swim is in progress, having started in the Catskills June 26 with plans to end Sunday at the mouth of New York City harbor. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has more on the marathon swim that heads from the Bear Mountain Bridge to the Tappan Zee Bridge today.

That’s the Launch 5 patrol boat pulling away from a marina at the Shattemuc Yacht Club in Ossining around 6 a.m., taking swimmers to the Bear Mountain Bridge. The swimmers hope to finish the day at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Speaking from the Launch 5 escorting the swimmers later in the morning, Race Director Rondi Davies says this stage is probably the most difficult.

“Kind of a bit of a brutal stage,” says Davies. “Not many people tend to finish this stage if they don’t have the speed.”

She says the difficulty in swimming from the Bear Mountain Bridge to the Tappan Zee is the length, nearly 20 miles, and predicted headwinds will slow an already slow current even more, working against the swimmers. Janine Serell swam stages three and four. She’s offering support on the boat for this fifth stage.

“The river really opens up and it’s a longer stage so you need to be faster, which I’m getting every year, surprisingly, but I’m not quite fast enough yet,” says Serell. “I’m hoping to do this whole thing over the course of my lifetime.”

Swimmers have 9-10 hours to complete this fifth stage and have to steer clear of construction on the new Tappan Zee. 

“We all joke about the Hudson being… we call her a woman and she’s the mighty Hudson and we respect her and whatever she throws at us we accept,” says Clifford. “It’s really hard to tell daily. You never really know what you’re going to get until you’re in it.”

Devon Clifford is one of the 59 swimmers participating in at least one stage of the sixth annual seven-day, seven-stage 8 Bridges Hudson River swim. The swim began at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Clifford hopes to complete the entire course. Seven began with this intention but five were unable to complete stage two, from the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to the Mid-Hudson Bridge. 

“Day two was really hard because the current shifted on us and we fought it for a good couple hours at the end,” Clifford says.

Beth and Pat Watson stood on the dock seeing off their 38-year-old son Mark, of Brooklyn, offering their thoughts on his participation.

(Pat Watson laughs) “I would hope he survives.”(laughs)

“You always cross your fingers and say… He ultimately would like to do the English Channel which is daunting, a totally daunting thought,” says Beth Watson.

Clifford, of Mamaroneck, in Westchester County, says this race is particularly gratifying because it’s in her home waters.

“When you can look up, it’s so scenic, it’s so beautiful. It’s really enjoyable to be in the Hudson,” says Clifford. “And getting closer to Manhattan, too, is great because you kind of know where you are based on sights and stuff in the city, so it’s fun, it makes it a fun event.”

Rondi Davies, who co-organizes the event in collaboration with New York Open Water, says her favorite area along the swim is through the Hudson Highlands, with its fjord-like passages and Bannerman’s Castle. And Davies says the day of that stage was a swimmer’s delight — sunny, flat water and strong currents pushing the strokes along. Overall, she hopes swimming in the Hudson draws awareness to the River as a resource to be enjoyed and protected.

Saturday, swimmers will leave from the Tappan Zee and finish at the George Washington Bridge and Sunday, the finish line is the Verrazano Narrows Bridge — the entrance to New York Harbor.  

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