In 2011 a few amateur open water swimmers set out to cross the international border and swim the 25 mile length of Lake Memphremagog. Their mission: to promote a more open border with our Canadian friends and search for the lake’s legendary lake creature, Memphre.
Several years earlier, in 2003, La Traverse du Lac Memphremagog, the storied pro swim that had crossed the lake for decades, suspended cross border swimming following 9/11, believing that the border could not be crossed under the new era of border security. But on the tenth anniversary weekend of 9/11, a small band of Americans, led by Elaine Kornbau Howley, Greg O’Connor, Liz Fry, and Charlotte Brynn, set out from Newport City Dock at midnight, swimming into the night, facing fierce headwinds, crossed the 25-mile length of the lake and, with the cooperation of Canadian and US border officials, reopened Lake Memphremaogog to cross-border swimming.
In 2017, 50 ultra-marathon amateur swimmers are scheduled to bust the border, even as pro swimming sadly ends its presence on this lake.
Swimming the 25-mile length of Lake Memphremagog between Magog, QC and Newport, VT has a rich history and some epic moments. Just ask Shelley Taylor Smith who gunned down men and women over the course of a decade and set the female record for the distance at 8 hours and 35 minutes. Or Billy Conner who, in 1955 became the first person to swim the length of the lake, swimming through a thunderstorm in the dead of night, supported by a couple of row boats, and befriended by a lake creature in finding his way back into the swim after he became lost. Or the amateur, ultra-marathon swimmers who fought through fierce headwinds and led the pack in opening up amateur swimming the length of the Lake in 2011. Amateur swimmers have been busting through the border every September since then. (With the help and support of officials on both sides of the border, we should add.) And of course, there’s the 50-mile double cross by Sarah Thomas in 2013 and the 46-mile double cross attempt by Ray Gandy the year before (which was abruptly terminated just 4 miles from the finish by a freak, spot, furious thunderstorm that came from nowhere and went nowhere and lasted all of about 10 minutes)
Recently, there have been a couple of articles about international swimming on Lake Memphremagog, one on the legacy of La Traverse by Steven Munatones in the Daily News of Open Water Swimming and one that also includes a rich discussion of amateur swimming on the lake by Elaine Kornbau Howley in Outdoor Swimmer. We have prepared a YouTube slideshow In Search of Memphre.
There is bitter and sweet in 2017 on this mighty lake.
This is the year that ultra-marathon pro swimming out of Magog, Quebec, La Traverse International du Lac Memphremagog is officially closing its doors and selling off its assets. It is the end of a proud and epic era in professional open water swimming on our lake.
But it is also the year that ultra-marathon amateur swimming on Lake Memphremagog comes of age.
In Search of Memphre, which started in 2011, grows and expands. This year’s September swim is almost filled to its capacity with 8 swimmers with room for just two more. And mid-July 25 mile individual solo swims have been added. In addition, the 25 km Border Buster at Kingdom Swim has grown from 7 swimmers in its first year in 2014 to 40 swimmers signed up for this year with room for just 2 more. The 15 mile Georgeville or Bust was inaugurated last year with three swimmers and continues again this year.
Chartering of individual solo swims started with Ray Gandy’s swim in 2012 and Craig Lenning’s swim in 2014. Last year, we launched and supported three individual swims: a charity relay swim the length of the lake, Swim for Hope and two new cross border swims, Ile Ronde and Skinner Island (Smuggler’s Cave).
We are sad to see the end of pro swimming on Lake Memphremagog. At the same time, we are totally psyched to see long distance, cross border, amateur swimming continues to grow year-by-year.
Lake Memphremagog Cross Border Rosters as of May 7, 2017
July 15, 2017 – 15 Mile Georgeville or Bust – Cap of 3
1. Sue-ellen Booher, 64, Warren, VT
2. Linda Stewart, 29, Twinsburg, OH
July 18, 19, and 20, 2017, Window for 25 Mile July Individual Solo Swims
1. Charlotte Brynn, 51, Stowe, VT
July 29, 2017 25 km Border Buster – Cap of 40
1. Ingrid Bon, 47, Boca Raton, FL
2. Nadine Bennett, 44, Ottawa, ON
3. Daniel Shub, 68, Baltimore, MD
4. Mary Stabinsky, 40, Plains, PA
5. James Schall, 56, Kingston, PA
6. Sara Swenson, 40, Herndon, VA
7. Gayla Chalmers, 52, Athens, GA
8. Vera Rivard, 12, Springfield, NH
9. Sam McNair, 54, Monteagle, TN
10. John Copeland, 36, Morton Grove, IL
11. Stephen Rauch, 37, Indianapolis. IN
12. Patricia Clark, 57, Worcester, MA
13. Paula Yankauskas, 62, Hyde Park, VT
14. Charlotte, Brynn, 51, Stowe, VT
15. Mark Spratt, 60, Indianapolis, IN
16. Thomas Hintz, 51, Marshall, IL
17. Erin O’Leary, 36, Jacksonville, FL
18. Mitchel Schoenfeld, 64, Fall City, WA
19. Sue-ellen Booher, 64, Warren, VT
20. Trephina Galloway, 44, Atlanta, GA
21. Kent Nicholas, 50, Mesa, AZ
22. Tiffany McQueen. 44, Helendale, CA
23. David Sugar, 38, Baltimore, MD
24. Mina Elnacash, 40. Somerville, MA
25. Zachery Blount, 23, Sewanee, TN
26. Lori Carena, 63, Brooklyn, NY
27. Patty Hermann, 57, Houston, TX
28. Joseph Zemaitis, 37, Scottsdale, AZ
29. Jen Olsen, 46, Millis, MA
30. Greg Kohut, Ansonia, CT
31. Sandra Frimmerman-Berquist, 34, Excelsior, MN
32. Anders Jakobsson, 50, Virginia Beach, VA
33 Katarina English, 29, Providence, RI
34. Amanda Hunt, 48, Naperville, IL
35. Bill Shipp, ageless, Mitchelville, MD
36. Abigail Fairman, 40, New York, NY
37. Patrick McDermot, 52, Salem, NH
38. Christopher Graefe, 43, Jamaica Plain, MA
39. Daneila Klaz, 25, Jamaica Plain, MA
40. Amy Gubser, CA
August 24, 25, 26 Window for individual solo swims
September 11, 2017, In Search of Memphre – Cap 10
1. Annette Wooddell, 51, Brandywine, MD
2. Cynthia Werhane, 48, Portland, OR
3. Shannon Keegan, 40, Talent, OR
4. Kate Howell, 33, Healdsburg, CA
5. Emily Evans, 39, Flagstaff, AZ
6. Katie Blair, 37, Colorado Springs, CO
7. John Batchelder, 36. Littleton, CO
8. Cynthia Walsh, 54, San Diego, CA
2018 - Swimming the length of the lake
1. Katrina Price, 44, Thames, NZ
2. Charlotte Brynn, 51, Stowe, VT
1. Nelson Villatoro, Montgomery Village, MD