The Swim

In 1955 Margaret Sweeney from Auckland became the first person to swim across Lake Taupo. This still stands as a huge achievement as only a relatively small number of other swimmers over the next 61 years have completed the swim.

There are now (as at 27 February 2017) 41 swimmers who have completed the big Lake Taupo swim. 47 successful swims in all. 9 of these swims were with wetsuits, so they have been split out into their own section (as in the marathon swimming world wearing a wetsuit voids the swim from a records perspective).

4 people have swum the lake on more than one occasion (John Coutts, Sandra Blewitt, Phil Rush and Ben Campbell-Macdonald). Only two people have been crazy enough to complete a double crossing (Sandra Blewitt and Phil Rush).

The fastest crossing was in 1985 by the legendary Kiwi distance swimmer Phil Rush (10hrs 14minutes). He also holds the record for the fastest double crossing (23hrs 05minutes).

The youngest person to complete the challenge is Kaine Thompson – he had just turned 14 when he took on the big lake.

Here’s the full honour roll for the Lake Taupo Marathon Swim:

Date Name Time Direction Comments Gender
1955 Margaret Sweeney (Auckland) 13:29:00 s-n First crossing (started at Stump Bay
pine tree and swam to steps
along from Yacht club)
F
Jan 1977 Patrick Cox (Taupo) 12:54:00 s-n M
1977 Bill Rout (Cambridge) 11:31:00 s-n M
25 Feb 1978 John Coutts (Napier) 10:47:00 s-n All swam short course” in first NZ
Marathon swim series
M
25 Feb 1978 Chris Hurdley (Auckland) 10:47:00 s-n M
25 Feb 1978 Sandra Blewitt (Auckland) 10:47:00 s-n F
25 Feb 1978 Patrick Benson (Hastings) 10:47:00 s-n M
16 Feb 1980 Mohammed El Meseery (Egypt) 12:43:00 s-n Second NZ Marathon swim series in
30-35 knot SE winds
M
16 Feb 1980 Philip Rush (Dunedin) 12:52:00 s-n M
16 Feb 1980 John Coutts (Napier) 12:55:00 s-n M
16 Feb 1980 Carolyn Wordsworth (Dunedin) 14:08:00 s-n F
16 Feb 1980 Rhonda Smidt (Napier) 15:18:00 s-n F
8 Mar 1980 Belinda Shields (Auckland) 15:58:00 s-n F
1981 John Coutts (Napier) 11:39:00 n-s First double attempt, first n-s M
12 Feb 1983 Sheryl McClay (Wellington) 11:58:00 s-n F
1984 Karen Bisley (Wellington) 10:40:00 s-n Short course (Stump Bay) F
Feb 1984 Michael Quinlivan (Christchurch) ??:??:?? ?? Stump bay ? M
14 Jan 1985 Philip Rush (Lower Hutt) 23:05:00 n-s-n Double crossing M
10 Mar 1985 Philip Rush (Lower Hutt) 10:14:58 s-n Long course Little Waihi to Yacht club M
27 Feb 1986 Sandra Blewitt (Auckland) 33:21:00 n-s-n Double crossing F
14 Jan 1987 Ingrid Greenslade (Wellington) 11:52:00 s-n F
20 Mar 1988 Stephen Rainbow (Auckland) 11:42:00 s-n M
15 Mar 1990 Kaine Thompson (Lower Hutt) 11:13:58 s-n (DOB 26/02/1976) M
8 Feb 2002 Trish Coley (Wellington) 18:39:51 s-n F
9 Feb 2002 Corry Decker (Taupo) 13:19:25 s-n F
Jan 2007 Blain Cox (Taupo) 16:01:00 s-n Stump bay M
24 Feb 2008 Jason Papps (Wellington) 12:38:10 n-s Long course M
11 Mar 2008 Anna Marshall (Wellington) 11:26:58 s-n Long course F
?? Mar 2009 Ben Campbell-Macdonald (Wellington) 11:45:?? s-n Long course M
2 Apr 2010 Stephanie Bennington (Wellington) 11:54:00 s-n Long course F
2 Mar 2011 Pam Dickson (Rotorua) 13:54:00 s-n Long course F
25 Feb 2013 Casey Glover (Wellington) 10:52:48 s-n Long course M
16 Feb 2014 Katrina Price (Thames) 14:45:46 s-n Long course F
22 Feb 2015 Simon Olliver (Christchurch) 14:50:00 s-n Long course M
21 Mar 2015 Heather Osbourne (Tauranga) 15:37:45 s-n Long course F
8 Feb 2016 Holly Cassin (Christchurch) 15:51:15 s-n Long course F
22 Feb 2016 Mike Cochrane (Auckland) 14:29:53 s-n Long course M
15 Feb 2017 Kim Sherwen (Christchurch) 12:31:?? s-n Long course F
26 Feb 2017 Samuel Muir-James (??) 14:58:03 s-n Long course M

Note: Blain Cox made his crossing on the 30th anniversary of his father Patrick’s swim.

As this is the first time a full list has been compiled there may be errors or omissions. Thanks to those that have contributed to it, and for everyone else out there, if you have more information about these swimmers and their Taupo swim experiences – please leave a comment on one of my posts and I’ll be able to get back to you.

Check out: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/open-water-swimming/3
This site has a great picture of Margaret Sweeney at the end of her marathon swim across the lake, showing just how tough this challenge is.

The Course: (note that this map now does match a long swim course…from Little Waihi to the Taupo Yacht club beach)

the big swim

And here is our list of swimmers that wore wetsuits to complete their challenge:

Date Name Time Direction Comments Gender
9 Feb 2001 Derek Smith (Masterton) 14:12:47 s-n Wetsuit long course M
10 Feb 2001 Peter Cook (Taupo) 13:12:19 s-n Wetsuit long course M
8 Feb 2002 Harvey Steffens (Wellington) 18:34:45 s-n Wetsuit M
13 Feb 2004 Mike Moggridge (Wellington) 12:41:02 s-n Wetsuit M
13 Feb 2004 Richard Jongens (Lower Hutt) 12:41:02 s-n Wetsuit M
10 Apr 2008 Ben Campbell-Macdonald (Wellington) 9:43:00 s-n Wetsuit Long course M
1 Mar 2011 Greg Sharp (Auckland) 13:19:45 s-n Wetsuit Long Course M
27 Jan 2013 Paul Feltoe (New Plymouth) 13:30:?? s-n Wetsuit Long Course M
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9 responses to “The Swim

  1. Was there a marathon swimming race over Lake Taupo? Dawn to Dusk?
    Any chance of it returning?

    • Hi there,
      Yes indeed the ‘Dawn to Dusk’ event did exist across Lake Taupo. This was before my time on the lake – but my coach Ali Dennis knows a lot more about it than I do. There are still a few boat skippers on the lake that remember it too. I’m not sure when the last event was held, but it can’t have been long into the 2000’s. The main focus of the Dawn to Dusk event was relays – and I think there were some speedy teams over the years.
      I doubt it will ever be back – the logistics would be pretty full on, and it would take an organiser with a great deal of passion for it to fly.

      Only option at the moment is to go it alone.

      Cheers
      Anna

  2. Hello in 1984 Michael Quinlivan of Christchurch conquered the lake end to end also. It was in February, he had also conquered Fouveax and Cook Strait as well as Wakatipu.

  3. I swam that Dawn to Dusk as part of one of Ali Dennis’ teams in 2000 (I think). Took our team of 6 about 14+ hours. The winners were a lot quicker.

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  5. Great job organizing these records! What a valuable resource. Question: for swims where the ‘Comment’ column doesn’t indicate short course or long course, does that mean the swimmer’s specific route is unknown (aside from N-S or S-N) ? Was the 2nd NZ marathon swim series also short course (like the 1st), or is that also unknown? Thanks for any info.

    • Hi Evan,
      Thanks for your kind words – and to answer your question, if that comment column is blank then we don’t know for sure whether they did the short course (starting at Stump Bay) or the long course (starting from the DOC beach near Little Waihi). I am not sure about the 2nd NZ marathon swim series, but I could ask Phil Rush whether he can remember.

      There are a few people lined up to give the long course, or 40.2 challenge a go this season, so I’ll be hoping to keep the records going.

      Cheers
      Anna

      • Thanks, Anna. We have a similar situation in California, with Lake Tahoe (the lengthwise swim is the same distance as the Lake Taupo “short course”, albeit at 1900m elevation). The first known crossing was in 1955, with 40-or-so successful swims since then. Unfortunately, until recently the record-keeping has been spotty, with several different routes and lots of hazy memories. So I understand the challenge!

        Just a couple small things I noticed on your list —

        – Sandra Blewett (not Blewitt)
        – Heather Osborne (not Osbourne)
        – Sheryl McLay (not McClay)

        cheers, evan

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