Song of the Wave

William Shipp Completes the 2012 In Search of Memphre Swim; Over $12,000 Raised for IROC

By Annamarya Scaccia

recap 2The search began at 12:12 a.m. on September 8. Seven swimmer scouts broke the water of Lake Memphremagog, front crawling their way to Canada. It was an expedition that started under the blanket of calm but roared into ravenous conditions.

If nothing else, the 2012 In Search of Memphre Swim was madly exhilarating.

Prince Georgian William Shipp and six other open water marathon swimmers took on the 25-mile international stretch of the lake between Newport, Vermont and Magog, Quebec this weekend in order to promote a more open border, raise money for Vermont’s Indoor Recreation Orleans County (IROC), which provides health and exercise programs to people living with serious illnesses, as well as cancer patients and survivors, and—of course—search for the elusive lake creature, Memphre. This year, the swim raised over $12,000.

“The Memphre swim is an awesome experience,” says the 52-year-old Shipp, managing partner at Calverton’s law firm of O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore. “I was exhausted but satisfied. Your body is drained and totally fatigued. But I was thrilled to have finished strong in an event of this difficulty.”

recap 2The legal professional from Mitchellville finished in 12 hours and 36 minutes, coming in second after New York’s David Dammerman, who finished first at 11 hours and 27 minutes. The last swimmer, Aurora Gore of Illinois, reached Canadian sand in 15 hours and 45 minutes to the vibrant cheer of swimmers, crew members, IROC staff, volunteers, loved ones and even a wedding party.

At the start, conditions were almost ideal, with air temperatures fairly warm and surface water temperatures rising to 72 degrees past the turn north of the lake’s Owl’s Head area. Throughout the night, wind was gentle, with the half-moon clear and towering in the sky, allowing the first six hours of night swimming to move smoothly. By daybreak, the swimmers were going stronger than ever.

But after the first 20 miles of the swim, Lake Memphremagog decided to take the swimmers for a whirl spin. While wind picked up at the 17-mile mark, it wasn’t until the scouts were two miles out of Magog—by Three Sisters Islands—that conditions turned wild. Wind was bellowing at 25 mph, with 35 mph gusts, and massive waves reached four feet. Due to these challenging elements, the scouts’ escort boats fought to stay afloat, and swimmer Lisa Fry’s crew had to pull back.

With 200 yards left, swimmers did not only have to compete with their own bodies, but also sail borders and kite boarders enjoying the late summer weather at the lake’s Canadian side. In fact, Shipp was almost hit head on by a sailboard that seemed to travel at over 30 mph, even as two boats attempted to protect him.

recap 3“It was a big surprise to look up and see it coming towards me. You really have a very limited awareness of what’s going on around you. That’s why it’s so important to have an escort boat,” he says. “But it happened so fast, I guess I didn’t have time to react too much. When he whizzed by, I just looked over at my crew with a look as if to say ‘Did you see that!’ But then I had to get back to the task of getting to the finish line.”

In the end, Shipp was able to complete his second attempt, and plans on participating in next year’s In Search of Memphre Swim, either as a scout or as a crew member.

“The sport of open water swimming offers a multitude of swims at numerous distances and temperatures,” says Shipp. “There truly is a swim for everyone. With proper training and preparation open water swimming is an extremely challenging and satisfying sport that swimmers of all ages can enjoy.”

Photos by Phil White
Published on Prince George’s Suite – Friday, September 14, 2012

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