Hinton: Largely unnoticed, Ross Edgley just made history
Mary Hinton | Wednesday, November 7, 2018
From August through January, football dominates the American sports stage. With the combination of college football and the NFL, networks have managed to spread the games — which used to be confined until the weekend — over the entire week, barely allowing smaller, alternate sporting events to have their time in the spotlight. For only a few nights in October, America’s original favorite pastime culminates in the World Series and captures the national attention, but even that non-football viewership can distract us from less-publicized but truly great athletic accomplishments.
Most of us are guilty of getting sucked in, strapping on these blinders and neglect to celebrate the athletic achievements made outside packed stadiums. This weekend was no exception. Mid-day Sunday, as a handful of NFL games simultaneously aired across the country, endurance athlete Ross Edgley made history, becoming the first person to swim around the coast of mainland Britain.
Edgley, 33, began his swim on June 1st, and had not set foot on dry land in 157 days, just over five months, or nearly an entire football season. He swam for 12 hours each day in order to complete the 1,792 mile quest, stopping only to eat and sleep in a small support boat that followed and directed the journey around his home country.
Alongside him was his support crew, husband and wife Matt and Suzanne Knight, on board their 52-foot catamaran Hecate. The instant Edgley boarded the boat every day, its location was recorded, and it would return to that exact point when the time came for Edgley to return to the water, thereby ensuring a continuous circumnavigation of 1,792 miles — about the same distance as London to Moscow by road.
While racing through shipping channels and ever-changing tides, he faced freezing temperatures and countless jellyfish stings, including a particularly bad encounter near the Gulf of Corryvreckan. “It was searing pain. I popped my head out to ask the crew what was happening and they told me it was still attached to my face. Its tentacles were caught in my goggles and it was slapping me in the face” Edgley recalled.
The treacherous journey also had plenty of high points, including swimming through the Bristol Channel in what he remembers as his favorite day. ”I had spent three days battling the strong tides when a minke whale breached next to me. For five miles it swam under me and to the side of me. It was a female and we think she thought she was guiding an injured seal.”
Edgley captured four separate world records during his excursion around Britain, including the record for the longest staged sea swim, which he broke on day 74, nearly two weeks before he would reach his halfway point.
This weekend, in the midst of football season in America, Ross Edgley reminded us, that athletic achievement happens beyond the AP poll, network TV coverage or million dollar contracts. Additionally, he reportedly consumed over 500 bananas throughout the epic adventure — Chiquita, if you’re looking for a new spokesmen, Ross Edgley is your guy.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.