BRIDGETOWN (Reuters) – Endurance athlete Cameron Bellamy, still recovering from the exertions of the longest open ocean swim in history, is keen to get back in the water but will return to his rowing roots for his next adventure.
The 37-year-old South African spent days in hospital after enduring severe sleep deprivation, acute overheating, “salt mouth” and extreme fatigue. He is still battling with his tongue and lips after 56 hours and 26 minutes in the water as he swam from Barbados to St Lucia from Sept 13-15.
At 151.7 km (94 miles) it was the longest distance for an open ocean swim.
However, Bellamy says he cannot claim to have beaten Chloe McCardel’s world record of 124.4km set in the Bahamas five years ago because of the currents that assisted him towards the end of the race and for the fact he wore a protective suit for three hours after being stung by a jellyfish.
“The toughest aspect of this swim was the heat, both water and air. On the second day leading up to the middle part of the swim there was absolutely no wind, the air temperature must have been in the mid 30 degrees Celsius and water temp around the same,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I was incredibly dizzy and weak and if it wasn’t for the encouragement of my support crew, who instantly noticed my plight and acted by handing me a lot more ice in my drinks and shortening my time between feeds, I think I might not have made it further.
“Once I had St Lucia in my sights, after swimming through a relatively cooler second night, it was a different story. I knew I could make it and pushed myself further than I could ever have imagined.
“With about one kilometer to go, the tide was against us and it meant an agonizing push to a rocky outcrop attached to the shore beneath a majestic cliff. An amazing place to complete the swim.”
He was hospitalized straight away, treated for severe muscle breakdown and toxicity of his blood, swelling of mouth area, and sunburn. He was discharged after 48 hours and has spent the last week relaxing in Barbados before heading to his home in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Bellamy will submit his achievement to the Barbados Amateur Swimming Association and Marathon Swimmers’ Federation for ratification but now has another feat on his mind – something he will start working on straight away.
“It’s something that is in the advanced planning stages but I’ll be going back to my rowing roots,” he said, hoping to finalize details in the coming months.
Bellamy rowed for South Africa at the U-23 World Championships in Belgrade in 2003 and the World University Rowing Championships in France in 2004.
Five years ago he was part of a six-man crew that rowed an unassisted 6,720km across the Indian Ocean from Australia to the Seychelles in a world record-setting 57 days.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge