The 4th Sognefjord Swim Festival was hosted in Norway last weekend in one of the most majestic swimming pools in the world, the Sognefjord. The festival was a swimming success for participants, organisers and onlookers. This year's festival focused upon international friendship and clean water. Guest of honour was the world-class swimmer Martin Strel from Slovenia. Strel is an extreme swimmer known for his swims along the most polluted and dangerous rivers in the world, including the Yangtze, Mississippi and Amazon.
During the festival, Strel gave a presentation and answered questions about his swim along the Amazon. His film about his Amazon swim recently won the award for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary will be launched at the beginning of September in Britain.
During the festival, Strel also participated in the Sognefjord Challenge, a 3.7 km swim across the deepest fjord in the world. The swim starts from Borlaug in the municipality of Vik and ends at the headland of Nokkaneset by the Sognefjord Hotel in the municipality of Leikanger.
вЂ“ There is only one problem with the water in this fjord, it is too clean! declared Strel with a grin having reached the finish at Nokkaneset.
British swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh's record of being the fastest man to complete the swim wearing only swimming trunks, goggles and swimming cap from 2006 still stands. Lithuanian Nikolajus Bagdanavicius missed beating Pugh's record of 56 minutes and 39 seconds by a mere 16 seconds. Big River Man, Martin Strel, swam across the fjord at a leisurely pace in 1 hour and 16 minutes.
Second place in the non-wetsuit category was claimed by British amateur swimmer John Bancroft Clark, who made a strong crossing in an impressive 1 hour, 12 minutues and 8 seconds. The fastest female swimmer to cross the fjord was Britta Uhde from Germany who completed the swim in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 11 seconds.
The fastest wetsuit swimmer across was Norwegian Erik Sørensen from Larvik who completed the swim effortlessly in just 49 minutes and 42 seconds.
Conditions for the crossing were good for all the fjord swimmers. The Sogneford held an average water temperature of 17 degrees, and with very little wind and just a few rain showers, all 29 swimmers that set off from the south side of the fjord made it across the Sognefjord. The prize for the slowest swimmer was awarded to Peter Fjørtoft from Ålesund in Norway. He rang the finishing bell at Nokkaneset on the north side of the Sognefjord after 2 hours and 22 minutes.
More than just swimming
– It has been an extremely successful festival, smiled festival manager Sarah Jane Hails on the last day of the festival. Originally from England, Hails has developed the festival with local villagers over the past five years. She was herself the first woman to swim across the Sognefjord in 2004.
The Sognefjord Swim Festival lasts three days and brings together three fjord villages normally separated by the mighty fjord. This year's festival kicked off on Friday 7th August with the Kayak Challenge, a 6 km kayak race from the village of Hermansverk on the north side of the fjord to the hamlet of Feios on the south side. As a warm-up and introduction to the festival, locals and visitors were treated to talks by Big River Man Martin Strel and the President of the International Winter Swimming Association, Mariia Yjrö Koskinen. Activities such as bad-taste bathing brought a smile and loosened up the swimming shoulders to those gathered by the shores of the spectacular fjord.
The Sognefjord Swim Festival is a treat for families too. The last day of the festival, organised in Balestrand, proved to be a sunny and fun-filled swimmer's delight. More than 50 swimmers ranging from 8 to 72 years of age swam the Mini Challenge, a 400 metre swim across the fairytale like Esefjord in Balestrand. There was also a fjord blessing with local priest Audun Systad, relay races in front of the historic Kvikne's Hotel and social After Swim activities.
World Winter Swimming Championships in Sogn?
– It has been an exceptional festival amid breathtaking scenery, commented Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, President of the International Winter Swimming Association, IWSA. She is on the hunt for the host of the World Winter Swimming Championships 2014, and she has her eye on Sogn in Norway. вЂ“ This is a a perfect arena to gather more than one thousand cold water swimmers, she enthused. The next winter swimming world championships be held in Lake Bled, Slovenia in January 2010.