Musings from my Summer of Open Water Swimming

Contributed by Jennifer Downing, NEM-CRM

SAA Boston Harbor Swim

My favorite day of the year happens each July—the Swim Across America (SAA) Boston Harbor Swim. This year’s event was particularly special in that we honored long-time Event Director extraordinaire and my dear friend, Kitty Tetrault, after 30 years of incredible service. When Kitty asks you to help the only answer is “of course!,” so I promised I’d be back from my family vacation in time. Each swimmer is asked to raise at least $2,000 to help fund quality-of-life clinical research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and pediatric oncology research at Mass General Hospital for Children Cancer Center. Collectively we raised over $260,000 this year for these terrific institutions.

The Harbor Swim takes the form of a “relay” with two boats dropping their 8-12 swimmers in alternating, 15-minute heats over the course of the day. While most swimmers complete 4-5 heats on average, a select number of participants are designated as “angel swimmers,” meaning that they volunteer to do extra heats and keep any swimmers company who may be less comfortable in the ocean. I was lucky enough to complete 15 heats as an angel swimmer this year, totaling just over three hours in the water. Mother Nature gave us a bit of everything: the morning started with fog and misty drizzle, but by the return leg we had blue skies and sunshine. We also had the benefit of a strong tide on the way out, so we arrived at the Boston Light very quickly and were able to enjoy a more leisurely trip past Georges, Lovells, Gallops, Long, and Spectacle Island as the weather improved. Major kudos and thanks to Kitty for a stellar career, and please consider coming out to one of the Boston-area SAA events in the future!

Kitty Tetrault

Kitty Tetrault

SAA swimmers making their way back to Boston

SAA swimmers making their way back to Boston

Misery Challenge


Two days after SAA Boston Harbor, I headed north to the 5th Annual Misery Challenge, a multi-sport event offering a 3-mile or 1.5-mile swim (new this year), SUP, row, or kayak. Each year Race Director Josh Crosby makes this event bigger and better, bringing in local sponsors and raising awareness for Humans for Oceans. The event is named for Misery Island in Manchester, MA and the swim consists of a lollipop-shaped course heading out through the Manchester Channel to the island and back. The tide was high and the water temperature was great, but the sun glare on the return leg made sighting a real challenge. Plus, the buoys seemed nicely closer together at the start but were spread further apart as you got into the course; I guess that’s half the fun of being a “Challenge Finisher!” This was my 4th time doing the 3-mile and I was pleased to finish 8th non-wetsuit overall, as the 4th female and 1st in my age group.

Swimmers coming into the finish at Misery Challenge

Swimmers coming into the finish at Misery Challenge

Nubble Light Challenge


Continuing up the coast a bit further, I found myself three weeks later in York, ME for the Nubble Light Challenge, a 2.4-mile swim to benefit the Maine Chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Although the ocean was unseasonably warm by early August, a mid-week storm and strong off-shore breezes sucked all the warm water out to sea just days before the event. That meant on race day that we were faced with 56 degrees in the “Gut” (the narrow passage between the peninsula and the Nubble Light island), and sub-60 for the entire swim. In addition to the cold temps, we faced a cross-wind that caused “washing machine” action for much of the second half. I love days when the ocean has “personality,” but this race was not for the faint of heart. Race directors Bob Reed, Bob Fernald, and Jennifer Zorn and their safety crew did a great job monitoring the course and had stressed early on that wetsuits were encouraged. One hundred thirty swimmers finished the race, and of the 18 “skins,” most were fellow members of the Nahant Knuckleheads or L Street gang, so we were a small but mighty bunch. This was only my second time doing the swim, but I will definitely be back for more! Eric Nilsson (overall winner, and “skin” swimmer, no less!) shared drone footage taken by his dad. It truly is a beautiful spot, even if the aerials don’t do the waves justice.

Hearty cold-water swimmers after the Nubble Light Challenge

Hearty cold-water swimmers after the Nubble Light Challenge

Maine Hosts Multiple Winter Mini Meets

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, MESC, NE LMSC Registrar

Tim Lecrone and Ted Clark at the MDI Meet (pc Kayla Redman)

Tim Lecrone and Ted Clark at the MDI Meet (pc Kayla Redman)

MDI Results

Toughen Up Results 

Challenge Event Results

MAINE -- Despite weather scares, both the Mount Desert Island and Toughen Up Challenge meets ran as scheduled.

On January 28, MDI welcomed over twenty swimmers full of smiles and fun times. There just isn't a more pleasant crew of volunteers at a meet anywhere. This environment coupled with the scenic drive makes it a must-swim event. 

On February 11, the Toughen Up Challenge brought several hard-nosed competitors from New Hampshire and Maine together to compete for the titles of Sprint and Distance Champions. We saw some repeat winners with Jess Beers (MESC) and Anne Uecker (MESC) resuming their reigns as the Queen of Sprint and Distance, respectively. On the men's side, newcomers Orion Huey (MESC) and Valdis Jurka (NEM) were crowned the sprint and distance winners.   

18th Annual George Erswell Meet Recap

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, MESC & NE LMSC Registrar

Dale Syphers of MESC (photo by Anne Uecker)

BRUNSWICK, ME -- It was a small crowd of 30+ swimmers who braved the storm aftermath to attend the 18th Annual George Erswell Meet on November 4, but as always a quality meet was put on by Bowdoin College!

New Blue Lobster, Rob Allen, had an impressive 10:51.15 win for the 50-54 age group in the 1000-yard freestyle, and CRM's Fred Schlicter continued to show his dominance in the 65-69 age group with impressive swims in the 200 fly (2:32.64) and 200 free (2:09.14).  

In the end everyone that made a splash achieved wonderful things, and the homemade snacks were incredible!

Maine Swimmers Dominate at Nubble Light Challenge Revival

Contributed by Guy Davis, GBM & NE LMSC Vice-Chair

YORK, ME -- Southern Maine's popular Nubble Light Challenge open water race made its triumphant return on August 12 after a three year hiatus. The picturesque two and a half mile course takes swimmers from York's Long Sands beach around the rocky Cape Neddick headland, through “the Gut” - the narrow passage of water that separates Nubble Island from the mainland, and on to finish at Short Sands beach. Weather conditions were very favorable, with water temperatures in the low 60s, light winds, and a moderate swell. Nevertheless, the swim's long stretches of open ocean and unpredictable tidal currents around the headland most certainly warrant the race's moniker. The warmly cheering crowds on the rocks overlooking the Gut and at the finish provided great encouragement to the swimmers.

Maine Masters swimmers dominated this year's event with wetsuit winners Cheryl Daly and Justin Burkhardt and non-wetsuit winners Susan Knight and Simon Wignall. Congratulations to all who swam and completed the Nubble Light Challenge!

The race is a fundraiser for the great work of the Maine chapter of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) whose programs enhance the lives of any one impacted by mental illness through support, education and advocacy.

Great Bay Masters swimmers at the Nubble Light Challenge

Big thank yous go to Bob Reed, Bob Fernald, and Jen Zorn for their great work reviving and organizing this terrific event and to the many wonderful volunteers and sponsors who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere and very enjoyable event.

Race website

Fundraising page

Race Facebook page

NAMI Maine website

Photos by Tracy Phillips Photography via Nubble Light Challenge Facebook page

Gary Isherwood Memorial Swim Meet Recap

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, NE-LMSC Registrar & Photos by Mike Hurd, MESC

BANGOR, ME -- With an amazing turnout out of 56 competitors, the first annual Gary Isherwood Memorial Swim Meet on June 24th was an incredible success. It was MESC's first ever summer mini meet to exceed 40 swimmers, and more excitingly, the majority of swimmers were first time masters meet participants. 

The high participation couldn't have been for a better cause, as proceeds from meet entries and t-shirt sales went to the Gary Isherwood Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund honors the late Gary Isherwood, longtime swim coach at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor. The meet raised about $2,000.

Swims were fast, smiles were huge, and next year's event promises to be even bigger. A huge thanks goes to the Bangor YMCA, the staff and volunteers of the Bangor Y Barracudas, and several meet enthusiasts from local high school teams.

First Annual MDI YMCA Masters Meet Draws a Crowd

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, NE-LMSC Registrar


A great time was had by all at the Mount Desert Island YMCA First Annual Masters Meet on January 29. With over forty participants, the meet was a resounding success, including many new facing in addition to the regulars - clearly it was difficult to resist the scenic drive on Route 1 to have the chance to compete in unexplored masters waters. Many participants also took the opportunity to make a weekend of it by staying on the island and taking advantage of the amazing, off-season rates. A huge thanks goes out to Mark Schoon, Jim Willis, and the rest of the staff for holding such an excellent, well run meet, and we look forward to next year to do it all again!

Bath Sprint Meet Draws Impressive Crowds

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, NE-LMSC Registrar

Chris Cloitre, Sally Joachim Gallagher, and Glenn Gallagher of GBM (photo contributed by Sally Joachim Gallagher)

BATH, ME - With over 70 competitors, the Bath Sprint Meet was not only a huge success, it was the largest mini meet held in recent Maine Masters Swimming history!

Swimmers from NEM, GBM, MESC, and of course many first time participants all came together to make an amazing, fun filled event!  A huge thanks goes out to the Bath YMCA for all of their efforts, and we look forward to seeing everyone come out for the upcoming First Annual MDI Masters Meet on January 29th!

Two NE Records Bested at 17th Annual Erswell Meet in Maine

Contributed by Tim Lecrone, NE-LMSC Registrar

Photos contributed by Sue Jensen

Fred Schlicher and Sue Jensen

BRUNSWICK, ME - It was another great mini meet in Maine on Halloween weekend!  The 17th Annual George Erswell Masters Meet, held at Bowdoin College on October 29, found swimmers and fans residing poolside with great swims and even greater smiles. Four teams - MESC, GBM, NEM, and RICE of South Texas - were represented. There were some memorable moments, starting with Dick Hutchings setting a New England record in the men's 75-79 500-yard freestyle with a time of 7:18.23. Of course, great things come in pairs, and Fred Schlicher demolished the New England record in the men's 65-69 200-yard butterfly with a blazing 2:31.01. 

One of the most exciting things about the meet was the large number of newcomers to masters swimming. This was Maine's second meet of the fall season, and both featured excellent turnout from new participants. This year's Erswell meet hosted 46 athletes, up from 38 last year. This bodes well for new energy and enthusiasm in the form of new faces for the coming season!  

Rob Schiller preparing for his race

Sue Jensen and Anne Uecker

The beautiful Bowdoin pool

Casco Bay YMCA "Toughen Up Challenge" Results

Casco Bay YMCA and Maine Masters hosted the 9th Annual "Toughen Up Challenge" this past Sunday, February 21.

The challenge is a five-event competition to find the "toughest" masters swimmers. Participants race five times, then their times are age graded and added together. The swimmer with the lowest total time in each category take the title.

Meet Results


Sprint Challenge

50 back, 50 fly, 50 free, 50 breast, 100 IM

Men: Michael Regan ('13, '16)

Women: Katrine Alcaide ('14, '16)

Distance Challenge

400 IM, 200 free, 200 breast, 200 back, 200 fly

Men: Mike Hurd ('15, '16)

Women: Anne Uecker ('13, '14, '16)

Women's Sprint Challenge winner Katrine Alcaide with 3rd place finisher (and 5-time champ) Mary Estabrook

Women's Sprint Challenge winner Katrine Alcaide with 3rd place finisher (and 5-time champ) Mary Estabrook

Women's Distance Challenge winner Anne Uecker

Women's Distance Challenge winner Anne Uecker

Thank you to Crystie McGrail for submitting the photos!

Men's Sprint Challenge winner Michael Regan

Men's Sprint Challenge winner Michael Regan

Men's Distance Challenge winner Mike Hurd

Men's Distance Challenge winner Mike Hurd

April is Adult Learn to Swim Month!

The Governors of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have all issued proclamations of "April as Adult Learn to Swim Month." We in the NELMSC are ready to celebrate!
Fifteen masters teams, representing all five states in our LMSC, are running Swimming Saves Lives programs and offering free swim lessons to adults in their local communities. A huge shoutout to these program directors, and all of the masters swimmers on these teams, who are donating their time as swim instructors this month: 

Maine Masters: Tim Lecrone, Alford Youth Center, Waterville
Penobscot Bay Masters: Susan Rardin, Penobscot Bay Y, Rockport

Cambridge Masters Swim Club: Sue Jensen, Harvard University/Blodgett, Cambridge
Martha's Vineyard Masters: Elizabeth Lytle, YMCA of Martha's Vineyard, Vineyard Haven
Simon's Rock PaceMakers: Bill Meier, Simon's Rock @ Bard College, Great Barrington
Pittsfield Polar Bear Masters: Georgette Keator, Pittsfield Family YMCA, Pittsfield
Worcester Area Masters: CJ Dickson, Central YMCA, Worcester
YMCA of Greater Boston: KerriAnn Foley, Boston

New Hampshire
Granite State Penguins: Karin Stokes, Londonderry & Salem Workout Clubs, Londonderry & Salem

Rhode Island
MWR Lobster Swim Club: Denise Vieira & Mike Garr, Chafee Fitness Center, Naval Station, Newport
SwimRI: Paul Dow & Doug Sayles, Newport Athletic Club, Newport

Burlington Area Sink or Swim: Kim Fry, The Edge, Williston
Johnson State Masters & Norwich University Masters: Cara Hancy, Johnson State College, Johnson
UV Rays: Catherine Pearson, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, White River Junction
Stowe Masters: Charlotte Brynn, The Swimming Hole, Stowe


Research shows that adults aspire to swim more than any other fitness activity. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control, 37% of American adults cannot swim the length of a pool. It's not too late! If you know anyone who never learned how to swim, is afraid of the water and/or needs to improve their strokes or breathing technique, contact any one of the masters teams above or email to schedule free swim lessons.


The Swimming Saves Lives program provides the perfect opportunity for masters swimmers to give back
to the sport they love by sharing their expertise and passion with beginning swimmers. If you'd like to volunteer to be a swim instructor this year or next, send an email to Training tools (a 10-page training manual and accompanying video) are provided.


Would your masters team like to run a Swimming Saves Lives program in 2016? Please contact Sue Jensen, the New England SSL program coordinator, at to receive SSL Program Overview that will provide all the details for getting a program up and running. Grant money received from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to our LMSC will cover all your lane space rental and lifeguard salary expenses.