First Rotto, now Gold Coast in sights

Published 2:00pm 1 March 2023

First Rotto, now Gold Coast in sights
Words by Nick Crockford

Sally Dymond admits to a deep fear of the sea and sharks. But, rather than staying on dry land, she is taking on Australia’s epic open water swims.

On Saturday, the Redcliffe-based allied therapist completed her first ocean marathon - the 19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim, with coach Brett 'Jacko' Jackson (pictured at the start).

Despite spending six hours 41 minutes 21.41 seconds in the waves off Perth, Mrs Dymond has now targeted Swim The Gold Coast, a 21.5km event, in just over nine weeks.

Crossing a finish line is nothing new for the Grace Swimming Adult Squad member, who has run The Body Specialist since 2005.

She was one of Australia’s top swimmers and in 1992 missed a place in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics 50m freestyle by just .04 of a second.

However, it was 28 years before Mrs Dymond returned to the sport, training off Suttons Beach following the COVID lockdown in 2020.

She entered 20km races on the Gold Coast and around Great Keppel Island, but both were cancelled. Then 12 months ago, Jacko suggested the Rottnest Channel Swim.

They trained four or five times a week, clocking up 80-100kms a month, in the waters of Moreton Bay leading up to Saturday's 6am start for their swim to ‘Rotto’.

Conditions were described as "good" but still challenging for many, with organisers saying close to half the entrants were swimming to Rottnest for the first time.

“At 12km things got tough,” Mrs Dymond said, in her online post-swim report. “Jacko was suffering with sea sickness. I was struggling and my arms were a tad fatigued.

First Rotto, now Gold Coast in sights
Sally Dymond and Brett Jackson with their medals after completing the Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday.

“(Support crew kayaker) Stu delivered the super gel and 100gms of carb in the hour and I became a machine, back on track and felt unstoppable to the end.

“We could see the bottom most of the way and I never saw one fish ... nothing. Blank sand, quite a lot of reed and a good stinger down my top.

“The only thing I really thought at the end was when the heck are the kayakers going to leave? That was my sign we only had 400m to go into the (finishing) chute.

“Heading into that chute, stroke for stroke, right beside Jacko and standing on the beach at Rotto together, I'll never forget.”

Entrants swim from Cottesloe Beach to Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island on the one day a year ships do not use the channel. Ferries also follow a strict route.

First Rotto, now Gold Coast in sights
Sally Dymond (orange shirt) and Brett Jackson (maroon shirt) with finishers and major trophy winners (front) after completing Saturday's epic swim.

Swimmers have a support boat and kayakers alongside them, helping navigate. Mrs Dymond said  it was easy to lose the direction after stops for refreshment. 

There were more than 2500 entries for Saturday’s event – all with support crews and all part of the huge logistical operation behind the swim.

Among the major records to fall, was ex-Burpengary swimmer Bailey Armstrong smashing the men’s solo best by more than 11 minutes with a time of three hours 48 minutes 11.03 seconds.

His sister Madisyn, also ow at USC Spartans on the Sunshine Coast, was the second female finisher, taking sixth place overall in 4:18:04.34.

The first swim from Cottesloe to Rottnest was made in 1956 and second in 1969. The first Rottnest Channel Swim was in 1991 with 44 entries (16 solo and seven teams of four). By 2020 entries had risen to 498.

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