Lake Malawi crossed to raise money for Orphans

01/03/2013 original article with pictures to be read on: MalawiLive

Milko and Kaitlin started together around 7.30 am, 2.5 hours later than anticipated as a thunderstorm in the early morning hours prevented our boats from being launched on time. One of the engines of Milko’s boat then overheated which caused him and his crew to travel to the departure point at Cape Ngombo at a very slow speed in a driving rain.

Milko arrived in Senga Bay around 16.15, Kaitlin around 16.45 pm. The distance crossed was 24 km.

Milko van Gool finished in 8h 46m 59sec,
Kaitlin Harthoorn did 9h 17m 40sec.

The main problem was the weather. A good three hours into the swim a rainstorm turned the lake into a seething inferno for a few hours, with big waves smashing into the swimmers and the boats from all directions.
This slowed down the swimmers very considerably, and put extra strain on their bodies, not to mention the effect on morale. The swim took a good 1.5 – 2 hours longer than expected. The rough waters also made for a very uncomfortable time for the crews on the escorting boats.

“The swim was brutal, and reaching the shore never felt so good. In the second half of the swim the water was even rougher than during my English Channel crossing in July 2011.
I think the time has come for a Malawian swimmer to step up to the plate and achieve the crossing as well. I will be very happy to provide advice on training and all other aspects of achieving a crossing like this”, said Milko.
Other challenges included proper feeding by the swimmers to keep energy levels up. Thankfully the sky was mostly overcast, which made sunburn less of an issue. To the great relief of swimmers and crews, no crocodiles or hippos were spotted.

Kaitlin moved to Malawi in 2004, when she was 8 years old.  She was invited onto the school swim team 2 months later.  She has been training ever since.  About a year ago, she started saying that she wanted to swim across Lake Malawi. However, it was difficult to train in the winter months because the swimming pool is cold. In October, we met Milko and started discussing the possibility of swimming together. They did their first training session together on 15th October in Lake Malawi. Milko swam 14km and Kailtin swam 11km.

Kaitlin decided to swim across Lake Malawi for a school service project to raise money for the Adziwa Orphan Care project in Kauma Village, outside Lilongwe where we live.  She heard about Adziwa at our church (Capital City Baptist Church) and our family has been supporting this project.  She is hoping to raise MK 1 million.

Milko’s crew consisted of Keith Bicknell (pilot), Mauro Di Veroli and Iain Taylor. Kaitlin was escorted by Brett Daniels (pilot), her parents Corey and Sharon Harthoorn and her siblings: Caleb and Annika, and Malawian ex-Olympic swimmer Carlton, who was the MAU official.
Upon arrival at Hotel Livingstonia Milko was reunited with his wife and 4 children, and over 70 friends and colleagues gathered on the beach to welcome both swimmers.

“As we were crossing the lake in the boat, it dawned on me how far it actually was.  The straight distance across the lake looks a lot longer than 1000 lengths in a 25 meter swimming pool.  The first half of the swim was calm. But then it started to get really wavy and I prayed.  God didn’t calm the storm but He did help me persevere and finish strong.” Kaitlin said after the swim.

This event could be repeated, at least that’s what Milko has in mind; “I believe this crossing could be turned into a yearly race with the potential to become a well-known fixture in the international open water swimming agenda if the race is well organised. There is potential for Malawi to put itself on the marathon swimming map, and to attract interesting niche tourism, not only for the full crossing, but also for many other interesting swims to and from islands in the lake.”