Harriet to the rescue

Harriet Lamb, pictured swimming Lake Rotoma last month.

When Harriet Lamb takes the plunge, she believes in making a big splash.

The 54-year-old writer for medical communications agencies in the Northern Hemisphere is just over two weeks away from tackling her biggest swim marathon – the 20km journey from Waiheke Island to Auckland.

She will be in the field for the Westpac Chopper Swim, an ultra-distance event and already has almost $1400 in pledges to support the event – the second highest on the event website when we checked earlier this week.

It started in 2016 when three Westpac staffers and ocean swimmers realised the Waiheke ferry wharf was exactly 20km from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter base, and the idea of a charity swim was born. In the first year, they raised $35,000 for the Westpac helicopters. The event is now run annually and has raised over $400,000 in total.

“The Chopper Swim course through the Waitemata Harbour has always appealed to me as a challenge, and the Rescue Helicopters are a cause that I find easy to get motivated about,” mother of two Harriet, who lives on a small farm between Cambridge and Te Awamutu said.

“We all hope that we will never need a rescue helicopter, but the reality is that it is an essential part of our frontline emergency response and is in constant need of funding.

“Most of the open water events that I do are about 3 or 4km, so stepping up to a marathon event like the Chopper Swim is a completely different ball-game. Sheryl McLay – who has swum the English Channel and Cook Strait – is helping with my training and preparation.”

Harriet began training in December and swims 20 to 25km each week in the Te Awamutu pool, plus 3-hour swims or longer in open water at the weekend.

“A couple of weekends ago, I completed the 15km swim at Lake Rotoma which took me about five hours, followed by the 7km Round the Mount event the next day. That was a huge confidence boost and made the Chopper Swim look possible for the first time.”

The focus of training is to improve my speed over many hours so that I can swim fast enough to make the distance before the tide-enforced cut-off of 7 hours. Once the tide in the Waitemata turns, it would be extremely difficult to make progress against the current especially towards the end of a long swim.

Harriet started swimming regularly about 15 years ago as part of a rehabilitation programme for a back injury. Her physio at the time said she should continue swimming to keep injury free.

“That really resonated with me, so I made a commitment to swim regularly in the pool no matter what.

“Pool swimming became boring after a while, and I thought it might be good to try something different.

So I started doing a few open water swim events about five years ago and really enjoyed them. I find the combination of navigating in open water and handling the conditions a wonderful challenge.

“It has been daunting at times preparing for this event, but I am hugely grateful to have a great coach to keep me on track, and the support of family and friends.

For more information, and to see how to support Harriet, go to www.chopperswim.co.nz

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