Langebaan businessman Walter Hart reminisces about the December 1987 Spur double Island Relay, and an encounter with marine wildlife!
I was going through some old files of my Dad’s, who passed away a few years back, and found the programme and the Weekender news item ( by Eddie Cassar ) for the Spur Robben Island Relay Challenge in December 1987.
I had just completed my first Robben Island Blouberg crossing earlier that year, and so encouraged a couple of family members to join me in this relay event – the first of it’s kind ( and I don’t think repeated yet ? ).
In the end, one of my brothers was not able to make it so it was me, my one brother Robby Hart, my father Peter Hart, and Paul Greenburg, who joined the family team. Each swimmer did a 20-minute stretch with a “high five” in the water to change over. All went well to the island and we turned for home.
However, we had a scare on the way back to Three Anchor Bay when a shark was spotted by the boat in front of us, which apparently swam between their swimmer and boat and my brother, who was due for the next change, refused to get in the water! As this would disqualify us, we eventually persuaded him. much against his will, to get in and swim. He reluctantly took to the water on the left of our boat, and just as he did so a school of dolphins popped up on the starboard side. We saw them, but of course he could not, and one cheeky boy ducked under the boat and came up right next to Robby. He just about walked on water, screaming, “Shark! Shark! Shark!” at the top of his lungs, and started swimming towards the boat at sprint speed.
We knew it was only a dolphin and, not wanting to be disqualified, we asked the skipper to gently move the boat sideways so that Robby could not reach us. He started cursing us in very ripe language, but we assured him it was OK, and only a dolphin. To his everlasting credit he eventually got his shark-fogged brain to clear, calmed down and continued with his swim leg. I don’t think he has ever fully forgiven me for that experience !
We ended up coming 15th out of the 21 teams competing, and my Dad, who was 55 at the time, was singled out as the oldest swimmer that day. The event was a great success and we all looked forward to the next year but for some reason, probably budget cuts, it never took place again. If you look at the teams list, many well-known, long-distance swimmers’ names can be seen, including the legendary brothers Derek and Theodore Yach, Annemie Langmeters, brothers Kevin and Laurie Fialkov, Tony Sellmeyer ( of course ), Eddie Cassar, Driene Liebenberg, Paul Barret-Smith, Godfrey Mocke, and many others.
I thought that this may be of interest to both the older and newer CLDSA swimmers. Eddie Cassar said that he had indeed been part of the organising team, along with Barry Cutler, Selwyn Davidowitz, Tony Scalabrino and Peter Bales. “We invited a team from the UK to come out and I remember I acted as MC at Three Anchor Bay and through the day we had thousands upon thousands of folk at the promenade railings. It was a special event.”
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