Across Continents

By July 30, 2019Uncategorized

I have always been intrigued by the possibility of swimming between the Continents. The Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim  is an open water swimming event between the continents Europe and Asia held annually at Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey. Established in 1989.

Mariana swims with us at Mile End, on Wednesday mornings and her account has really inspired me to enter. Thanks for this great submission Mariana.

“Here’s my swimming adventure of the month : Last Sunday, I officially became a cross-continental swimmer as I swam from Asia to Europe during the 31st edition of the Bosphorus cross-continental swim race in Istanbul ! I was one of the 2,400 competitors from across the globe who took over the Bosphorus waters while one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world was temporarily closed to traffic.

I have been a keen swimmer since the age of 3, formed part of several swimming clubs for 16 years and swam competitively for more than 7 years. However, I’m completely new to open water swimming, and this swim was one the biggest challenges in my swimmer’s life.

This is why it was so important for me to join SFT and get Dan’s guidance to learn a new way of swimming. I realized how essential was the training and preparation as I jumped in the Bosphorus along with thousands of people – it was literally diving in a human chaos but luckily the starts practice paid off and I got out of the crowd fairly easily. I then started to shift forward with the strong currents, while enjoying the gorgeous setting: blue sky, clear water with many small jellyfishes, Asia on one side Europe on the other, with amazing landmarks on the way.

I experienced a new and amazing feeling : flying on the water once I caught the main current (well I think I did?). I did have my little moments of panic when getting out of it and feeling like I was swimming stationarily and also when I realized that I was making my own route to the finish, with people being so spread out that I felt like I was racing on my own in this huge strait of water (“where is everyone?!”).

The main route was manageable in terms of physical effort, but I found that the most challenging part was the last 500 meters as we had to shift to the riverside and face strong counter currents while making sure not to turn too late and be carried away into the Marmara sea (meaning no finish time, and being taken out of the water by collection boats). The water got a lot colder, and I felt the current pushing me away from the finish line. That was the moment to put all in, so I really intensified my strokes and checked every 4 strokes that I was not being carried in the wrong direction… the longest 500 meters of my life ! But I made it and completed the 6.5K race in 1 hour, 1 minute and 57 seconds. I’m very happy with my time for this first try, as I managed to rank 8th/81 in my age category, only 4 minutes from the 1st.

I also chose this once in a lifetime opportunity to fundraise £480 for ClientEarth, a charity that uses the power of the law to protect the planet and the people who live on it.
All in all, only good stuff ! I would definitely give it another try in a couple of years to see if I can get under the hour and closer to a podium…And also make it a pretext to treat myself afterwards by going to the Turkish Baths and eating lots of delicious Turkish food !

Thanks again to Dan and the team for the preparation, the training sessions and the tips, I would have never been able to perform so well without you guys 🙂


More info on entry here


  • Adrian says:

    Great post! I did this race this year, too, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything Mariana wrote. It is not a race/swim, it is a whole experience. Getting a place is akin to a small miracle: the swim is extremely popular and there are quotas for foreign swimmers, so places go out in the blink of an eye. If you’re unsuccessful registering online, you can nevertheless purchase a package (race entry + flight + accommodation) with SwimTrek. As for the race, it is more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. It is very different from swimming in your local pond or dock, because of the size (the Bosphorus strait is huge!), changing currents and the number of swimmers involved. Wetsuits are not permitted. As you jump into the water and start swimming, the swimmers around you will start disappearing, and you will be left with the abyss beneath you and the jellyfish, which some people find distressing. However, once you put your mind at ease, the swim is very, very manageable as the correct current pushes you forward. While it is a 6.5k race, in reality it is the equivalent of 4k or less on a good day with a solid current. As for the preparations, I did quite a lot of swimming in the 3 months preceding the race. My training included one-to-one sessions with Keeley focussing on technique, long-ish pool swims to build endurance, as well as a fair amount of open water swimming up to 4k. I felt well prepared and I completed the race with ease, albeit not in very good time (76 minutes to be exact). The race went perfect for me until the last leg when I made a common rookie mistake by underestimating the current and making my way towards the European side far too late. As a result, I lost 10 minutes going upstream and then another couple of minutes as I hit a reverse current close to the exit point. But it was fun, nevertheless! If I get a place, I will do this swim next year as well. So, if you’re looking to take part in a memorable swim in a spectacular location, you should seriously consider the Bosphorus Cross Continental swim. See you in Istanbul next July!

    • Dan Bullock says:

      Thanks Adrian, we appreciate your feedback and great to have more endorsements re good swims to aim for. Glad the lessons went well with Keeley and you completed your swim as you hoped. Keep up the great work.

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