27 April 2003
24 year old open water swimmer Carina Bruwer became the first South African, and first female, to successfully conquer the might of the confluence of two oceans, when she rounded Africa’s southern-most tip, Cape Agulhas, in a record-time of 2 hours 16 minutes, today 27 April.
Today being democratic South Africa’s 10 year anniversary, it was fitting that Bruwer managed to beat the previous record, that of Lewis Pugh, by a margin of almost two hours, around this treacherous point, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.. Pugh, an Englishman, was the first man around the tip almost exactly ten years ago, at the beginning of South Africa’s democracy.
Bruwer was accompanied by local Struisbaai fisherman and experienced mariner Traill Witthuhn, who made a decision in the early hours of today to swim from east to west, due to an unexpected surge in swell and an unfavourable change of winds. Bruwer eventually started in the same bay, Spookdraai, where Pugh ended his epic swim ten years ago. She completed her swim in Old Bay, 10.7 km later. Peter Bales, officiating member of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association closely monitored Bruwer from beginning to end, and said: “Carina had at first a struggle to get into the swells, some being up to 3 meters high, and had to make do with a very slow start, proceeding to aim further offshore than Pugh had in 1994, aiming for a spot that might have been protected by the mountain. She did not quite find the protection that she was hoping for, and continued to battle high seas and a strong current, albeit so that the latter was also a great help eventually, due to her changing direction after about 5 km heading back to shore, finding the current and wind to both “push” her along, sometimes at speeds of up to 3.2 nautical miles per hour.”
The swim eventually became one of the hardest of Bruwer’s short career, compared to her previous four Robben Island swims as well as her record breaking Cape Point swim only one month ago. The exit out of the current, and entrance into the waves that strike the rocky shores proved to be treacherous, since the boat accompanying her had to avoid being capsized, and Bruwer was left to her own devices, which included having to guide herself to the end. (Ideally, swimmers end on soft beaches, and have an escort to the very end, either with pilots on kayaks of surfboards.)