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Tag Archive | "For Love Of Water"

Group swims across Lake Michigan

The swimmers celebrating their arrival at Ludington after crossing Lake Michigan. (L to R) Nick Hobson, Jon Ornée, Dave Ornée, Jeremy Sall, Todd Suttor and Matt Smith. Photo by Kent Esmeier / Framelight Visuals.

Last year we wrote an article about Jon Ornée, of Holland, and his cycling and swimming records four months after being hit by an SUV while cycling. He and his cycling buddies had cycled through Cedar Springs on their journey.

This summer, Ornée, who was team captain, and five other swimmers—including his brother Dave Ornée, Nick Hobson, Jeremy Sall, and Todd Suttor, all of Holland, and Matt Smith of Zeeland—took on the daunting task of swimming across Lake Michigan in an event they called EPIC SWIM 2020. The only other successful Lake Michigan mid-lake swim crossing in history was completed by Jim Dreyer in 1998. The Epic Swim Team followed the same route (Two Rivers, WI to Ludington, MI). Dreyer completed the solo swim in 40 hours and 56 minutes.

The group departs Holland for Wisconsin.
Photo by Michael Dillon / Pilot Field.

On Tuesday, August 11 at 4:15 p.m., EST, the six swimmers from West Michigan left the shore at Rawley Point Lighthouse in Two Rivers, Wisconsin to begin swimming across Lake Michigan. Ornée said the water was a chilling 51 degrees at the start of the swim in Two Rivers but warmed up pretty quickly in the first couple miles. Water temps hovered around 70 degrees for a majority of the swim. Waves were 2-4 feet for about 4 hours in the night but were under 2 feet for the majority of the swim.

The Team followed relay rules set forth by the Marathon Swimmers Federation. All six swimmers began and finished the swim together for the first and last half mile. The majority of the swim was completed relay-style in 30-minute legs with at least one swimmer in the water unassisted at all times. They had a lead boat which dragged a lane line behind it to help them stay on course. All of the swimmers were aboard a second boat which allowed for efficient relay exchanges and comfortable conditions while recovering between legs. For exchanges, the new swimmer would dive off the support boat, swim behind the previous swimmer and complete the exchange with a high five in the water. 

After a 20 hour and 50-minute journey through-the-night, they arrived on the other side at the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington, Michigan on Wednesday, August 12 at 4:10 p.m. EST. It marked only the 2nd ever mid-lake crossing, first-ever relay-style crossing and by far the fastest-ever mid-lake crossing.

Despite some rocky conditions in the night, the swimmers were able to maintain a remarkably fast pace, covering the 54.5 miles in 20:50 for an average pace of 1:18/100yds (2.6 mph). For perspective, only one Pro Triathlete swam a faster pace at last year’s Ironman Wisconsin. 

The Team had a live tracker onboard which allowed thousands of viewers to follow their progress. They also posted several video updates to their Facebook page (facebook.com/epicswim2020) during the swim.

The swim couldn’t have happened without an awesome crew including 5 captains (Brad Hilton, Jeff Harten, Brad Stephenson, Mike Stephenson and James Grosse) and a spotter/medic (Jake Terpstra). Filmmaker Michael Dillon was also on board to document the entire adventure,” said Ornée.

EP!C SWIM 2020 raised money for FLOW (For Love Of Water), a Traverse City-based non-profit committed to protecting and preserving the Great Lakes.

Jon Ornée had been dreaming about putting together a 6-person relay across the lake for 7 years. Last May, he was hit by an SUV while cycling. “It was a near-death experience and a reminder that we only get one shot at this life; we’d better make the most of it,” he said. 

Since then he’s been on a mission to stop putting off the items on his bucket list and get after them as soon as possible. Four months after post-crash surgery to put his right arm back together, Ornée set 2 world records in a 4-day span. He completed the first-ever swim to North Manitou Island (7.4 miles in 2:50) and 3 days later set a new World Ultra Cycling record across Michigan covering the 205 mile route in 8:16 (24.8mph avg). A month later, Ornée organized a Sub-2 hour marathon relay which gained national attention following Eliud Kipchoge’s historic run. The relay team completed the marathon in 1:49:32. A long time touring musician, Ornée returned to his music roots this year with the launch of a new project with his wife called “Lady & Gentleman.” (lady&gentlemanmusic.com) The husband and wife duo has released 3 music videos in 2020. Ornée has 2 other cycling and running world records planned for 2020. Learn more about his story at jonornee.com.  

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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