Records fall during Whidbey Adventure Swim

Swimmers thrash toward the first buoy of the Whidbey Adventure Swim on Sept. 8 in Langley.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Swimmers thrash toward the first buoy of the Whidbey Adventure Swim on Sept. 8 in Langley.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — The Whidbey Adventure Swim course records only lasted one year.

Granted, the little open water race is only in its second year. That mattered little to Scott Lautman, a Burien resident, who finished the 2.4-mile course in record-setting fashion on Sept. 8 just off Langley’s shores.

“It’s there to be broken,” said Lautman, 59, of his 51:40 record.

He was joined by the women’s record-setter, Zena Courtney, in the 2.4 and Bridget Sipher in the 1.2-mile course. Courtney, a Tacoma resident, finished the four-lap race in just over an hour at 1:00:12. Sipher, an Olympia resident, set the women’s 1.2-mile time at 31:51.

The three record-setters were joined by 25 other open water racers from across Western Washington this past Saturday. About as many people competed last year as in this year’s Whidbey Adventure Swim. More people swam the full course this year, with 14 in the 2.4-mile race and 13 finishers in the half course. Only one swimmer who registered did not swim the full course, whereas last year two swimmers were pulled from the course for not meeting time standards in the first lap.

“They’re all regular swimmers,” said Jean Fankhauser, race organizer.

Fankhauser was pleased to announce everyone who entered the water for the races completed the course.

“It goes with what we’re trying to do — the race is a challenge,” he said.

Clear skies and calm seas met the swimmers in Saratoga Passage. A harbor seal also inspected the curious thrashing and paddling of 27 swimmers, eight kayaks, three support boats and a handful of paddle boarders.

As the race wore on, the current changed from relatively slack to an incoming tide. Swimmers said they felt the resistance on the longest leg of the triangle course that headed back toward the shore. The long leg also brought swimmers directly into the sun’s glare, further disorienting them.

“I found myself way off course at times,” said Langley resident Jason Hunt, 35, who competed in last year’s inaugural 1.2-mile race, too. “Maybe I swam the longer distance, even though I wasn’t supposed to.”

“The current was coming against us on that long leg. So you think you’re going fast, then you look up and you’re farther and farther away.”

The longer distance belonged to Lautman. Spectators could identify the race’s winner by his distinctive swimming style, which looked like an attack on the water’s surface as he plowed ahead of the pack. A former collegiate swimmer at the University of Washington, Lautman said he has taken to open water swimming in recent years as health issues limited his ability to exercise.

“Open water is a kick,” Lautman said. “I’m a real fortunate guy that I wasn’t a runner or biker.

“It is a lifetime sport.”

His open water resume spans the globe. Lautman swam the English Channel, a 21-mile crossing, as well as the width of the Panama Canal, about 600 yards. Though he’s been in some of the world’s most famous open water races, he praised finding a course like the Whidbey Adventure Swim.

“It’s a beautiful course,” Lautman said. “That’s one of the cool things in an open water swim, there is no black line to follow.

“You go to some of these things and they’re really big with 600 people. This one is really neat because you get to meet everybody, the local swimmers, the guys that put it on.”

Once the swimmers completed the final lap, they headed for shore at Seawall Park. Coming out of the water, though the waves were small, swimmers still felt disoriented and a bit wobbly as volunteers helped them out of the water and up the barnacle-covered concrete steps.

In the 1.2-mile race, the second and third-place finishers were Lisa Herzinger of Langley in 32:23 and Wendy Neely of Federal Way in 34:15. In the 2.4-mile race, the second- and third-place swimmers were Stephen Freeborn, a 57-year-old Federal Way resident, in 58:09 and Charles Boulduc, a 44-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia man, in 58:29.

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