A six-member team of the Indian Air Force (IAF) took off from the Gateway of India on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to become the first athletes to swim around Mumbai in a clockwise direction and against the tide. If all goes as planned, the team will return to the Gateway at around 4 pm on Thursday, having navigated polluted waters, narrow inlets and having faced the danger of being lost in the sea at night.
“Thus far, no one has been able to complete a successful clockwise swim, that’s because you’re swimming against the tide and in very dirty water,” said Wing Commander Paramvir Singh, who is leading the team named Delphinus.
Singh was the first to take to the water a few minutes before 3 pm on a pleasant afternoon, while his teammates watched from a small boat ahead of him. The team, comprising Sergeants G. Narhari, A.K. Patel and S. Srihari, Corporal Aneesh Singh and Leading Aircraftsman V. Tokas, will round Colaba, before ascending northward, passing the western coast of the city, and eventually entering Vasai Creek, pass through the Ulhas River, exit Thane creek, and swim past the eastern seaface of Mumbai before reaching Gateway, in 50 hours.
“The entire trail is 250 kilometers long on land. But in water, it will be much longer, considering the fact that the team will be swimming against the tide, where progress will be slow,” said Defence spokesperson, Commander Rahul Sinha.
Each man will take to the water for one hour at a time, following which the second will take over. The team will continue and repeat this cycle in the entire course. “Because, we will be swimming against the tide, the route will not be so straightforward. We will have to repeatedly swim away from the coast for a few kilometers to avoid being pushed backwards. We will touch each lighthouse along the way,” Singh said.
He added that the team will be faced with their first big challenge when it reaches the mouth of the Vasai Creek. “We have to time our entry into the creek perfectly with the tide. If we miss the tide, we will be stranded there for twelve hours until the next tide. Once inside, we will also have to contend with jellyfish near Madh Island,” he said.
The team has hired to two small boats as they will have to navigate very narrow stretches of the Vasai Creek and Ulhas River. “Both boats are stocked with food and water to last them two days. The team is also being accompanied by two independent observers from the Maharashtra State Amateur Aquatic Association and the Swimming Federation of India.
Sinha added that fading light represents another risk for the team. “There is always the danger of a swimmer being lost at sea at night. If a swimmer is lost from the vessel’s spotlight, he will be lost until daybreak. Once they exit Thane Creek, we know that they will complete the challenge,” he said.
In the home stretch, the team will have to swim through waters clogged with ships between Ferry Wharf and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust.
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