Organizers of a long-distance swim over the Oslo Fjord were facing criticism this week, after more than half the participants had to be plucked out of the water by search and rescue vessels. “This was more dramatic than I had hoped,” one well-trained participant told state broadcaster NRK.
Frank Løke was among those swimming over the fjord in the event called Open Water Horten-Moss. He’s a former member of the national men’s handball team and didn’t think the 10,000-meter-long swim would be so difficult.
He had a frighteningly close encounter, however, with a ferry. “I panicked and was scared I’d be caught in the wake of the boat and dragged under it,” Løke told NRK. “Fortunately the captain saw me and reversed, but I felt the strong drag from the boat.”
Another experienced triathalon athlete, Ann-Kristin Lien of Størdal, also described the event as “dramatic” when she found herself all alone after 50 minutes of swimming with no escort vessels around. She also encountered the ferry, “and I was certain I was about to die.” She and several others called the event “a scandal.”
NRK reported that 53 of the 104 swimmers taking part had to be rescued, cold and exhausted from their ordeal. Rescue crews blamed wind and a strong currents in the fjord that sent many swimmers off course.
Organizers defended the event: “Everyone knew what they were taking part in,” said Tom Remman of Open Water Horten-Moss. “We can’t close off the fjord to all boat traffic. Swimmers know it’s a tough distance, they were well-briefed the evening before.” He added that all were equipped with lifebelts and GPS tracking equipment.