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2013 HBF Rottnest Channel Swim

February 23rd 2013 


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Andrew Johnston (Captain)

Marshall Allen

Louise Merrillees

James Merrillees

Kayak Paddlers Support Boat
Kylie Gilbey James Allen Paul Burke (Skipper)


First official result to hand show:


Allen / Johnston / Merrillees / Merrillees #979
Category: 150+ Mixed
Gender: Unisex
Finish Time: 06:59:59
Net Time:  
Overall Pos: 262
Gender Pos: 91
Category Pos: 31
Split Time Leg Time O Pos C Pos G Pos
Finish 06:59:59 06:59:59 262 31 91
Registered 46:54:06        
Starting Pen Entry 47:49:04 00:54:57 334 38 128



Saturday 23rd February – around sunrise.

We had a breeze of about 10 knots from the south east but a building south westerly swell.

 7am Marshall Allen started off the beach in the “Purple” wave of 4 person teams in the Over 150 Years category. This group included Olympic gold medalists Bill Kirby and Geoff Huegill – and the Royal Hutt River Silverfish – us! Western Australian State Premier, Colin Barnett (in blue North Cottesloe Primary School boxers) started the group with the usual horn blast.

 The start was quite lumpy thanks to the swell hitting the beach. There were quite a few stingers around but I was shielded from most of them thanks to a short sleeve rashie.

 No change overs were allowed inside the first 1km but I was joined by our paddler, Kylie Gilbey, right on the 500m mark who easily spotted me, thanks to the blue and gold (PHR colours!) rings of zinc on my arms and white rashie, and slotted right in front of my path.

 Hitting the 1000m mark in the “first half” of the purple group, we easily spotted our support boat thanks to the high flying PHR flag. I had told them I didn’t want to swim a metre more than 1000m but the congestion amongst the boats took me out to around 1200-1300 metres. My second warning was that if I made it as far as the Leeuwin (the no-go limit without a support boat) then I was climbing on board, having a beer and going home! Luckily (or not) they picked me up before then and a quick hand tag to James Merrillees and we were on our way to Rotto.

 The next 6 hours were a blur. We rotated every 10 minutes until the 10km mark, then every 8 minutes until the 15km mark then down to 6 minutes until the 19km mark  – making sure to hand tag above the water each time. Mother and son paddler team, James Allen and Kylie Gilbey kept us in touch with the support boat, themselves rotating every 30 minutes. On board the boat, Paul “Dead-Eye” Burke made sure we didn’t swim an extra metre more than we needed to by carefully following the rhumb-line on the GPS plotter. Thanks to the southerly winds and a strong southerly current between 15-18kms most of the fleet were blown north and had to swim back in to the current near the end to make it in to Thompsons Bay – not us ! At one point we were the most southerly boat in the fleet but Burkey beautifully used the current to take us though the Philip Rock “gate” with minimal effort (except for the actual swimming!).

 The order of things was quite simple – the swimmer followed the paddler, the paddler followed the boat and the boat followed the GPS! This worked beautifully except when the paddlers changed over and Johno would head off on a 45 degree tack to Carnac Island. As luck would have it however, these unintended southerly bites played perfectly to the southerly current that hit us late in the swim.

 After a 6 ½ hour diet of Mars Bars and chocolate biscuits the 19km mark was upon us and all were called in to the water for the last 1km together. The paddlers and boat headed off to find a mooring and left us to find our way to the beach – which still seemed a long way off. Johno and I took off on a grudge race to the finish (unfinished business from last year). Stroke for stroke we were perfectly matched but slowly I found him pushing closer and closer and starting to squeeze me over to the right. I looked up and I had swum him in to the ropes lining the last 400m with the Refuelling Jetty only metres  in front of him. Not wanting to explain to his wife why he was in hospital having head butted a barnacle encrusted pylon, I let him slip past in front of me and we resumed the “race” to the finish. All of this must have looked quite funny to an observer – from our perspective we were in a sprint to the finish line but in reality we must have been moving about as fast as 'drifting seaweed'!.

 We crossed the line at 6:59:59 – which nicely rounds to “6 hours something”!!

 To put this into perspective, last year the RHR Silverfish team swam the same distance in 5:36. One of our team from last year. Georgina Kovaks, swam this year as a solo swimmer – in 5:39 – which suggests that Johno and I added precisely 3 minutes to last year’s effort.

 Several beers at the pub and we were back on the boat heading for home having forgotten the pain just like a child birth, and vowed to head back again next year.

 Marshall Allen



Another great result for solo female swimmer Georgina Kovacs
finishing in 8th place in female category and achieving 30th position overall.


Georgina KOVACS #65
Category: Solo
Gender: Female
Finish Time: 05:39:51
Net Time:  
Overall Pos: 30
Gender Pos: 8
Category Pos: 8
Split Time Leg Time O Pos C Pos G Pos
Finish 05:39:51 05:39:51 30 8 8
Registered 47:12:17        
Starting Pen Entry 47:50:48 00:38:31 119 39 39


      Check out full list of results of the
2013 HBF Rotto Channel Swim


Well done all, another great result!

Bringing home Gold for the Principality of Hutt River
Promoting good sportsmanship everywhere!


(Click thumbnails below to enlarge)

Marshall Allen - Set to lead the team out at the start. L-R
Marshall, James Merillees, Louise Merrillees,
Andrew Johnston, Kylie Gilbey (Paddler)
Kylie Gilbey (seated) &
Louise Merrillees


Paul Burke,  Andrew Johnston &
James Merillees
James Allen
(2nd paddler)
James Merillees Paul Burke (Skipper) Louise Merrillees
(How far?)


Louise Merrillees approaching her handover point Andrew Johnston
ready to
'hit the water'!
Louise changing to Andrew Johnston.
James Allen paddling


Louise changing to Andrew Johnston.
James Allen paddling
James Allen paddling the support kayak James Merillees helps
Andrew Johnston climb aboard


Andrew Johnston

James Merrillees (swimming) & James Allen (paddling)

Kylie Gilbey (paddler) PHR Flag atop the support vessel James Merrillies somewhere in Gauge Roads


Marshall Allen handing over to James Merrillies The Sailing Ship Leeuwin Louise Merrillies


Andrew Johnston - Under power! Marshall Allen - Up periscope! Royal Hutt River Silverfish Support Vessel with Paul Burke (Skipper)
cruises with members aboard, whilst supporting & watching over the team.


There was at least some relaxing!


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