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Latest News: 10 Sep 2014

Swimming for solidarity………in a long, hot , bath

Theodore Yach of Maccabi South Africa swims the length of the Sea of Galilee.

Believed to be the first South African ever to do so, on Thursday September 4, 2014, 54-year-old ultra-swimmer Theodore Yach from Cape Town crossed the entire 22-kilometer length of the Sea of Galilee. Undertaken as Operation Protective Edge in Gaza was ending, this very challenging ‘Solidarity Swim for Israel’ was arranged in conjunction with the Jordan Valley Municipality by the Speedo-brand licensee in Israel, Ilan Ben Dror and supervised by Hadar Ben Dror.

Swim 1


Hoping to avoid the worst of the savage midday sun, Theodore’s epic effort began in darkness at 4 in the morning. The water temperature was already 22˚ Celsius, rising over the next 5 hours to 29˚ Celsius by 9 o’clock in air temperature of 31˚C.


By 12:02 – exactly 8 hours and 2 minutes after he started – Theodore and his compatriots emerged from the water into blazing heat (air temp that day peaked at 40C (104F). The surface of the lowest freshwater lake on Earth varies from -215 meters (705ft) to -209 meters (686ft) – that’s below absolute sea level. With water depth of 43 meters to the lake floor and a lake width of 13km (just over 8 miles), mid-lake swimmers face a buoyancy factor dramatically less than that of an Olympic competition pool.

Theodore & Tamara


Theodore: “It was pretty tough. I realized very quickly that I wouldn’t finish if I tried swimming my usual pace in these temps, so I slowed my stroke to compensate, which meant I spent the last 4 hours swimming in blazing sun, high humidity, and completely out of myusual 13-14˚C water temp comfort zone.

Compatriots: 10km swimmer Avishag Turek swam alongside Theodore all the way, making a trio with pacer Tamara Putterman for the first km. 3 men joined Theodore and Avishag about 2½ hours before the finish line for the final 7km push: Maccabi World Union Deputy Director-General (and former Israel Water Polo Player), Roy Hessing; Chairman of the Israel Swimming Association’s Open Water Committee Ari Limor; and Israel Open Water Champion Shai Toledano. Their support gave Theodore a tremendous boost, and made for a huge finish to a highly emotional swim.

Post Race

Roy Hessing: “Theodore came here to be with us during a really tough time for Israelis, so we were honored to help him take on this enormous challenge. We’re deeply proud of him and his achievement.”

Ari Limor: “The lengthwise crossing is extremely rare, much tougher than the 58th annual Kinneret Crossing on September 24 will be. While the Crossing is one of the world’s 100 major open-water events, it’s ‘only’ 6km across the narrowest and shallowest width of the lake”.

This wasn’t the first time Theodore invested an ultra-swim with emotive symbolism: as a young student, he made a swim unprecedented during the Apartheid-era across Table Bay from Cape Town to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. That 7.5km open-water swim – he’s made it 83 times since 1981 – is today made annually in the opposite direction, and it’s called the Freedom Swim.

Because the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned South African swimmers and water polo players until the advent of democracy in 1994, Theodore’s international experience in Maccabi came late. He was 46 – one of the oldest aquatics competitors ever in the Maccabiah Open Division – when he was selected as a water polo player for South Africa at the 17th Maccabiah in 2005. In that year, his eldest son David played for the South African cricket team. Theodore’s father, Solly Yach of blessed memory, captained Maccabi South Africa swimming and water polo teams at the 3rd Maccabiah (1950) and the 4th Maccabiah (1953), and played water polo for SA at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Theodore will be back in Israel for the 20th Maccabiah in July 2017 as a Masters swimmer, and he hopes his wife will join him for tennis.

Maccabi SA Salutes you! Kol Ha Kavod!



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