Tips & Advice

Yach eyes 100 Robben Island crossings

Cape Town ultra swimmer and “King of Robben Island”, Theodore Yach answers some pertinent questions as he closes in on an incredible 100 Robben Island crossings.


Theodore Yach

By when do you hope to have achieved 100 Robben Island crossings?

I feel the need to explain, at the outset, that I swim “naked” – no wetsuit ever. Only a Speedo brief, goggles and cap! I have now completed 93 crossings so, all things being equal. I’m aiming to swim my 100th at the end of March/early April 2016, conditions depending.


What’s next after 100? Are you planning more crossings once you reach this milestone?

Aha! I don’t plan to stop…… so long as I stay healthy enough.


What is your most memorable crossing and why?

There are so many memorable crossings but if I have to choose I would venture that my English Channel crossing in 1996 and my “Loop” swim – 3 Anchor Bay around Robben Island and back to 3 Anchor Bay — in 2009 were the most memorable. The EC crossing because it took me four hours to swim the last 800m – nothing worse than seeing the shore disappear in front of you in a gale force wind and the 34km English Channel is the gold standard for world long distance swimmers. The 29.5km loop because it was a world first and also my left shoulder packed up with two hours of swimming to go. One arm swimming and sculling is never fun….


Do you have any other upcoming swim challenges planned that you are prepared to share with us?

Sure. Next year is the 20th anniversary of my EC crossing so I have booked with Mike Oram – my 1996 pilot – to repeat the torture!




Name your top 3 toughest swims and why.

Every swim is tough and I am very nervous for the first hour of swimming in every swim until I feel a rhythm. Sometimes the adverse conditions mean that I am in a heightened state of nervousness for the entire crossing.

On average, how many hours a day do you train and what keeps you motivated to get back into the water.

During the week I train for approximately 90 minutes per session with much longer swims up to 10km on the weekends when I have more time. I love training and being in the sea so it’s really a simple equation for me. Swimming in the same ocean and sometimes in very close proximity to a variety of sea creatures is very invigorating. There are several fantastic boat crews that look after us in the ocean. I have added multiple leg squat exercises in the gym recently which is proving beneficial for speed.

What’s your advice for swimmers planning to take on the Robben Island crossing for the first time?

This is a simple one but very very important: You need to cold adapt. Ninety percent of failures are due to hypothermia which can kill if a swimmer is not properly cold adapted! It is really not difficult to swim 10 or 20km in warm water when fit. The cold water that we swim in changes that paradigm diametrically!


Which are your favourite open water goggles and why?

I have only ever used Speedo products since they arrived in South Africa. I am currently using the Speedo Aquapulse Max 2 googles which are perfect as they stay on without leaking for many hours. My advice to swimmers is that they rotate three pairs of goggles at any one time just in case one pair fails for whatever the reason.

* Speedo SA wishes Theodore the best of luck in his amazing journey to 100 Robben Island crossings!

Have you entered Speedo’s #LoveMyGoggles competition yet? Stand to win one of two Speedo Biofuse training kits each week until 27 August in our ‪#‎LoveMyGoggles competition!

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