For one day each year, all traffic on the Bosphorus comes to a standstill as swimmers from all over the world navigate the waters from one shore to another.
The only one of its kind? You might’ve heard claims that the Bosphorus race is the only swimming competition held between two continents, but you’d be wrong to believe them. The annual Hellespont and Dardanelles Swim on August 30 also takes place between Asia and Europe, and it’s a tradition that’s been around for two years longer than the Bosphorus race. The Istanbul race owes its popularity to its location and relatively easy course.
Calling swimmers of all ages Contestants in the Bosphorus Cross-Continental are divided into 12 categories by age, with the youngest age group being 14-18. The title of the oldest swimmer to compete in the 70+ age group belongs to Levent Aksüt, who was 83 at the time of the race in 2013. There’s no age limit to how old the competitors can be, but needless to say, all swimmers must have passed physical exams to prove that they can complete the long course.
The four-legged swimmer The Bosphorus Cross-Continental is an event that gets more exposure with each passing year thanks to the participation of famous guest swimmers like Mark Spitz and Ian Thorpe. Yet there’s one former guest of the event who stands out among all the rest: in 1997, American marathon swimmer Ted Erikson competed in the event with another record-breaking swimmer, his dog Umbra. She completed the course in 73 minutes, naturally favoring the dog paddle technique to do so.
The first race The very first Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swimming Race was held in 1989 between Çubuklu and Kuruçeşme with 4 female and 64 male swimmers. A year later, the starting point for the race was changed from Çubuklu to Kanlıca. The current 6.5-kilometer course is still set between Kanlıca and Kuruçeşme.
A stroke of luck 2006 stands out as the year with the best performances in the history of the race, with Alican Alaşlı setting the men’s record by competing the course in 39:07:11 and Beren Kayrak setting the women’s record at 40:50:35. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the winner of the 2015 race completed the course in over an hour: since the difficulty of the course changes depending on the surface current of the Bosphorus, it’s hard to compare the results from one year to the next.
Training is a must Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can enter the race at a moment’s notice – you’ll first have to register for the event by paying the required fee between January and March, as well as turning in the results of your physical exam and other required documents such as certifications or swimming ability letters. In other words, training makes all the difference as to whether you’ll sink or swim.
--The 28th Samsung Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swimming Race can be viewed from Cemil Topuzlu Park in Kuruçeşme. Sun Jul 24, 08.00. bogazici.olimpiyatkomitesi.org.tr