What makes two guys from Southie the local representatives in the oldest open water marathon swim in the country? “It was Jim Doty’s fault,” says Rick Sweeney of Thomas Park. “Jim reinstated the Boston Light Swim in 1976 after it was discontinued during World War II, and as a young man I used to watch the race finish at L street every year and think ‘how can anybody swim that distance’? Fast forward about 35 years, one winter night my good friend Fran O’Loughlin and I were having a few beers and talking of our shared love for open water swimming, and the topic of the Boston Light Swim came up – that’s when the idea hatched.” That was over 6 years ago, and since then Fran and Rick participated in their 5th Boston Light Swim last month, both completing the swim as solo swimmers.
A Boston Tradition Since 1907
The oldest open water marathon swim in the U.S. and affectionately billed as the “Granddaddy of American Open Water Swims,” the 8-mile Boston Light Swim has been a local tradition since 1907. In the swimming community, the Boston Light Swim is as prestigious as the Boston Marathon is to runners. Participants begin the race in the water at America’s first lighthouse, the Boston Light on Little Brewster Island in the outer Harbor. The course continues past George’s Island and Rainsford Island, then along Long Island (and past where the Long Island Bridge used to stand), and around Thompson’s Island. Swimmers come ashore at the historic L Street Bathhouse in South Boston, home of the world famous L Street Brownies and the L Street Ice Swimmers.
“Fran and I are both very active and outdoorsy guys –we’re old-school gym rats who enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking and of course swimming. Once Fran and I decided to go for it, we started our training plan and researched qualifying swims in the area,” explains Rick.
“We train in different pools, so we would compare notes frequently and look forward to getting into the ocean by May to begin serious open water training. In the Summer of 2011 we qualified for the swim with the hopes of securing a spot the following year. Through a stroke of luck, a relay team cancelled just 3 weeks before the race, and the race director offered us the spot, so we competed as a relay team called ‘The Southie Buoys’, and got hooked.”
The Boston Light Open Water Swim is one of the most competitive and prestigious open water swims in the world. Qualified swimmers are chosen by lottery, and the swim is limited to only 25 solo swimmers and 6 relay teams.
“It’s really a privilege for Southie to host this prestigious event,” explains Rick. “We’ve met some amazing people through this swim, and it’s an honor to swim with some of the best marathon swimmers in the world.” This year some have come from as far as South Africa, Australia, and California to compete. “Our swimmer friends who live within commuting distance frequently come to Southie and swim with us – we train together or just go for a fun swim followed by a ‘debrief’ at the L Street Tavern or the South Boston Yacht Club. We also have a couple of Facebook Groups to keep in touch and plan swims,” he added. The next time you drive along Carson Beach or Pleasure Bay in the late afternoon, look for the swimmers towing orange safety buoys and chances are good it’s Fran and Rick enjoying a sunset swim.
This swim is perfect for seasoned cold water ocean swimmers and those who are working up to longer cold water swims. Many swimmers in the past have used this 8-mile, non-wetsuit swim to prepare for an English Channel crossing.
Way to go, guys! You’ve done Southie proud!
Image: Southie Buoys, Rick Sweeney (left), Fran O’Loughlin (right)
Congratulations gentlemen! Nicely done!
Great article about Great Southie Guys. Keep swimming????
Two great guys who are proud to represent Southie and we’re just as proud to call them our friends. Awesome job
Southies are one of the reasons to do this great swim. These guys are gems as are the race directors and the whole swim race staff. My favorite swim, bar none. Love Boston harbor and the boat pilot and first mate that has accompanied us twice now. Tommy and Jimmy are two Boston water dogs that make it all fun. L Street tavern and the locals that hang there are worth the trip.
Fantastic accomplishment gentlemen!
Congratulations great job!
Let’s make Southie Great Again!
Very proud of these 2 ! Southies best!