Swimming Cows conquer Lake Malawi in brutal conditions
Durban - Three gutsy members of The Cows have successfully completed the
non-stop 24 kilometre crossing of Lake Malawi in treacherous conditions,
raising money for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.
The trio were part of a group of five swimmers, Chris and Polly Stapley, Jay
and Ruth Azran and Australian Andrew Stevens who flew into Lilongwe intent
on swimming from Makanjila Point to Senga Bay. Lake Malawi is the fourth
largest fresh water lake in the world by volume, the ninth largest lake in
the world by area and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa.
As they left on the 25th April after having camped the night prior on a sand
bank by the start point the experienced support crew stated that the weather
and water were the worst conditions they had encountered for a crossing to
“’The wind was blowing with purpose from the South East with the weather
forecast predicting this to settle down after midday,” recalled Jay Azran.
“The surface of the lake felt like a washing machine as we all battled the
troughs and crests of the waves for over six hours.”
“I felt sorry for the first swim group as they had close to an extra hour of
these conditions, but we had to take the gap as the forecast predicted the
weather to get worse over the coming days.”
The plan was for the second group to pass the first group of slower swimmers
but due to the conditions, they passed 500 metres to the south of them.
Despite the winds Chris Stapley and Jay Azran seemed to be close to a record
time for the first 21 kilometres of the crossing.
Then they swam into strong currents swirling all directions around an island
South of the point at Senga Bay called Namalenje Island which threw serious
doubts into the swimmer’s minds as to whether they were going to finish.
‘’At one point we were swimming next to each other’’ Chris Stapley said.
‘’Then suddenly Jay was a few hundred metres ahead as he managed to get
through the current. I changed direction swimming at forty five degrees
across the current and managed to catch up with Jay who seemed to be stuck
in another off-shore current. The last four kilometres took us close to two
The two men finally reached the rocky outcrop next to Senga Bay in a time of
8hr 40min having swum a distance of 25,3km.
The group of three slower simmers behind them had to battle through the
worst of the conditions, with mixed results. The safety crew eventually
withdrew Polly Stapley, who had become violently sick due to seasickness in
the challenging conditions. She wanted to persevere but the decision to
withdraw was based on concerns of dehydration and the lack of nearby medical
64 year old Andrew Stevens continued to battle his way through with limited
feed stops to complete the crossing in 10hr 50 min, followed by the gutsy
Ruth Azran, who completed the crossing in 11hr 08 min, despite injuring her
shoulder, and said that she was continually motivated to inspire her own
The swimmers followed English Channel rules with no touching of the support
boat during their feed stops, and between them they set four new records.
Chris Stapley being the first Swazi citizen to complete the crossing, Jay
and Ruth Azran became the first married couple to complete the crossing and
Stevens became the first Australian and oldest to have completed the
crossing. Stapley and Jay Azran also lay claim to the second fastest
crossing to date with the current record of 7hr 53 min set in 2016.
In the process they managed to raise more than R40 000,00 for CHOC.
The exhausted swimmers extended their thanks to Walter Muggleton who was
both skipper and navigator, skipper Aubrey De Klerk and his wife Nita and
their staff from Chembe Eagles Nest who helped with many of the logistics on
If you would like to make a financial pledge to those children in need,
or use the following bank details:
Bank: Standard Bank
Branch code: 007205
Account Name: CHOC COWS
Account Number: 203710843
Reference: Enter your name / Malawi Swim
Please send POP to firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about The Cows can be found at
About The Cows
The Cows were started in 2008 by a group of eight enthusiastic cyclists
keen to make a difference and raise funds for the CHOC Childhood Cancer
Foundation of South Africa. Cordi van Niekerk was
one of the founder members and joined Kerrin and Grant Bain in cycling the
947 Cycle Challenge in memory of their daughter, Jessica, who had
recently died from cancer at just 20 months old.
As CHOC had played a
significant role in the Bain family's life in the last few weeks of
Jessica’s life, specifically with palliative care and emotional support, the
decision was to make CHOC the beneficiary of their quest. They decided to
don cow suits and succeeded in raising R230 000.
In 2009, the herd gained momentum and grew to 140 energetic
cows. Just two years later the herd numbered a staggering 350 cows all
riding for a purpose. Armed with the ‘Love Living Life’ slogan and a healthy
dose of enthusiasm, the herd has enjoyed much success and acclaim.
Ten later, hundreds of people have participated in events wearing
cow suits. The Cows have raised well over R30 million for specific projects implemented by CHOC and The Cows brand is
prominent in many sporting events in South Africa. With these funds, CHOC is
able to make a difference to the children being treated for cancer
throughout South Africa.
One herd; one quest: to make a difference to children with cancer. Love
More information can be found at
Click to download the hi-res
The Cows Logo - JPeg
Avid open water swimmers (from left)
Andrew Stevens, Jay Azran, Ruth Azran, Chris Stapley and Polly Stapley after
their successful crossing of Lake Malawi to raise
funds and awareness for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Brave open water swimmers (from left)
Polly Stapley, Chris Stapley, Ruth Azran, Jay Azran and Andrew Stevens
,prepare for their crossing of Lake Malawi to raise
funds and awareness for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Andrew Stevens close to the
finish of his swim across Lake Malawi to raise funds and
awareness for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.
The route across Lake Malawi
swum by the five swimmers at the end of April, from Makanjila
Point to Senga Bay.
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