Del Mar Students Brave Open Water in Italy to set Record

Deborah Sullivan Brennan – Contact Reporter

Students from a small, private school in Del Mar charted a new course in the Gulf of Italy, when they completed a 15-hour relay swim between the islands of Ischia and Di Santo Stefano Sunday.

The students, from Sea Change Preparatory, took turns swimming hour-long legs in the relay, to become the first swimmers to cross that channel, school officials said.

This was the fourth time the team forged new paths in open water distance swimming, and the first channel swim recorded between these two Italian islands, according to the Marathon Swimmers Federation.

Coach Dan Simonelli, who is also a long-distance solo swimmer, said the students stretched their limits on their journey.

“It’s always amazing to see how these young swimmers find it within themselves to push beyond what they thought was possible, both individually and collectively,” Simonelli said.

The team of students and instructors, the youngest of whom is 12 years old, started from the dock at Ischia shortly after 4 a.m. and began the swim officially at shortly after 5 a.m. The team battled persistent currents for most of the journey, while avoiding jellyfish stings. But the sea was calm, and both the air and water temperatures were warm, they reported.

“I could not be prouder of the team, especially the first-time swimmers,” said Cheryl Allcock, Head of School and co-founder of Sea Change Prep. “This was a challenging swim and each team member did their part flawlessly.”

Sea Change is a private “micro-school” of six students in Del Mar, which incorporates open water swimming and the philosophy of mindfulness in its program.

The event in Italy was the seventh distance swimming event for the tiny Del Mar school, and one of several to cross new ocean passages.

Sea Change began its open water attempts with solo swims from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco in 2014, and relays from Catalina to the California mainland the same year. In 2015, they collaborated with other schools for a relay across the English Channel.

Later, students swam relays from Santa Barbara to Anacapa Island, from Santa Rosa Island to Goleta, near Santa Barbara, and along the west coast of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Allcock said swimming federations for those areas verified that those were first crossings for those routes.