By Bill Selski
Escort Boat Captain and Boat Recruitment Officer

On Aug. 7, 2021, my wife Debbie and I volunteered our boat, Journey, as an escort boat for the 34th Annual Swim Across the Sound Marathon. That year would prove to be our most exciting yet!

We have done this for several years since 2011. Each marathon is unique. One year, we were a perimeter boat, helping to keep the escort boats on course. In subsequent years, we have had five-person and two-person relay teams on board. In those years, we had two second-place finishes! The swimmers were great, and our course had to be spot-on to prevent increasing the distance for the swimmers.

2021 was our first time escorting a solo swimmer. Andy Rieger of Houston and his coach, Kurt Matheson of Princeton, N.J., were our participants. They are both West Point graduates who were on the Army swim team together.

It was a calm day for the marathon. Just a slight breeze out of the South-southwest, somewhat overcast and no seas to speak of. The swimmers left the beach outside of the Port Jefferson breakwater at 8:33 a.m. The voyage across the Sound was very slow but I was able to stay in gear most of the way. The swimmer was that fast. The day progressed with nutrient bottles and energy packets tossed to Andy on a rope every 30 minutes to help the swimmer keep up his strength.

We reached the mid-course buoy at 11:35 a.m., with the high tide at 11:47 a.m. The swimmer, Nikko Price, on escort boat No. 4 was now side-by-side with Andy. We still had the second half to go. The tide shift now pushed the swimmer east, whereby we had to hug the west side of the course. My site was set for buoy R2A at the mouth of Black Rock Harbor.

Boat No. 4 and our boat Journey, boat No. 5, reached R2A in tandem. I was west and he was east. My course was now to buoy R4 to have the swimmer round the buoy in the channel, then head for the finish line east of buoy R6. The other swimmer was heading east of the channel at buoy R4 when boat No. 4 got his attention and directed him to the channel side of buoy R4. We were now ahead!

Andy gave it a final push to the finish line at 2:26 p.m., arriving 5 hours, 56 minutes after leaving the beach at Port Jefferson. That would be 1 minute, 10 seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer — a course record for the Swim Across the Sound Marathon.

In the photo above, from left: Debbie Selski, first-place swimmer Andy Rieger, boat captain Bill Selski and observer Manning Landeck celebrate their 2021 Journey to Success at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport.

Swim Across the Sound Marathon challenges swimmers to swim 15.5 miles from Port Jefferson, N.Y., to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport. The 35th annual marathon is Aug. 6. Registration is now open for swimmers, boaters and volunteers. Click here.