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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Westport Rotary to Hear from 70-Year-Old English Channel Swimmer

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George Brunstad: Channel swimmer to address Westport Rotary Club.
A Ridgefield man who at age 70 became the oldest swimmer to cross the English Channel will be guest speaker at the Westport Rotary Club weekly meeting Tuesday, April 5.

George Brunstad, whose swim seven months ago won him a place in RipleyӒs Believe It Or Not, will address the club luncheon to be held at Westport’s Inn at Longshore from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m, the club said. The public is welcome.

Brunstad’s appearance will include a 22-minute documentary about his English Channel swim on Aug. 28, 2004.

Taking the plunge three days after his 70th birthday, Brunstad battled strong tides and currents to swim from AbbottԒs Cliff, south of Dover, England to Sangatte Beach, south of Calais, France, in 15 hours and 59 minutes.

The last five hours were done in darkness. He left at 9.13 a.m. on a Saturday and arrived on the northern French coast at 2.12 a.m. on Sunday. While the straight line distance was 25 miles, Brunstad estimates he actually swam 32 miles because of the tides and currents.

Brunstad, who retired in 1994 as a pilot for American Airlines, has been swimming competitively for 31 years. His Channel attempt came after a year of training and many previous records in long-distance swimming, including four open-water championships. He often swam in Long Island Sound.

He decided to take on the challenge when someone asked him at his 69th birthday how he wanted to celebrate his 70th. He beat a record set by Australian Clifford Batts who accomplished the feat in 1987 at age 67. Only five men over 60 have swum across the Channel.

The father of five and grandfather of 10, Brunstad raised almost $50,000 with his Channel swim for an orphanage in Haiti. Prior to flying 30 years for American Airlines, he was in the U.S. Air Force where he piloted B-52 bombers. Upon his mandatory retirement at age 60, he bought a Russian-designed, Chinese-built MiG-17 fighter and did tricks at air shows.

When not swimming or flying, Brunstad found time to work at the Wilton YMCA as a swimming instructor.

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Posted 03/31/05 at 03:27 AM  Permalink



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