History

The Lake George Open Water Swims are organized with the long-term hope of reviving swims that took place in 2007 and, before that, all the way back in 1927. Those events centered around a 41k (25.5 mile) swim that drew swimmers from around the world. We are working to re-introduce that race in the near future.

GLR reprised the event in 2011 and they were organized under the advisement of Graham Bailey of Hague, NY, who himself revived the 41k in 2007 and introduced some new swims around the lake as well. To learn more about these events, please click on the tabs below. To learn about the history of swimming the entire length of the lake, click here. Also Swimming Lake’s Length Netted Little. Also, Coming Home.

2013

2013

The 3rd year of the revival of the Lake George Open Water Swims saw 171 swimmers from six countries and 20 U.S. states take part in the 2.5k, 5k, 10k and 4 mile distances. The event was held August 24-25, 2013 and was greeted with beautiful weather and water temperature in the low 70s.

In the 2.5k, Jeremy Fischer of Wilmington, DE proved fastest male with a time of 37:20. Heather Bernstein of Augusta, GA was top female with a time of 40:49.

In the 5k the winners were Steven Benvenuto Jr (1:06:22) of Allenwood, NJ and Eileen Mullowney (1:12:54) of Burlington, VT.

The 10k saw Daniel Moran of Springfield, MA defend his win from 2012 with a time of 2:26:38. On the ladies’ side Tracy Vogel of Buffalo, NY proved fastest female with a time of 2:41:30.

The following day, Sunday, 20 swimmers and their paddlers came out for the 2nd year of the 4 mile point-to-point swim from Hague beach to Rogers Rock Campground. The event was won for the second year in a row by Dennie Swan-Scott of Lake George, NY in a time of 1:36:42. On the men’s side, Brent Wasser of Williamstown, MA came in at 1:40:28.

Full results are available here.

The Lake George Open Water 10K Swim will be a USMS Open Water National Championship in 2014 for the >6 – <9 distance.

Event organizers are proud to have hosted swimmers from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France and Australia at the 2013 event. Organizers are also grateful to the wonderful volunteers, emergency personnel, residents and the Town of Hague for their continued support of the event and helping turn it into a national championship venue in 2014 and 2015.

2012

2012

The weekend of August 25-26 saw 150 swimmers take part in the LGOWS which included the 2.5k, 5k and 10k swims on Saturday plus a new 4 mile point-to-point race from Hague Beach to Rogers Rock Campground that took place on Sunday.

The swimmers represented three countries (US, Canada, Great Britain), including eighteen US states and Canadian provinces, and were fortunate enough to have perfect weather conditions. For full results, click here.

The 4-mile event on Sunday was limited to 25 swimmers. The start was Hague Beach and the finish line was Rogers Rock Beach, located near the landmark of the same name. Joseph Guilfoyle of New Jersey was first male with a time of 1:35:39. Dennie Swan-Scott of Lake George was first female with 1:37:46. Owing to winds to direction of the swim was changed from north>south to south>north a couple days prior.

2011

2011

Zone Open Water Championship Takes Place In Calm Before the Storm
In the face of Hurricane Irene, 91 swimmers from 12 states made their way to the hamlet of Hague, NY on August 27, 2011 for the Lake George Open Water Swims, consisting of 2.5k, 5k and 10k distances. The 2.5k event doubled as the 2011 Colonies Zone Open Water Championship.

Facing 37 swimmers in the 2.5k event, Galen Rinaldi, of Cobalt, CT was first female with a time of 35:11. Ed Stoner of Gardiner, NY was first male in 36:45. Rounding out the top three women was Denise Veenstra (45:56) and Ashley Braniecki (46:20). For the men, Terry Laughlin placed second with a time of 42:44, followed by Kelvin Webster in 45:44. In the 5k event, Galen Rinaldi showed her winning ways once again with a time of 1:13:29, with Brent Wasser of Hyde Park, NY winning the men’s heat in 1:15:54.

Organizers were able to salvage the 10k event — originally scheduled for Sunday — by moving it to Saturday to avoid predicted unfavorable weather conditions. 19 of the 28 registered 10k swimmers were able to make it. The event was won by Rachel Seely of Brookline, MA in 2:38:07 and Gary Labine of Toronto in 2:47:29. The three swims took place on a diamond-shaped 2.5k course, with loops serving for the longer distances. Weather conditions on Saturday proved perfect for an open water swim, though they deteriorated late Saturday night as the effects of hurricane Irene came through.

The Lake George Open Water Swims last took place in 2007, with a 41k serving as the main event. The only other time that event has been held was in 1927. Organizers are hoping to revive the 41k for 2012.

2007

2007

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1927 event and as part of Hague’s Bicentennial, The Swim Lake George Association recreated this event during the weekend of June 30 and July 1, 2007. The Marathon began in Lake George Village and finished in Hague. World-class professional international swimmers competed for cash prizes. Amateur swimmers were also invited to compete in various mini-marathons in Lake George Village, Bolton Landing and Hague. The distances for these shorter races ranged from ½ km to 6 km

Other objectives of this event were:

  • To showcase Lake George and the Adirondack Region
  • To stimulate tourism within the Lake George area
  • To support organizations for the enhancement of the Lake

The Marathon
The 41k Swim Marathon was won by Rafael Perez, from Santa Fe, Argentina in a time of 11 hours 21 minutes. This was 9 hours faster than the only other time the event was held, 80 years earlier. Ten swimmers competed in the Marathon between Lake George Village and Hague in the waters of Lake George. During the middle of the race 20 mph headwinds proved to be a major obstacle to the swimmers. After 12 hours of continuous swimming the race was stopped because of rapidly approaching darkness and prize money was awarded based on position of the swimmers at the time. Dori Miller placed first among the women.

Age Group and Masters Swim Events

Other events held during the weekend were the 1k, 2k, and 6k individual swims and the 2k and 4 k relay events.

In all, 150 swimmers ranging in age from 10 to 67 competed in one or more of the open water swim events held in Lake George Village, Bolton Landing and Hague.

 

1927

1927

On July 12, 1927, 146 swimmers from nearly every state and 6 countries competed in the Lake George Swim Marathon.  Eighteen and one half hours after the start in Hague, New York City swimmer, Edward Keeting, finished first in Lake George Village.

1927 Lake George Swimming Marathon

By Ginger Henry

The year was 1927. Prohibition was in full swing. The Sacco-Vanzetti case was being tried in Boston. Calvin Coolidge was president and the Lake George Swimming Marathon was making headlines. The Lake George Swimming Marathon? Never heard of it? Well, you’re in good company. Most people are not aware of this historic event — which is pretty amazing when one considers that it drew 146 competitors from six countries and nearly every state in the U.S. that several of these swimmers were world record holders and that heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey traveled to Hague to fire the starting pistol.

Held under the auspices of the Lake George Post of the American Legion, the July 1927 marathon drew approximately 100,000 spectators, according to newspaper reports of the day. It put Lake George on the map for many across the country who had never even heard of the Adirondacks. As Charles Gelman of the now-defunct Merkel and Gelman Stores of Glens Falls and Lake George noted at the time, “It turned national attention on Lake George.”

July 12, the day of the marathon, dawned as a scorcher. An estimated 5,000 spectators rose early, lining the Hague beaches for the start. Among the spectators was Clifton West, former Hague historian. When asked during a recent interview if he remembered the day, he replied, “Of course! That’s not something you forget too easily.”

Mr. West was 18 at the time and was working as a dock boy at the nearby Island Harbor House Hotel. “I left work to go downtown to watch,” he recalled. “There were people everywhere, but I think they were more interested in seeing Jack Dempsey than they were in seeing the swimmers.”

The dock at the Trout House was a bustle of activity as boats arrived and departed, dropping off contestants, officials and others connected with the race. With each approaching boat, a cry went up from the crowd waiting in anxious anticipation for Jack Dempsey to disembark. When his boat finally arrived, state troopers had their work cut out for them as they cleared the multitudes from the dock to make way for the sports hero. Mr. West remembers that so many people had crowded onto the platform leading out to the pier, that it gave way when Dempsey stepped onto it, sending him and about a dozen of his fans into the ankle-deep water. Dempsey was unscathed, though his fashionable shoes were soaked through. He reportedly grinned and carried on with his business – getting the race started.
Champion swimmer Lotte Schoemmel had traveled by train all the way from California to swim in the marathon. When her train finally arrived at the Lake George station, the boat which was to carry her to Hague had departed. No matter. The determined Schoemmel hitched a ride on an aquatic plane, touching down in Hague with just minutes to spare before the start of the event.

Fortunately for Schoemmel, she didn’t require much time to suit up for the race. If the truth be known, she actually required NO time to suit up for the race. For Schoemmel, it seems, was the originator of the “grease bathing suit” which we understand had caused quite a stir and more than just a few raised eyebrows at several previous events around the globe. According to the official program for the Lake George Swimming Marathon, it had been decided in advance that the grease bathing suit would nevertheless be considered “suit”-able for this race. It was clearly spelled out in Rule #12: “Any class of bathing suit, except that which might cause the swimmer to remain afloat, can be used. Suits can be abolished entirely if swimmer chooses to use a covering only of grease.”

The use of the grease was put in question shortly before the event, when Warren County Sanitary Inspector Harry Smith announced that the grease could jeopardize the quality of Lake George’s water — which was, after all, used for drinking water. The swimmers, however, rallied at the Lake George Courthouse and were able to convince him that the grease was a natural substance (wool fat or lanolin) and would not harm the lake.

Of those registered for the race, two were local talents. One was Sam Schwartz of Glens Falls. The other was one of the few remaining members of the tribe of Six Nations, the Native Americans who inhabited the area long before the first white man ever laid eyes on Lake George. Her name (could this be pure coincidence?) was Anniwake Swimmer.
The 24-mile course set up for the marathon ran from the Trout House in Hague to the pergola of the Fort William Henry Hotel. Passing by Sabbath Day Point, it continued through the Mother Bunch Islands and the Narrows, past Bolton Landing and on to the head of the lake. Dempsey fired the starting pistol shortly before 9AM and the swimmers were on their way. Ernest Vierkoetter, the German baker who held the record for swimming the English Channel, took an early lead. He was the first to pass the checkpoint at Sabbath Day Point, a feat which would earn him the Bruce Carney trophy. (Carney was the proprietor of the Sabbath Day Point House).

As the race progressed, more and more swimmers were forced to drop out from cramps or exhaustion. George Knapp of Shelving Rock had donated the use of his yacht Sayonara as the hospital ship for the race. Dr. Edward C. Gow of Glens Falls was on board as the doctor in charge. Gow and his staff treated 41 contestants on the ship. Fortunately all of the swimmers swiftly recovered from their maladies, though a newspaper report of the day noted that the greased up swimmers did impart some slight damage to the fine furnishings and upholstery of Mr. Knapp’s luxury yacht.

Not all of the problems encountered by the swimmers were of a medical nature. One swimmer, delivered to the hospital ship with cramps, recovered and was transferred to another boat to be taken ashore. However, his clothes and possessions were in the rowboat which had been accompanying him. The rowboat was nowhere in sight. The swimmer, believing that the oarsman had rowed back to Hague, directed the patrol boat to bring him there. After the boat dropped him on the beach and returned to the race, the unlucky swimmer learned that the rowboat had continued on to Lake George, leaving him high and dry — and reportedly quite frustrated — in Hague.

Another account tells of an official who found two oarsmen rowing down the lake without their swimmer. When asked where the swimmer was, the oarsmen said they had lost him. After three-quarters of an hour of searching, the officials finally found the missing swimmer — about two miles behind the rowboat which was supposed to be accompanying him! The water was cold, the waves were high and the course was long. Apparently the swimmers had not anticipated the difficulty of the marathon. In the end, only one contestant crossed the finish line. His name was Edward Keating, a 24-year old swimming instructor from New York City, who completed the race just after 4:30 am on the morning of July 13, after being in the water for almost 19 hours.

A local newspaper reported that upon completion of the race, “Keating went to bed at the Fort William Henry yesterday morning and slept with what was reported as great earnestness.” At an awards ceremony the next day, Keating received $5,000 in prize money, as well as a silver cup and a lot in a Lake George development tract. He vowed to use part of the prize money to give his mother a vacation on Lake George. Although at the time of the prize ceremony he had not yet decided which hotel he would select, he did say that he had a special fondness in his heart for Hague. Keating had trained there for a week before the race and had established many new friendships in the picturesque village at the northern end of the lake.

Ernest Vierkoetter, the German baker who had held a strong lead throughout the first part of the marathon, said after the race that he had dropped out in Bolton Landing not because of cramps or fatigue but because of indigestion. It seems that his stomach was having difficulty adjusting to that good ole American cuisine after his hearty Germany diet!

Although the marathon was a great success in garnering publicity for the region that summer, it turned out to be a one-time event, never to be staged again. Perhaps it was the frustration on the part of the many competitors who were unable to complete the course, or perhaps the American Legion could not rally enough support for a second running of the marathon. The reasons are not clear. But for a few short weeks, in the summer of 1927, the Lake George Swimming Marathon was certainly the talk of the town.