Swimmers Susan Simmons and Jill Yoneda will attempt the Juan de Fuca crossing from near Port Angeles to Victoria this Sunday. (Travis Paterson/Saanich News)

Swimmers Susan Simmons and Jill Yoneda will attempt the Juan de Fuca crossing from near Port Angeles to Victoria this Sunday. (Travis Paterson/Saanich News)

Two Victoria women plan to swim across Strait of Juan de Fuca

VICTORIA — Two Victoria women, one with multiple sclerosis and another recovering from a recent leg surgery, plan to swim about 18.5 miles from the Dungeness Spit to Victoria on Sunday, weather permitting.

Susan Simmons, 52, who will swim unassisted, was diagnosed with MS more than 20 years ago and uses fitness as a way to manage the disease, she said Thursday.

Jill Yoneda, 42, who will wear a wetsuit, is recovering from a major surgery on her right leg and suffers from popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, a condition caused by muscles in her legs blocking the main arteries there.

Simmons is familiar with open-water swimming and has a list of cold-water accomplishments, but Yoneda is fairly new to the sport. It’s her second open swim.

“I’m nervous because I’m fresh out of surgery,” Yoneda said. “At the same time, I’m really excited to be in the ocean for an entire day, even if I’m moving at a snail’s pace.”

Yoneda is an accomplished freediver who was on the Canadian freediving team and who has set national records in the sport.

So far, Yoneda has had nine surgeries on her legs and 15 in total.

Last year, the duo swam 31 miles in B.C.’s Great Bear Sea and attempted another leg of the Great Bear in June only to be turned around by poor conditions.

Simmons said the Strait of Juan de Fuca will be the coldest swim she’s attempted. She said the Great Bear swim was 55 degrees.

Water temperatures around Port Angeles were about 51 degrees Thursday.

The pair’s swims also are longer than recent attempts across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Simmons said. Simmons wanted to do the same swim as Canadian swimmer Marilyn Di Lascio, who completed the swim in 1956 and was repeated by other Canadians.

“I thought it was important to do the one that two Canadian women did,” Simmons said. “Some amazing Americans have done [the swim], but I live on this side of the border.”

Simmons said that though her attempt is a longer distance than others’ attempts, any swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca is amazing.

“All of these swims are incredible achievements,” she said.

If Simmons completes the swim, she would become the eighth person to complete the swim without a wetsuit, though the attempt isn’t sanctioned by the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association (NOWSA).

Andrew Malinak, president of NOWSA, became the seventh to finish the swim when he swam in seven hours from Beechy Head to the mouth of the Elwha River in 2015, he said.

Malinak said Simmons had asked NOWSA to sanction the swim earlier this month, but there wasn’t enough time to go through NOWSA procedures.

Simmons will swim unassisted but will have two support vessels with her, she said.

The swimmers have touched base with the U.S. and Canadian coast guards, customs and the Port Authority, Simmons said.

“Safety is paramount,” she said. “I want to make sure everything is OK.”

The swimmers plan to arrive in Port Angeles on Saturday and swim Sunday morning, though they might leave at different times.

Simmons will have a spot tracker and will provide updates using #WithMS4MS.

Simmons is swimming to raise money to reopen an MS wellness center in Victoria. She said the center was closed last year and was the only one in the country. To donate, go to her website at withms4ms.com and click on “To Raise Funds for the MS Wellness Centre” at the top.

Yoneda is asking people to donate to a First Nation camp in Tofino, B.C. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/reconnect-ahousat-youth-surf-day.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

Susan Simmons of James Bay, B.C., plans to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. (provided)

Susan Simmons of James Bay, B.C., plans to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. (provided)

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