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Q&A: The Kayes take on the 20 Bridges Swim

Release date: 19 June 2024

We had the pleasure of sitting down with our Co-Founder and Director at Vesper Technologies, Philip Kaye to learn about his latest endurance adventure with his son Rory. Together, they are preparing to take on the 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan Island, one of the most prestigious events in the open water swimming community. They will be taking on the swim in relay teams of 3.

The swim, which takes place in October, is a whopping 48.5km meaning, on average, more than 16 km of swimming each. It takes challengers through the East River, Harlem River, and the Hudson, while passing under New York’s most famed bridges. It’s a mammoth of a task, made more difficult by ever-present tides and cold temperatures.

In our conversation, Phil, a Team GB (Age-Group) duathlete, shares his insights into their preparation, challenges, and motivations. It’s a far cry from our usual IT related content, but something Vespertec is fully behind. 

What inspired you and your son to sign up for the 20 Bridges swim challenge around Manhattan?

“Rory participated in an English channel swim with his relay team last year and is repeating that challenge in July this year with a new team from his school, Beech Hall in Macclesfield. He also had the opportunity to take part in the 20 Bridges Swim. It’s part of the Triple Crown of open water swimming, which piqued his interest. Rory was really keen to do it, and I was offered to join an adults team swimming at the same time. It sounded like a lot of fun and a great way to get involved in a challenge together.”

What does your training regimen look like in preparation for the swim?

“Our training involves a lot of pool sessions because they are quick and convenient. We have a structured schedule with the school squad, including a Monday morning session before school, a Thursday cardio session, and a Saturday session. Additionally, Rory and I train in the local pool before school, adjusting to early mornings and fitting in breakfast on the go. We also do several sessions in lakes and the sea, especially on weekends, to acclimate to cold water and rougher water.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing during the relay swim?

“For me, the biggest challenge is definitely the cold water. The water temperature will be about 16 degrees and no wetsuits are allowed. I struggle with cold temperatures, which can be quite a mental and physical battle. The process of warming up after being in cold water and then getting back in is daunting. Another challenge is the chop in the water, as I’m not very comfortable with bilateral breathing, making it tough if the waves are against me.”

How are you and your son preparing mentally and physically for this demanding event?

“We are trying to experience the challenges in advance by doing long swims and getting used to cold water and repeated swims. Rory is quite mentally and physically prepared, but for me, it’s more about overcoming personal hurdles and ensuring I can keep up with the demands of the event.”

You’re raising money for Mencap through this challenge. Can you tell us why this cause is important to you?

“We are raising money for Mencap because it is the chosen charity of Nikki Pope, Rory’s swim coach, and an endurance swimmer. Nikki has a strong connection to Mencap and has accomplished incredible feats in open water swimming starting in 2019 when she completed a solo swim of the English Channel. I support the excellent work Mencap does and am motivated to raise funds for such a worthy cause.”

As a Team GB duathlete, Phil, what pushes you to take on such ambitious challenges like the 20 Bridges swim?

“The primary driver is my son’s interest and our enjoyment of training together. I also see this as an opportunity to improve my swimming and potentially become a more competitive triathlete. Although I enjoy it, my swimming isn’t very strong, which is why I compete in Duathlon.

How do you balance training with work and other commitments?

“I do a lot of my training early in the morning, making it easier to fit into my schedule. I also use indoor equipment like treadmills and turbo trainers for efficiency. Balancing training with other commitments is always a challenge, but integrating sessions into our daily routine, like swimming before school, helps manage our time well.”

What are your goals and expectations for the swim?

“My main goal is to finish strong and not let my team down. Beech Hall School has two teams of three heading out to New York, a children’s team of 3 and an adults team of three (consisting of myself, another parent and the headmaster) As we set off at the same time it’s turned into a race so I have one eye on that. But ultimately, it’s about raising funds for Mencap and enjoying the experience.”

We wish Philip and Rory the best of luck as their training continues to ramp up! 

To support their journey and contribute to Mencap, please visit their just giving page here.

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