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A 68-year-old man did the 20 Bridges swim challenge in a life-threatening rainstorm and set a new world record

Man swimming under bridge in NYC
Ed Horne swimming under one of New York City's bridges.Courtesy of the author
  • On September 29, Ed Horne accomplished the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

  • He swam the "20 Bridges" challenge: a 28.5-mile loop that starts and ends at Battery Park in NYC.

  • He completed the challenge in eight hours and 29 minutes despite treacherous weather.

On September 29, while New Yorkers were trading pictures of cars swamped in record rainfall caused by Tropical Storm Ophelia, Ed Horne, 68, was setting his own record.

He was determined to finish the "20 Bridges" challenge, a 28.5-mile loop that starts and ends at Battery Park, a neighborhood at the bottom of Manhattan, which he did in eight hours and 29 minutes.

That achievement, combined with the English Channel (20.5 miles) and Catalina channel (20 miles) swims, earned him the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming status — and a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records.

Horne is the oldest person to conquer all 3 swims

It had been only drizzling when the Manhattan adventure got underway. Nathaniel Johnston, a kayaker, was tucked under the spray skirt of his craft. Captain Thomas Crystall took the helm of a small rigid-hull inflatable boat. An official observer, Louise Darlington, was on deck to ensure swimmer safety and adherence to rules: chiefly, not touching the kayak or other people, which could be construed as an assist and disqualify the swim from formal recognition.

The crew set to strategize the best timing for getting around the massive Staten Island Ferry. Horne took his first strokes with the Statue of Liberty in sight. By the time they got to the Brooklyn Bridge, it was pouring.

"Wow, this is really something," Johnston said, recalling his thoughts at the time. "The wind is blowing in my face. I couldn't see more than 50 yards ahead."

Man swimming past the statue of liberty
Horne and his crew with the Statue of Liberty in sight.Courtesy of the author

As Horne's dedicated kayaker, Johnston was tasked with passing "feeds" to the swimmer: carbohydrate powder in water with concentrated fruit juice, electrolytes, bananas, and peaches — plus an occasional caffeine pill for a man accustomed to two cappuccinos and a double espresso each day.

Darlington monitored adherence to protocol from a vantage that offered little protection from heavy horizontal rain. Her logs would be necessary to ensure ratification of the swim.

"She was getting hammered, but she did a wonderful, wonderful job," Horne said.

Darlington had taken on the role at the last minute when the scheduled observer missed the start time, having confused it with a second swim he was scheduled to monitor.

Horne is the oldest person to finish the three swims at 67.8 years old. He pushed American Eric Durban to second place since he was only 67 years old when he finished the same swims.

A state of emergency was declared while he swam

For hours, Horne dodged plastic, tissues, and leaves — the usual assortment expected in Big Apple waterways with a huge rainfall. Navigating his way toward the Triborough Bridge, the British mergers-and-acquisitions specialist had no clue that the New York City governor had declared a state of emergency.

But this wasn't Horne's first brush with savage weather. He was forced to call it quits during a "20 Bridges" try in July when lightning lit up the river beneath him — and it happened at the 19th bridge.

"The heartbreaking thing," Johnston said, was that "as soon as we got on land, the storm went away." He added: "We were all just sitting there at night on this pier, watching it suddenly clear up and turning into a beautiful evening."

He's not one to give up

But Horne is not one to give up: It took him three tries to cross the English Channel.

During his first try, in 2020, he swam in brutal waters.

"Every time you would breathe, you didn't know whether you were getting air or water," he said. "It seemed to be bouncing around like a washing machine."

Excruciating cramps took him out in 2021. Finally, in 2022, he reached the seaside town of Wissant, France — in 15 hours and 51 minutes.

With the English Channel under his belt and one aborted attempt at "20 Bridges," Horne set his sights in August on California's Catalina channel. It shook him to the core.

"Through the darkest night I have ever done, there were no stars. There were no other boats out," he said.

The kayaker who followed him attached glow sticks to the feeds. Through steamy goggles, Horne pushed on for seven hours as darkness ate into his psyche.

He finished Catalina in 13 hours and 43 minutes and was determined to get back to the Big Apple for that elusive 20th bridge — and the Triple Crown.

For him, victory was sweet.

"The George Washington Bridge now will always have a place in my heart," he said.

At NYC's Pier A at the finish, Horne messaged a local swim group that had been tracking his swim by app and eagerly awaiting news: "Completed the 20 Bridges in the most diabolical weather and was greeted by one total stranger who turned his back on us!!" His tone was jovial. He praised his crew, saying: "Strong winds and horizontal rain. It was slightly more fun in the water!"

Read the original article on Business Insider