Double trouble, but now on to the upstream

Derwent River big swim monitor Doug Hughson presenting Brenda Norman with her certificate for completing the first leg of the swim.

When Brenda Norman sets out to make history, she normally succeeds.

But for the first time in her long distance swimming career, the local PE teacher and Channel 4 Change founder had to finish her swim early on Thursday.

Norman is the first person to ever attempt the Double Derwent — a 68km swim from New Norfolk Bridge to the Tasman Bridge near Hobart and back.

Conditions were not in her favour though, and she had to cancel the swim after just more than 11 hours in the water.

Norman had trained hard and felt ready, but what she couldn’t prepare for were the conditions of the river on the day of the swim.

She started off strong, completing the downstream leg of the swim in seven hours and 47 minutes — 43 minutes slower than her Derwent Swim in January last year.

But Norman quickly noticed the conditions were not as favourable this time around.

‘‘I was really pleased with how I swam the first leg.

‘‘I felt it was a better swim, but it actually took me longer than the first time I swam it.

‘‘I made it to the Bridgewater Bridge (the halfway mark of the Derwent Swim) in the same time as the first swim, so I was very happy with that considering the conditions.”

The plan was for Norman to start the swim as the tide was incoming, and as the tide turned she would make her way back and finish the swim with the outgoing tide as she approached the New Norfolk Bridge again.

‘‘I turned just before the tide had changed. I knew this part of the swim would be tough with the wind coming into my face and the tide against me, but I continued the swim until the tide turned.’’

Norman expected the tide turning to be a bit of a relief, but she said the conditions made it just as tough as the first leg.

‘‘For me it felt like the tide didn’t change.

‘‘I was hoping that as I turned the tide would turn in my favour, but it never did.

‘‘With the tide I was tracking two kilometres an hour — I just wasn’t making the type of ground I needed.

‘‘Being the first person to do something means there are many unknowns. Even though I felt really strong and prepared, sometimes you can’t plan for bad conditions.’’

After swimming 6km upstream on the second leg, which took Norman 3.5 hours, she decided to make the tough decision to call off the swim at the Bowen Bridge.

She had completed 41km of the swim in 11 hours and 11 minutes.

‘‘I decided to call it as the conditions were just making it too brutal to keep going.’’

While Norman didn’t complete what she had set out to, she still made history being the first person to even attempt the double.

Not content to let the upstream swim beat her, she’ll be back in the water tomorrow to tackle it as a single leg swim.

‘‘I was really proud of my efforts, but I thought while I’m still in Tassie and I’ve done the training, I may as well have another crack.’’

Norman will be jumping in as the tide turns on Wednesday, 4pm at the Tasman Bridge and swim the 34km upstream to New Norfolk Bridge.

If she can complete it, she will be the first person to conquer the upstream swim.

‘‘My support team has pulled through so I can swim again and it is looking like we do have favourable winds.

‘‘It’s just about working out what conditions we need to make it possible.’’