It’s an accomplishment only a handful of people can claim. On Monday, two Victoria women swam across Juan de Fuca Strait from near Port Angeles to Victoria, in open ocean. Mary Griffin reports on their effort, their friendship, and a new world record.

A member of her crew recorded the minutes before Victoria’s Jill Yoneda starts her swim. It was 5:52 in the morning on July 31.

Jill’s swim started at Washington State’s Dungeness Spit and finished at Victoria’s Clover Point.

Yoneda’s friend and training partner, Susan Simmons, started the same swim across the Juan de Fuca Strait an hour behind her.

They can’t swim together because Simmons is competing under strict English Channel rules.

Fortunately, the water temperature was 11 C and calm.

Ten hours and 38 minutes later, Yoneda was hypothermic. But she managed to crawl out of the water at Clover Point under her own steam.

Her best friend Mandy Rae Krack swam alongside the last few metres.

“I had to stay behind her. Not allowed to get in front of her or anything. Stay behind,” says Krack.  “But I was yelling at her to keep going.  That there

“But I was yelling at her to keep going.  That there is people waiting for her, and lots of love onshore.”

With friends, and tourists looking on, less than an hour later, at 5:21 p.m., Simmons arrived at Ogden Point.

“I think I might go get a beer. Get a local bee or something like that,” says Simmons.

The next morning, the two friends were comparing war wounds.

They are only two of only eight people who’ve successfully swum the Strait.

And a world record for Simmons.

“I broke the world record by, it was previously 10.17. And then I did 10.06. So, eleven minutes,” says Simmons.  “It was held by a man from Victoria. And it’s from over 60 years ago.”

Yoneda says she had to overcome some nerves in the open ocean, until she thought of her friend.

“I just imagined her beside me. Because we’ve always trained together that way. And then it was good.”

Both women say health issues drive them.

Simmons’ MS compels her to complete athletic challenges, and Yoneda’s chronic pain keeps her going.

Mary Griffin