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First success in Gulf of Finland swim

Latest update : 2008-07-26

Estonians Bruno Nopponen and Priit Vehm became the first swimmers to cross the Gulf of Finland in19 hours and 13 minutes and 22 hours and 22 minutes. The 55 kilometres of Baltic water measured a fearsome 6-7 degrees Celsius.

A pair of Estonians on Saturday became the first to swim the Gulf of Finland, a frigid 55-kilometre stretch of Baltic Sea once rumoured to be an escape route from the Soviet Union that them took more than 19 hours to traverse.

Swimming instructor Bruno Nopponen and freelance TV camera operator Priit Vehm set off from Finland on Friday as part of a group of six but were the only members to finish.

Nopponen, a former Estonian swimming champion, reached Estonia early on Saturday after more than 19 hours in the water while Vehm made landfall after 22 hours and 22 minutes, according to the group's blog.

Tonu Vaher, who rode on a support boat alongside the swimmers, said even the group's neck-to-ankle wetsuits couldn't block the chill of the famously cold Baltic Sea, whose waters were only 6-7 degrees Celsius (around 43 Fahrenheit).

He said Nopponen, Vehm and their fellow group members were also buffeted by waves when the larger Baltic Sea ferries passed, which temporarily made swimming impossible.

When Estonia was under Soviet control, border guards patrolled the coast with search lights, though no evidence has yet emerged that anyone made it across the gulf to freedom.

Date created : 2008-07-26

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