top of page

Greg Willoughby
*Men's Lake Erie Record Holder

After volunteering as a lifesaver and crew member of a planned Lake Ontario crossing 10-15 years previously, immigration lawyer Greg Willoughby, at age 40, was inspired to make his own attempt on Lake Ontario. Greg's pool training had been in local London YMCAs and with the London Silver Dolphins. His open-water work was at Port Stanley (Lake Erie), Grand Bend (Lake Huron) and Georgian Bay. His coach was Ken Fitzpatrick, an Olympian and the Canadian team captain at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Greg's Lake Erie crossing also served as the the trial swim for his Lake Ontario challenge.

Lake Erie, 2011

Greg swam Lake Erie from Crystal Beach (ON) to Sturgeon Point (NY) on July 15, 2011 in a time of 6 hrs. 17 min. 40 sec. At age 40 years and 362 days, this swim was a RECORD for the Fastest Man's crossing on this popular Lake Erie course. As of the 2021 season, the record still stands. 

At the 10:12 am start, the air and water temperatures were 22 degrees C and 24 C respectively and reached peaks of 28 C and 24C respectively. The hot and sunny conditions were certainly a challenge to prevent sunburn for both the swimmer and crew. Light winds were initially from the SE, subsided to zero after an hour, and freshened to produce 7-10 cm waves that benefited him from the N-NNE after about 4 hours.

Greg held a high stroke-rate throughout the swim. He started at 77-78 per minute with a pace of around 17:30 per km for the first hour. Over the next two hours, this pace eased to around 70 strokes/minute and a speed of 19 min/km. This speed dropped to around 20 min/km which he held at 70 strokes/minute for the remainder of the swim.

He certainly showed no signs of tiredness as he ran from the water at Sturgeon Point and to set the new Men's record.

Lake Ontario, 2011:

Greg's Lake Ontario swim took place on 26-27 August 2011 and, while it was a tremendous, almost 24-hour, effort, Greg would not repeat the success of his Erie crossing!

With a clear view of Toronto on the opposite side of the lake, the swim started at 7:41:20 pm from Niagara-on-the-Lake with air and water temperatures of 22 degrees C and 23 C respectively.

After about 3 hours, the wind started to freshen from the south (aiding the swimmer). Greg fed consistently, every 30 minutes, for the first 4 hours, but this may have been too often and he encountered some vomiting challenges for the next 2 hours. After 7 hours, the lake was relatively calm and remained that way for the remainder of the swim. After 11 hours of swimming, just before sunrise, a fog began to gather and would remain for the rest of the swim. This created problems for the boats accompanying the swimmer to see the Lead Boat. 

By 13 hours, Greg was half-way to Marilyn Bell Waterfront Park (MBP), the traditional landing point, but his progress was being severely affected by the fog and problematic currents that were apparent from the unintended westerly movement seen on the GPS track.

At 5:00 pm, he had been swimming for almost 21.5 hours and verbal tests of his cognitive function raised concern. No measurement of core temperature was available on this swim. For the next 2 hours, Greg's ability to open feeding packs became more difficult.

At about 6:45 pm, a Police Launch arrived to check our flotilla. Within the next 30 minutes, it was determined that Greg was having trouble staying afloat and communicating with the pacer or crew. At 7:41 pm, after 23 hours and 32 minutes of swimming, Greg was evacuated by police launch to hospital where he remained for 4 days to ensure his full recovery.

During the trip in the Police Launch, Greg answered a series of cognitive (Level of Consciousness) questions "without much difficulty"; however, tympanic temperature readings clearly indicated hypothermia at a level of about 30-deg.C. This finding was confirmed with an accurate rectal temperature of 31-deg.C in the Emergency Room. These cognitive and core temperature details are included here to indicate the speed at which the core temperature can drop when the subject becomes exhausted.

So, the year 2011 provided amazing swimming experiences for Greg that he did not regret and he thanked the team for having supported him to such an extent in his determination to reach his goal of Marilyn Bell Park.

Greg takes pride in knowing that his efforts raised $10,500 to support Regional Mental Health Care programs at St Joseph's Hospital in London, Ontario. 

bottom of page