Swimmer Braves Murky Loch Ness for Charity
Alumna's Relay Team Crosses 23-Mile Lake to Aid Afghan Women and Children

One summer after her solo English Channel crossing, Sophie Rutenbar has again boldly gone where few have swum before her.

The UT Dallas alumna joined five other long-distance swimmers in an Aug. 5 relay swim across Scotland’s murky Loch Ness to raise money for the Afghan Mother and Child Rescue (AMCR) charity.

Sophie Rutenbar as a student

Sophie Rutenbar was a McDermott Scholar and graduated with a political science degree in 2006. She completed a solo swim across the English Channel last summer and a relay swim across the channel in 2008.

The six women traversed the 23-mile length of the lake, known as the home of the fabled Loch Ness Monster, in 13 hours and 23 minutes.

Although there was no sign of the legendary creature, the swimmers had to contend with something monstrous in its own right: bone-numbing cold water. The lake never gets much more hospitable than 41-45 degrees, even in August.

“The average water temperature was about 10 degrees colder than the water I swam in during my successful solo English Channel swim last year,” Rutenbar said. “That’s not counting the cold spots, where currents bring water up from the deeper sections of the lake.”

Supported by a motor cruiser and safety boat, each swimmer stayed in the water for about an hour at a time before being spelled off by another member of the team. The oldest swimmer on the Serpentine Ladies swim team is 65.

The swim was equivalent to 1,380 lengths of a 25-meter swimming pool. Experienced open-water swimmers count Loch Ness as a formidable challenge, not only because of the temperatures but also because of the waves. The Loch has an uncomfortable short chop, which makes it difficult to get a regular breathing rhythm.

“We were incredibly fortunate with the weather,” Rutenbar said. “Had the day not been as great as it was, the swim would have taken much closer to our original estimate of 18 hours. Instead, it was a privilege to swim in such a beautiful, unspoilt and mystical setting with so many of my good friends. Even when I lost control of my fingers from the cold, knowing that I was swimming with such great people and that we had such a great team supporting us kept me warm.”

The women were hoping that the swim would raise £50,000 for AMCR to help build a hospital for women and children in a remote part of Afghanistan.

Above:The Serpentine Ladies team  celebrates its 23-mile relay swim across Loch Ness.

At left: Sophie Rutenbar swims one of the legs of the crossing.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].