Swimmer ticks off Lake Wanaka achievement

Wanaka swimmer Fiona Fairbairn is supported by her father, David Strang, and son, Finn Fairbairn,...
Wanaka swimmer Fiona Fairbairn is supported by her father, David Strang, and son, Finn Fairbairn, as she comes ashore last night after swimming the length of Lake Wanaka. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
About 500 people clapped and cheered as Fiona Fairbairn emerged from Lake Wanaka in darkness last night.

The Wanaka woman is believed to be the first person to complete a solo swim of the length of the lake, finishing the gruelling 45km journey in 16hr 9min.

After staggering on to land at the Wanaka foreshore at 10.06pm — she had to be held up on the beach — she had one simple word to describe her feeling at completing the task.

"Ecstatic."

And her advice for others tempted to try a similar marathon swim?

"Don’t do it. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone."

Ms Fairbairn was accompanied from Eely Point in the water by her 21-year-old son, Finn, while her father, David Strang, was on hand at the finish line.

She began the swim near Makarora at 5.57am, battling her way into a southerly wind all morning.

As well as Finn, supporters Peter Jackson and Marjorie Cook took turns swimming alongside her.

The water temperature at the start of the day was 13degC, but by mid-afternoon, that had risen to 19degC and the air temperature to about 30degC.

It was a second crack at the swim for Ms Fairbairn.

The cold forced her to abandon her first attempt to swim the full length of Lake Wanaka, on Good Friday last year.

The temperature on that occasion did not rise beyond 15degC during her 12 and a-half hours in the water, and her support crew "pulled the pin" just 8km short of Roys Bay.

She recalled of that attempt she was not tired, but did feel as if she had forgotten how to swim.

Even though Ms Fairbairn, a professional swimming instructor, did not finish last year, she raised more than $6000 for the Darryl Fairbairn Memorial Fund, named for her late husband, which provides funding for youth counselling through Community Networks Wanaka.

This time, she had already raised $5605 for the cause before the swim was over.

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