Two Basques & a Brit – Trafalgar vanquished!

Having just reread my original post on swimming around ‘the most dangerous’ Cape Trafalgar (see link below) I feel we are nearing the end of an era. Gone it seems are the times when this landmark promontory was tainted with the impression of fatality if one tried to swim anywhere on the headland. Last Saturday we swam around the cape and then for the hell of it swam back again.

Team Orca – James Stuart, Iñaki Guezuraga, Dicky Arana below the lighthouse on the first leg of the swim. Photo by Juan Lu Gonzalez of Avance Surf Training who was photographing his pupils in the waves and kindly sent us the picture.

Our rounding of Cape Trafalgar was entirely unintentional thus doing possibly the first ever return swim around the famous headland. We’d planned on a 4,000m. swim across the bay but the light levante wind and favourable currents just made the temptation too strong. Add to that crystal clear water with shoals of darting silvery fish it seemed the perfect opportunity. It felt almost leisurely, a far cry from the heart racing dash I made during my mid-pandemic swim when I needed to escape from the tedium of dramatic headlines. That definitely felt like a first and provoked considerable admonishment from some and admiration from others. It seemed as though the locals had never considered swimming around the cape due to the large number of fatalities there. On examining the statistics though the majority were from diving, both scuba diving and spear fishing and immigrants from Morocco landing in poor conditions. Add to that the memory of countless shipwrecks lends a maudlin air to swimming off the main beach under the lighthouse. Not for nothing is this beach called the ‘Beach of souls’, for here the sailors (the majority unable to swim) were washed ashore after the famous battle.

Blame it on Iñaki I say! We’d already swum 2,5km. when he said come on let’s give it a go. This was Dicky’s first swim around the cape, Iñaki’s second and my third. ‘Why go back when you can go forward’ I think I said and off we went. The trick with the cape is to go against all reasoning and swim offshore at least a hundred metres otherwise the wash of even the gentlest of waves will throw you against the jagged reef that surrounds the point. It seemed almost effortless as we swam across the huge green rocks below us.

Cape Trafalgar with Los Caños to the west. Photo – Ministerio del Ambiente.

We arrived at the beach below the lighthouse, shook water out of our ears and had a snap taken by a surf photographer who looked pretty surprised to see us coming from the opposite direction that swimmers usually take. We discussed walking back across the dunes to the opposite beach but Iñaki, pumped up after the swim said “Come on let’s do it! Once is never enough.” My response “You are kidding? Against the current?” Iñaki though was not to be stopped, group dynamics took force and Dicky just waded in and started swimming. 10 minutes after arriving we were back in the sea again.

Yes swimmers have drowned here but there’s not a popular beach anywhere that hasn’t had some unfortunate perish even in the mildest of conditions. Of course undoubtedly you need to be a strong swimmer – if you are pulled out to sea be prepared for a 2000m. diagonal swim back to shore probably against the current. We had something of a battle, nothing as ferocious as my first swim though and this time being in great company made all the difference. Once you’ve swum 5km. you may as well swim another 1km. and we made it right back to our start point. Happy days!

Just over 6,000m. with a strong head current on the return journey. I really enjoyed my lunch!