STANDING AT LYFORD’S STONE TOWER IN TIBURON AND LOOKING OVER RACCOON STRAIT TOWARD ANGEL ISLAND,
most of us could scarcely imagine swimming that distance. The tides run swift through the strait and the current can be unpredictable. At 150 feet, it is one of the deepest channels inside the Gate, with water in the mid-50-degree range much of the year.
Yet to some this swim — known as the RCP Tiburon Mile — not only is possible, but has become an annual challenge that beckons
to both local and far-flung participants, including some of the fastest swimmers in the world.
The distance is one nautical mile, from the start on the beach in Ayala Cove at Angel Island to the finish line in Tiburon
near Sam’s Cafe. The water temperature is the warmest it will get all year — a balmy 63 to 64 degrees on a mild autumn day
— and the waves and chop are minimal due to the stabilizing presence of Angel Island. A flotilla of volunteer kayakers and
paddleboarders shadows the racers across the channel, ready to swoop in if help is needed. The fastest swimmers make it over
in about 20 minutes, while the average time is about 40 minutes. Along with triathlons and marathons, open-water swimming
has expanded in popularity over the last decade; last year more than 800 participated in the Tiburon Mile. But this race was
not the first to traverse Raccoon Strait.