Update:  Set backs
Theodore Yach

Update: Set backs

While the target date for my Robben Island attend is still March 5th, 2019, about 5 months away –  I have had a few recent setbacks.


Sudden Death of a Friend

My friend Theo Yach passed away suddenly at age 60 last month.  It was a great shock hearing the news. The news spread quickly. I am in touch with Theo’s extended family and friends – all of whom expressed shock and deep sadness.  It is difficulty to sum up a Theo’s life in a few words, but I believe he was a mensch, a family man who was passionate about Cape Town and was an ambassador for open water swimming.

I spoke to Theo a month ago.  I called and spoke to him. I was excited about it being 6 months prior to my swim attempt.  He sounded good and was focused on business opportunities and his training to be the first person to swim from Hout Bay to Robben Island. He said he’d help me organize an escort boat for my swim.


It has been very sad days since his passing.  Recently I decided to honor him by adopting his name as my middle name.  My parents didn’t give me a middle name at birth and I always felt that that was something missing.  So, from now on my name is Hillel Theodore Katzeff or HTK.  I also dedicate my swim to his memory.



I know that swimming for a long period of time will lower my body temperature and I if I go too long, I will feel the effects of hypothermia.  I experienced moderate hyperthermia on a training swim earlier this year when I swan about 3 hours 45 minutes in 58F water.  Although I recovered within a couple of hours, I can still be remembered clearly. My concern with the cold water in Cape Town and my slow pace, I will be in the water for a long time, increasing the odds for hypothermia.

A few weeks ago, my friend Joel Dorphan offered to help me by introducing me to the technique he uses. It’s called Total Immersion swimming.  I have watched videos and practiced the technique in the pool. Joel was kind enough to video me in the pool, so I can watch myself and self-coach to improve.  (Sadly Terry Laughlin, the founder of Total Immersion swimming also passed away recently).


Swimming with less effort and more efficiency

I believe the technique that teaches efficient swimming techniques will help me.  However, I am frustrated by the fact that it not natural.  It is taking time to learn it because it is very technical.  I feel that I may have left it too late – even though I’m about 5 months away from my swim.

I will stick with learning the new, more efficient stroke and hope it comes together.

Longer Swims

Despite swimming about 5 days a week – three days with the tri club and two on my own, I am usually swimming about a mile each time.  The Robben Island swim is either 4 or 6 miles, so I need to increase swimming distance.

I have reached to my fellow swimmers to find swimmers that will go longer distances with me in the ocean.  This Sunday, there will be a handful of us swimming 3 miles from the Scripps Pier to La Jolla Shores and back.  I intend to connect with Dan Simonelli, an open water distance coach to help me get over this hump.


In my heart – I can do it

Some days I feel that my goal of swimming from Robben Island to the mainland is achievable and I feel confident. Other days, I don’t feel that way and think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I have been told that accomplishing this feat is 90% mental.  I need to keep that in mind and keep pushing forward.


There is no place for hate

One week ago, today, 11 people were murdered while they were in their Pittsburgh synagogue.  With hate and antisemitism on the rise, I am reminded to stand up against hate and call it out when I see it.  Please do the same.

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