Legendary sea-swimmer Theodore Yach dies aged 60

18 October 2018 - 10:17 By Dave Chambers
Robben Hood: Theodore Yach completed his 100th Robben Island crossing at the age of 58, this time in aid of charity.
Robben Hood: Theodore Yach completed his 100th Robben Island crossing at the age of 58, this time in aid of charity.
Image: Shawn Benjamin

South Africa’s most renowned open water sea swimmer‚ Theodore Yach‚ has died at the age of 60.

In 2016‚ Yach completed his 100th swim between Robben Island and the Cape Town shoreline‚ saying he was getting quicker thanks to dietary advice from Tim Noakes‚ a leading advocate of low-carbohydrate high-fat nutrition.

Noakes said on Thursday that Yach’s death was a “great tragedy”.

“He was a remarkable man and his swimming achievements were exceptional. He was just a lovely guy‚ he was always positive‚ always gentle‚ always looking on the good side of life. He was a great leader‚ a great person‚” he said.

The Cape Long Distance Swimming Association said Yach was undergoing routine tests for an asthma complaint when he collapsed and died in hospital on Wednesday.

“Theodore is a veteran of 108 Robben Island swims‚ an English Channel swim and many other international distance swims‚” it said.

“He will be remembered as a humble gentleman who loved motivating the youth to achieve their dreams. He was a friend to all and took interest in all swimmers who shared his passion for sea swimming.”

Yach‚ who leaves his wife Michelle and two sons‚ was a property developer and urban researcher‚ and a past chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District.

Speaking to TimesLIVE after his 100th Robben Island crossing‚ Yach said: “At the core‚ the reason for me doing the swims hasn’t really changed — it’s me saying to myself‚ ‘Can I do this thing?’”

He said he met his wife shortly before attempting his first crossing‚ and it took her a while to get used to the idea.

“Only about 15 years into my marriage did she confess that she had told her friends‚ ‘You know I'm not sure about this Yach boy — I think he is delusional’.

“I think I’m fortunate‚” he said.

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