Tag Archives: Guinness Book of World Records

Liz Fry: Westport’s New Guinness World Record Holder

Last Thursday was Guinness World Record Day.

If you’re like me, you probably celebrated by being blissfully unaware.

If you’re Liz Fry though, it was a big deal. She was honored for 2 Guinness world records — and, for her amazing achievements, was featured on the book’s website.

The 1976 Staples High School graduate — who is as low-key as she is accomplished, so I would never have heard about this from her — was cited as both the oldest female to swim the Ocean Seven, and the oldest person of any gender to do it.

The Ocean Seven is no walk in the park. It’s a stupefying long-distance swim challenge, in some of the most difficult bodies of water in the world: the North Channel, Cook Strait, Molokai Channel, English Channel, Catalina Channel,  Tsugaru Channel and Strait of Gibraltar.

Liz is 60 years old. In 5 years she can collect Social Security. But the checks will have to be delivered by boat.

According to the Guinness website:

Accomplishing one channel is no easy feat – aside from predators in the open ocean and varying water temperatures, one who tackles all seven channels must be prepared to swim for up to 12 hours or more at a time…. It’s as dangerous as it is courageous.

Plenty of planning goes into marathon swimming. There’s training, travel, a support crew, and understanding currents and sea creatures. Jellyfish can be as dangerous as sharks.

Liz’s sister Peggy — a 1975 Staples grad now living in Seattle — often serves as crew captain (and confidante). She makes sure Liz has everything she needs: feeding pack, medication, you name it.

Liz Fry (right) and her sister Peggy, a 1975 Staples High School graduate, at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Their father — a Brit who inspired her originally, with his tales of swimming the English Channel — was there when Liz climbed ashore, after that very brutal swim.

Liz — who is not a professional swimmer (with an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s from Fordham, whe works with global markets on tax initiatives) — hopes that her Guinness record book honors will push other swimmers to achieve their own titles.

Record are made to be broken, of course. But Liz might go on breaking them too.

“I might be 60 years old when I have completed the Ocean Seven marathon, but I feel like I’m swimming like a 40-year-old,” she says.

“It just shows how 60 really is the new 40, or there’s no reason you ever have to stop doing what you love.”

Liz Fry (farthest from the Zodiac) in New Zealand action..

Liz trains often at the Westport Weston Family Y — and in the summer, off Compo Beach. She may be remarkable, but there’s absolutely no reason to swim in Long Island Sound during the winter.

The next time you see her, tell her congratulations.

And if you happen to have a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records handy, ask Liz to autograph it.

(For the full story on the Guinness Book of World Records website, click here. Hat tip: Debbie McGinley)

Yaacov Mutnikas Puts Every Westporter To Shame

If you read the recent “06880” story about David Friezo, the Westport man who will soon run a marathon — at the North Pole — and thought, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard”: Sit down.

Another Westporter — Yaacov Mutnikas — just rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

He rowed across the Atlantic. From the Canary Islands to Barbados. He and 7 others rowed 2600 nautical miles. In 32 days, 22 hours, 31 minutes and 25 seconds.

Which — hey, why not? — puts them in the Guinness Book of World Records, for fastest 8-man transatlantic crossing ever.

And the 2nd-fastest crossing overall.

Please tell me no other Westporter has done anything crazier.

Yaacov Mutnikas (4th from right) with his record-setting fellow rowers.

Yaacov Mutnikas (4th from right) with his record-setting fellow rowers.

Mutnikas is 59 years old. 59! He has been getting AARP magazine for nearly a decade. 

He was the oldest man — by far — on the boat (the “Toby Wallace”). The youngest was 21. Most others were in their 20s. With age comes — what?

Well, experience.

Mutnikas began rowing when he was 15, in his native Lithuania. (Back when it was part of the Soviet Union.) He moved to Westport 3 years ago, and quickly joined the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

Gliding up and down our little river hardly prepares you to row across the Atlantic. So he added gym work to his usual rowing regimen, of up to 100,000 meters a week.

This is the boat that Yaacov Mutnikas rowed across the Atlantic.

This is the boat that Yaacov Mutnikas rowed across the Atlantic.

This was not Mutnikas’ 1st oceanic row. In January 2009, after 11 days at sea, he and his crew had to be pulled out of the water by a ship. Their boat had broken.

Two years ago, his boat capsized. They were just 100 miles from their goal.

“I don’t give up easy,” he says.

“This time, I did it because I failed last time. The 2nd time, I did it because I failed the 1st time.

“The 1st time, I didn’t know any better.”

The crew at work, in the middle of the Atlantic.

The crew at work, in the middle of the Atlantic.

Mutnikas knows what he did sounds incredible, almost beyond belief, to 99.9999% of the planet. But he is not one for great revelations.

“Once you start, there is no way back,” he says. “So you just keep going.”

The routine is numbing: 2 hours on, 2 hours off. 2 hours on, 2 hours off. Day after day after day.

You row. You rest. You row. You rest.

“It’s psychological warfare,” Mutnikas says. The mental part may be as tough as the physical. The mind has to push the body past everything: injuries. Hallucinations. Even boredom.

Occasionally, Mutnikas could relax: put his headphones on, and listen to classical music. Much more often though, he had to be on high alert. One mistake — especially in rough weather — could mean disaster for all.

And keep in mind: He was not just rowing. He was racing. The 8 men on the Toby Wallace were trying to set a world record.

Mutnikas laughs as he tells the next part: The boat was even racing against itself. Each 4-man crew tried to log more distance than the other.

It’s all part of the joy of transatlantic rowing.

Flares celebrate a triumphant arrival in Barbados.

Flares celebrate a triumphant arrival in Barbados.

Mutnikas got back to Westport last Thursday. He went to bed. Then he got up Friday morning, and went to work.

So what’s next? What do you do once you’ve set a Guinness world record for rowing across a friggin’ ocean?

“I have a couple of ideas,” Mutnikas says. “But I’m not saying. Once you tell, you’re committed.”

A few “06880” readers might say Yaacov Mutnikas should be committed.

Others would say, simply, “Wow.”

Most of us just have no words.

Sing A Carol; Set A Record

It’s (almost) that most won-der-ful time of the year.

Yes, Christmas carol season is just over the meadow (and through the woods).

You might love ’em. Or hate ’em.

But you probably never thought Christmas carols would get you in the Guinness Book of World Records.

On Wednesday, December 12 (7 p.m., Compo Beach), a “One Voice” fundraising project organized by the Unitarian Church will attempt to set a record for “the most number of people singing Christmas carols at the same time, door to door.”

Over 250 people are needed to follow a “predetermined, non-strenuous” ½-mile route.

But don’t just think you can show up, dash off a “fa-la-la-la-la” or 2 and slink off. An official Guinness representative will be on hand “to adjudicate and, if successful, declare the new record.”

And plan ahead: Participants must register online no later than December 10. Entrance fees are $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 years old.

The money benefits the Lily Sarah Grace Fund, which supports the arts in underfunded elementary schools across America. Lily, Sarah and Grace are the 3 young sisters who lost their lives last Christmas Day, when their Stamford home burned to the ground on December 25, 2011.

“Caroling and world records have much in common,” says Jim Keenan, event director and representative of the sponsoring Westport Unitarian Church.

“Most people have never done either, but would secretly like the chance to try. This fun event became something profound when we decided to raise funds for the Lily Sarah Grace Fund.  We love the concept of coming together as one, especially now given all so many have gone through recently.”

Erik Paul, Weston High music director and “One Voice” carol leaders, adds, “Everyone who likes to sing is welcome, but school music programs, church choirs and area glee clubs are especially encouraged to join us. It’s going to be a great night.”

Sounds like fun. Unless, of course, they start to sing that gruesome song about the little kid and his Christmas shoes.

We’re #1 (And 32)!

As Washington and Hartford squabble over the many ways to measure education, there’s no debate about one area in which Staples is Number One.

The high school has set a world record — authenticated by Guinness — with 16 sets of twins in one class. Those sophomores shatter the previous record of 13.

Luke Foreman –a 10th grade twin himself — tracked down every set. He organized the exhaustive documentation required.

Most impressively, he got all 32 twins to school this morning — at 7 a.m. — for a group photo. Channel 12 was there too.

Congratulations, guys and girls.

Even more importantly, congrats to your moms and dads. Without them, this world record would have been impossible.