Kate Sinclair lines up for the inaugural Upolu-Savaii Swim

By Seti Afoa 13 March 2016, 12:00AM

At times, we all dream of setting ourselves incredible goals in our life. When we achieve them we move on to the next goal, and the next, until there are no more goals and we can rest in peace rocking on our tired soles that life has been good. Or rather, you have been good to your own life. 

Kate Sinclair is in that frame at this time of her life. Her ultimate goal is to swim the English Channel, a distance of 33.6kms. That will be sometime in the future, perhaps next year. To get to that point, she has to build up to it and that is where the inaugural Upolu-Savaii swim comes in. When she saw  the swim advertised last year she jumped at the chance to do it in preparation for the English Channel. 

As well as the English Channel, “Kate’s Swim” is now also for a good cause. She is using the swim to raise funds for the Cancer Council back in her home town. Kate, like most people, has been personally impacted by friends and relatives who have battled Cancer. It is an opportunity for her to connect with those loved ones.

Samoa Events’ race on 7th April next month is only a few days away. The challenge to swim the 22.3km distance from Upolu to Savaii is absolutely a daunting one for the 37year old Clinical Nurse from the Gold Coast. 

Her story is rather interesting. The challenge to swim replaces her academic prowess. Kate holds two degrees, a Bachelor or Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology and Paleoanthropology. The second degree was only completed last year the same year she completed her Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing. The single focus on study has now come to an end, or rather, it is on hold. She calls it a self-imposed ban on study. 

“It’s a ban on study as I was finishing off my BA and graduate cert last year with a full time university load. I have put off honours year for my BA.”

 Following the uni-loaded year Kate took up the role of Health Care and Intensive Care Nurse at the John Flynn Private Hospital on the Gold Coast, a division of the Ramsay Health Care.

In the recent past she spent six years in Jakarta, Indonesia as a Clinical Nurse Advisor. The first two years were as a volunteer with VIDA - Volunteer International Development Australia and the last four years she was contracted to the hospital in Indonesia. 

Her role there was to improve nursing care and assist the Hospital group to obtain JCI accreditation in 2013 (Joint Commission International hospital accreditation). 

“I didn’t swim much when I was in Indonesia, instead I went scuba diving and took underwater photos. My favourite fish to photograph was the Mandarin fish.”

On her return to Australian soil, she embarked on getting her second degree and the Graduate certificate. With the studies completed, for now, she now takes on a new challenge.  Something that is less cerebral but still engaging and personally fulfilling. 

 The mental focus required for the Upolu-Savaii Swim is no less. There is the anxiety of course as to the sheer scale of it all. But it’s a challenge she is willing to take on as a stepping stone to her ultimate goal. 

Her strategy for the swim is to pace herself, have good nutrition throughout the swim plus a lot of mental determination. She estimates it will take her eight hours to swim to Savaii. 

To take part in the swim, all swimmers must do a 10km qualifying swim race anywhere in the world. Kate did hers in Western Australia two months ago. She swam the distance in 2hrs 53mins, well within the 4hrs cut off. 

She is not new to swimming, she has done a bit, but it has been all short distances, the usual 2-3km swim races close to where she has lived. 

“I have always loved swimming from a very early age. When I was younger I competed at Swimming carnivals and Surf Life Saving as a nipper and senior. 


I also played Water polo and competed in Triathlons when I was a Teenager.”


“As I got older and lived in Sydney, I participated in the ocean swims, including Palm Beach swim, Bondi to Bronte, South west rock and the Byron bay Ocean Swim Classic.”


 For the Upolu-Savaii Swim, Kate has seconded the help of Trent Grimsey, a long distance swimmer who holds the record for the English Channel (6hrs 55mins). Her training involves both pool and ocean swimming. Coaching is by “correspondence-sessions”. Grimsey, as he is known around Swim circles, sends Kate a correspondence session by email each week. She then commits to it, swimming 2-4 times a week, 


“Training can be lonely when just doing Correspondence sessions so I also swim with an Adult Squad at Ballina on Sprint night.”


“I do my ocean swimming at Byron Bay, and this is where my love of ocean swimming grew. Ocean Swimming is for me my mediation, and seeing the wildlife can be a high, especially swimming with dolphins and the turtles, as well as see eagle rays, shovel nose rays and Leopard sharks during summer.”


Did she say sharks? 


For safety, every swimmer in the inaugural race must have a support team of Swim captain, kayaker and other support people. Kate’s mother Dr Katrina Sinclair will be her swim captain. She will be on the boat directing the swim, working the GPS and regulating her feeding schedule. Her kayaker will be sourced here locally with Outdoor Samoa. 


Whilst Kate has not been to Samoa before, one of her brothers, Andrew Slack, a medical doctor did some time in the National Hospital at Moto’otua. 


“My two brothers think I am slightly crazy doing this swim.”


Kate joins two other women and two men in the augural swim.  

The Upolu-Savaii Swim is administered by Samoa Events. The swim is on April 7th and has two reserve days on 8th and 9th April. The swim is a Tourism initiative by Samoa Events and will be an annual event. 



Upolu-Swim Facts 


(Upolu-Savaii Swim Logo) 


Date, Thursday, 7th April 

Reserve Days, 8th & 9th April

Distance, 22.3kms (Wharf to Wharf) 

Current swim unofficial record, 5hrs (Mailata Iosia Leau, 1988)


Inaugural Race

Entrants, 3 Women, 2 Men, 1 Team 

Prize Money, Personal achievement / No Prize Money


Organisation, Samoa Events

Event Director, Seti Afoa

Safety / Technical Advisor, Mike Cochrane

By Seti Afoa 13 March 2016, 12:00AM

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