A Cliff Lumsdon Awardee (1998) and SSO Founder
Jack Ramsden was born on February 3, 1920 in Middleton, Lancashire, England. His swimming instructing career in Canada began in 1955 in North York. He began coaching competitive swimming in 1957 at the Beaver club, which he organized. He and George Parke were partners in running the George Parke Swim Club, which later became the Olympia Swim Club, at Dixon and Islington. One of Jack's swimmers, Dan Sherry, broke the 100 yards butterfly world record at a meet in England.
A few years later, Jack added long distance coaching to his repertoire. He worked extensively with Kurt Pluntke who set a Canadian record in the Individual Medley. Kurt trained with Cliff Lumsdon and Jack's son Steve Ramsden. With Jack's coaching, Kurt went on to place 6th in 1965, and 8th in 1966, in the 31 km crossing of Lac St. Jean, and 7th in the prestigious Atlantic City swim, as well as finishing the 30 hour Montreal swim. Jack's reputation grew after his success with new strategies in the 24 hour relay in La Tuque, Quebec. This race is swum in a lake shaped like a ring with an island in the middle. The swimmers have no indoor facilities to warm up and rest between their legs of the relay. Jack's team gained the advantage in the last few hours because he asked them to swim one lap each rather than swim for an hour at a time. He was sought after to coach swimmers across Lac St. Jean. He also accompanied swimmers from 8 different countries, with one first place finish for Johan Schans and two third place finishers. Jack also coached Johan to a first place finish in the 10 mile Chicago Harbor swim. Jack fondly recalls one Mexican swimmer asking him to coach him because he had great difficulty completing swims and he knew Jack would help him get the job done. Closer to home, Jack has coached swimmers in the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) swim and the Burlington Bay race.
When the word went out that the Ontario Association of Solo Swims would be formed, Jack eagerly attended the first meeting in 1975. He saw the numbers of interested members dwindle down to eleven in the first year. This core group ran the organization during 1975-1978. They drew up a constitution, developed safety guidelines, and organized affiliations such as the Royal Life Saving Society, the Police Marine Unit, the Canadian Underwater Divers' Association, and the Defence Centre's cold water testing unit. From the years 1979-1988, Jack Ramsden, Cliff Lumsdon and Joan Lumsdon were the only members of the Board of Solo Swims. The three of them carried the whole burden of negotiating with the Ministry, corresponding with the swimmers, coaching the swimmers if necessary, sanctioning swims and being the Swim Master on the swims. Jack certainly did his share of the work. At one point Jack had to take out a loan from the bank to keep the Association afloat until the Ministry grant came through. many of the records of the successful swims are lost from those short-staffed years, so there is no accurate count of the number of swims on which Jack has been Swim Master. The Swim Master is the official who monitors the safety but also has to have skills at inflating boats, driving outboards, navigating, reading the weather, lifeguarding, coaching, and handling emergencies. Often the emergencies on the swims, where the swimmer has to be pulled from the water, are more challenging for the Swim Master than keeping a swimmer motivated on a successful swim. He was present on many successful swims, including Jocelyn Muir, Marilyn Korzekwa and all of Vicki Keith's swims including all of the Great Lakes and Lake Ontario four times. You see, Vicki had unwavering faith in Jack's coaching skill and his judgement and insisted that he be her Swim Master on all her swims.
Jack last served as swim Master up to 1996 (at 76 years of age!) and continued to offer to be re-elected to the Board of Directors of Solo Swims every year because of his commitment to the sport and the swimmers. He passed away on April 9, 2006 at the age of 86. Jack had a great wealth of knowledge and experience in swimming coaching; SSO was lucky to have him as one of their founders and for his continued advice up to his passing.
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Created: 6th June 2000
Last Updated: 4th February 2012