Grant Wentworth ’09 (Courtesy Jason Graziadei, Nantucket Cottage Hospital)
Grant Wentworth ’09 (Courtesy Jason Graziadei, Nantucket Cottage Hospital)

While he was a student at Princeton, Grant Wentworth ’09 didn’t swim at all, preferring intramural basketball to the pool. But in the six years since graduation, Wentworth discovered a passion for open-water swimming and recently attempted something that has only been accomplished once before: a solo swim across more than 24 miles of water between Cape Cod and Nantucket.

During the early morning hours of July 24, Wentworth began the swim at Cape Cod’s Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth. More than 12 hours later, after a journey that included hundreds of tiny jellyfish stings and a shark-fin sighting by the crew that followed alongside him in kayaks, he arrived at Great Point Lighthouse, at the northern tip of Nantucket island.

“I didn’t sleep at all the night before … there was a feeling of excitement, nervousness, and anxiety,” he said. “I had to strip down, it was cold, there was a breeze. I was just wearing a Speedo, swim cap, and goggles. We cleared the water, and at that point, it was just like, ‘Alright, it’s finally here.’ There had been so much build-up to that moment.”

In order to prepare for the swim, Wentworth began training during the fall of 2014 with the help of his coach, Chloë McCardel, one of the world’s most accomplished open-water swimmers who has done seven solo crossings of the English Channel. Wentworth would train six days a week to prepare his body for the open-water conditions and usually swam between 100 and 300 laps each day, spending anywhere from an hour and a half to five hours in the pool.

A seasonal Nantucket resident, Wentworth grew up spending his summers in the small island community. After he became interested in open-water swimming, one of the first events he signed up for was on the Nantucket Sound through Swim Across America, a nonprofit dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention, and treatment. Wentworth loved the experience and joined a five-person Swim Across America team (which included Princetonian teammates Scott Arcenas ’09, Brian Ebke ’09, and Matthew Evans ’09) that completed a relay across the English Channel last year and raised almost $60,000.

“I still had the bug when that was over and was in pretty good shape, so I was thinking I could do something crazy, which ended up being this Nantucket swim,” he said.

Wentworth pledged to do the swim as a fundraiser for Swim Across America, and raised more than $100,000 by Memorial Day — two months before he even got in the water at Seagull Beach. Since completing the 24-mile swim, he’s bumped that number up to more than $150,000, all of which will support Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s cancer care program by helping to pay for an oncologist to provide treatment to patients on the island.

“Anyone that’s been to Nantucket knows that getting on the island can be very difficult,” he said, noting that a trip from Boston can mean a three-hour drive and a two-hour ferry ride. “If you live [on Nantucket] and have cancer, the best place for treatment was Mass General Hospital in Boston, so most of the time you’re taking that ferry and doing that drive.”

Looking ahead, Wentworth plans to take part in another Swim Across America event on Nantucket Aug. 22. He’s hoping that this will be the first year that the organization raises the $400,000 needed to fund an oncologist at Nantucket Cottage Hospital throughout the entire year. For more information about Swim Across America or to donate to Wentworth’s fund, visit http://bit.ly/SAA-GW.