Donner race sells out in less than 30 minutes |

Donner race sells out in less than 30 minutes

More than 300 swimmers line up at Donner Memorial State Park for the start of the 38th annual Donner Lake Open Water Swim.
Courtesy of Laura Harsh

For swimmers in Nevada and California June 1 has become a date that’s circled every year on the calendar.

It’s the day the Sierra Nevada Masters opens registration for the annual Donner Lake Swim, a 2.7-mile race between more than 300 athletes from Donner Memorial State Park to West End Beach, and registering for the event has become more akin to scoring tickets to a popular concert.

In recent years the swim has sold out in less than a day, and then last year it maxed out in under an hour. This year’s race, which took place last weekend, sold out in under 30 minutes.

“I timed it at 29 minutes,” said Race Director Laura Harsh. “It gets faster every year.”

The swim, which was held last Saturday, marked the 38th iteration of the race, and benefits the Reno-based Sierra Nevada Masters swim team, and the Lakeridge Swim Team, also out of Reno.

The popular event attracts some of the top swimmers in the nation and this year was no different with Bay Area athlete Chad La Tourette, who swims for The Olympic Club in San Francisco, taking the overall win.

La Tourette once owned the American record in the mile, setting the mark during his time at Stanford University, and was also part of the winning team at the Trans Tahoe Relay, held in the area last month. Shortly after completing that race, La Tourette said he was excited to return to the area to compete in the Donner Lake Swim.

“That’s one of the most beautiful venues for open water in the world,” he said.

With pristine, flat water conditions La Tourette and a field of 282 other swimmers set out in the non-wetsuit category. He’d top his nearest competitor, fellow Olympic Club teammate Andrew Cosgarea, by more than a minute in a half, finishing with a time of 53 minutes, 58 seconds. It would be one of the fastest times in course history, according to Harsh.

Catherine Breed, also of The Olympic Club, won the women’s division with a time of 58:24. Breed made headlines last June for swimming the English Channel.

Going forward and with the event in such high demand, Harsh said race organizers are looking at opening the field up to more competitors.

“We’re continuing to look at increasing our numbers.,” she said. “But we want to have a good event for swimmers, and we want to have spacing. We want to make sure we can increase the numbers but still be safe, and still be a well run event.”

For more information on Sierra Nevada Masters or to view full results visit

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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