Swim Result - Wed 8th Aug

I was advised to swim on Thursday the 9th August due to the weather forecast but then a previous swimmer cancelled for Wednesday so I jumped to the occasion and went a day earlier.

Below is a brief account of what happened:

I took the plunge at 6am from Saphire Hoe just outside Dover. I maintained a fair speed for 16 miles. But then 5 miles from the French coast I started to drift towards Spain. I could pick out little houses and fences from the sea but instead of getting nearer I kept drifting south and parallel to France as the southerly tide proved too strong. The pilot gave me the benefit of the doubt to see if I could break through and so I continued on for another 5 hours but wasn't able to move closer to land. That resulted in the skipper calling the shots and halting the swim. 13 hours I slugged it out for and so I am still pretty pleased with myself, swimming an equivalent of about 35 to 40 kilometres in total.

But I have decidied I am doing the crossing again, except from France to England in 2 years time. That will give me the time and strength I need to build in order to break free from the rigorous tides of the French coast and make a beeline for England. But as for now, my feet are up, tea next to my bed, about to watch a dvd with my team and head back to London tomorrow. I will type up a full account of the day's events with video footage and photographs in the next few days so please watch this space!

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported me in my challenge and helping me to raise £2600 for Save the Children! Your generosity and kind words of encouragement have been overwhelming to say the least!

Many thanks to you all

I will leave you with a poem/affirmation that I have used often whilst swimming, and I will continue to use it until I complete my next channel swim:

if you want something bad enouh, go out and fight for it,
work day and night for it,
give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it,
if only desire of it makes you quite mad enough,
never to tire of it,
makes you hold all other things taudry and cheap for it,
if gladly you'll sweat for it, fret for it, plan for it,
lose all your fear of god or man for it,
if you'll gladly go after the thing that you want,
you'll get it!


friends and family (L - R): Anna, Me, Lyndy, Jules, Mike, Jane, Ian, (camera man Rob with baby Jake!)

me and pacers: Mike T, Jules, Rob and baby Jake - swimmers beach, Dover

pacers gearing up for a training session in the harbour

Dover Mariner

boat skipper Andy King (left) plots our course to France

8th Aug, 5.30am: the Louis Jane arrives to take us to Saphire Hoe

5.40am: leaving Dover Harbour

6 hours into the swim: Mike T keeping the pace in the background

sea-sick feeder Ian in the Gallows endures the long day out!

Mike T enjoys the ride home

more photos still on the way!

Launch update - Latest

Speaking with my boat skipper, Andy King, he has reccommended a Thursday morning start at 4:30.

I'll update this blog when possible

7th July - Official Qualifier

Channel Swimming Association rules stipulate that a successful 6 hour cold water swim has to be completed to gain recognition to swim the channel. I chose Dover harbour once again for the location. Every Saturday and Sunday Freda Streeter (mother of Allison Streeter – Queen of the Channel) holds a 7 hour training session in the harbour. 7th July was going to be the day that I was going to formally complete my qualifier and swim further and remain longer in cold water than I’ve ever done before.

The temperature was between 10 and 14˚C but I knew I was going to qualify. There was about 30 of us. Channel swimmers were given the distinctive pink caps whilst non channel swimmers were given yellow caps.

Strangely I wasn’t nervous. I greased up my groins and arm pits with vaseline to prevent chaffing, fixed my goggles so they were firmly in my eye sockets and then at 9am took the plunge with the rest of the group. I completed 10 miles in 6 hours which puts me on course to complete the channel in around 13 to 14 hours. But I am still hoping for the crossing to be 18 hours or less as so many other factors come into play after 7 hours out at sea.

channel swimming hopefulls preparing for a long training session

swimmers beach with dover castle (top left)

July 28th - The Annual Cross Mersey Swim

I had heard how tough the annual Cross Mersey swim was because of the current. It's only a 1.25 mile course but is very unpredictable because if swimmers choose the wrong line of passage then they can be swept further up river and completely miss the finish slipway, Monks Ferry at Birkenhead. We were only allowed to cross at a certain time, 10:45am as that was the safest period.

What a fun morning!! All 34 of us were kitted out in just our speedos, cap and goggles as we were shipped across on rubber dingies from Monks Ferry to the official start at the Beatles Museum, Albert Dock. The wind started to pick up and I made sure I was at the front of the boat to get maximum lift when we hit the waves. AWESOME! Felt like a teenager at Sun City's Waterworld all aver again, except this time without the life jackets.

The water was a bit choppy but all went quite well. I came 7th that day. And then a fellow swimmer had to remind me straight after the race that the Channel is 20 times longer. Ta

me waving

sound of the hooter- and we're off!

The Heart of My Training and Support

During my training I have been fortunate enough to have met some of the most amazing people who have given me great hints and tips on improving my open water experience. Enrique Flores from Mexico has done more research on the channel than anyone else I know. He has just completed his channel swim recently in a time of 13 hours and 20 minutes. Enrique has given me such tips as my boat crew feeding me with wet biscuits before I swallow to ease digestion so that my blood remains in my muscles; change my feeding time from every 30 minutes to every 45 minutes and the best tidal cycles with which to launch to name just a few.

My friend and comrade, Gavin Floyd (successful relay channel crossing 2006) describes quite vividly how after hours of swimming in the channel what it feels like to all of a sudden hit the French coast and feel the soil just beneath the surface of the water (even though he landed in pitch darkness).

Enrique and me

Nicholas Robbinson (Robbo) who is able to complete an open water mile in 17 minutes has been with me at all my dock and lake swims in West Kirby and will be doing two lengths of Britain’s largest lake, Lake Windemere in the coming months.

Robbo peering out amongst the sea weed

Pete Harper (successful relay channel crossing 2006) has also been by my side and guided me through the good times and the bad. I describe him as nothing less than completely fearless.

The Fearless Pete Harper

June 16th - Champion of Champions - Dover Harbour

16th June was my first true test. The Champion of Champions event is held annually at Swimmers Beach and organised by the BLDSA (British Long Distance Swimming Association) in Dover Harbour. Its a 9 mile (14km) course in 10˚C. There were 3 parts to it. 5 miles then rest a half hour. 3 miles then rest another half hour then a mile flat out.

It was tough as there was no nutrition during the swim. After 4 miles on the first leg I fell straight into a head wind and started to rapidly drift off course whilst treading water for only a few seconds. A canoeist caught up with me and said to swim flat out straight into the wind and waves regardless if I move forward or not. I did so. After 10 minutes of giving it my all I had only covered about 50 metres. Luckily though it was only temporary. But I remember thinking only of chocolate. On dry land I had a stash of supplies ranging from Twix, Boost, Double Decker and Mars bars to bananas and sandwiches. The craving was unbearable. I compared it to playing Mario Brothers, your life line depleting with every hit from the enemy. I had nothing left in me. 3 and half hours with no food and drink at that temperature put me in a bit of a state. I was fortunate enough to have the waves help me land on the shore. When I got to the swimmers shelter I didn’t even head for the lucozade. The Double Decker was the first to go, then the Mars, then some biscuits, coffee and finally the Lucozade. Within about 60 seconds I started to feel much better, Mario had now been given some gold coins and an extra life line.

I completed the 9 mile course in 5 hours and 30 minutes with my final mile in a personal best of 25 minutes. That’s just under half the length of the Channel (21 miles as the crow flies). I remember a fantastic swimmer called Olivia who pushed me on my final mile. Olivia Brown I wish you luck on your Channel Crossing next year!!

Swimmers Beach - Dover

Early June

I remember arriving at the dock an hour before we were scheduled to swim. It was so I could suss out my route to avoid the jelly fish. They were now out in full force. All I could see were the little wretched monsters bobbing up and down on the water surface. They were EVERYWHERE! It was cold, windy and raining and I could have done with a braai, some bunny chow and an umbrella. But hey, I ended up swimming 3 miles that night, got on closer terms with Jeffrey the jellyfish and got his family to pose with me under water (light blue spheres):

May 5th - What Lies Beneath

After trying to come to terms with the cold I then had to come to terms with what lay beneath. At first I was only breathing on one side on every second stroke so that I could spend less time looking into the black abyss. I could only see as far as my elbow under water. Stories of eels and weever fish coming up to bite me in my already shrunk and frozen privates had done me no good, considering I still had the jelly fish to contend with (jellies only out in June). But I knew that the more I exposed myself to my fears then the more I would be able to cope with them and conquer them on a daily basis until they were no longer fears, just common sensations.

1st April - The First Cold Plunge

As of the 25th March the furthest I had swum was 8km and that was in a pool. So clearly I had lots of work to do. I’ve basically been listening to my body and not gone overboard in training. I have always tried to feel as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. And after the 8km pool session I did feel great afterwards, so I considered it a small success. However things were about to change very quickly.

Crosby swimming pool (Parkwood Leisure Centre)

1st April was my first test of cold water. It was good bye 27˚C of the friendly swimming pool and hello 7˚C! The Albert Dock in Liverpool is an ideal spot to get in some vital shiver training. Being the 1st of April it did seem like a joke, not being allowed to wear a wetsuit (Channel Swimming Association rules) but I managed to last 15 minutes. Longer than that is dangerous as I have had no cold water experience prior to this other than my flat mate turning the warm water on in the kitchen when I was nursing a steady hangover in the shower from the night before with my slow gaining of consciousness immediately turning into a violent scream.

But the Albert Dock was something new. I had never felt anything like it. At first I was unable to put my head under the water as my breathing was too erratic. Moving forward in a panicked groaning mixture of doggy paddle, breastroke and front crawl was all I was able to muster at first; the cold literally piercing my body with an almost burning sensation that I can only describe as suffocating wet dry ice – ya duh! After 10 minutes I managed to break into a kind of front crawl, although it was difficult to even know if I was moving forward as I couldn’t feel my arms and legs pushing and kicking through the water. Matters weren’t helped when I witnessed the other swimmers who had years of cold water training involuntarily performing what seemed like a highly charged and aggressive ants-in-your-pants pagan dance ritual when they entered the water. This was accompanied by groans, huffs, puffs and insane splashing tactics to keep their bodies warm. Apparently every boxing day they all take a jump in the dock when it is about 2 degrees. Dont think I will be doing that! But it seemed the temperature was a definite adjustment for everyone today. But I remember thinking ‘I’m doing this, I’m doing this, I’m doing this, I’m doing this!’ The UK open water swimming season had just begun!!!

'Almost freestyle'

just out and in one piece after my first cold water swim

July 27th - Quick intro and background to my swim!

A warm welcome to you and thanks for visiting my blog!

Years ago when I lived in Botswana I had decided that I wanted to swim the English Channel. It literally just popped into my head. I was about 10 years old and told some of my class mates at the time that I was certain that’s what I was going to do. I enjoyed my swimming at Broadhurst Primary School in Gaborone where Mr Haggett and Mrs Shanahan made sure I swum to the best of my ability! I then went off to St Stithians College in Johannesburg for a tough intro to competitive swimming. The standard of South African swimming is exceptionally high.There I met Michael Thorpe and Julian Marsh who have both swum for Transvaal (Gauteng) and are exceptional swimmers to say the least. I also met Rob Macmahon who is a waterpolo legend. Together, these 3 gents will make up my pace team accompanying me in the water. Then there are my 2 partners in crime, Ian Galloway (England) and Kyle Harbinson (Botswana) who complete my boat crew as vital feeders, providing me with all the nutrition I will need whilst on the crossing.
After school I then took a break from the pool, getting caught up in touch rugby, athletics and marathons in South Africa. Since July last year I have been doing a certain amount of pool training but now I stick to open water.

I’ve laid off the beers, piled on the chocolate, ice cream and pies and raised my weight by 12 kilos. Just bashed the scales at 93 kilos on the dot! Fairly happy with that. Ideally had set a target of 96kgs to be certain I would be able to ward off the cold waters of the English Channel. But with the swim only a week away I’m going to focus on other aspects of my swimming. 6th August is the launch date, but I have a week’s window to set off as it all depends on the weather and if my boat skipper says it’s safe. Will be kaking bricks when the harbor flag in Dover is not waving – meaning its time to rock and roll and will get a call from my pilot saying something like, ‘Get greased up for 3am tomorrow ready to take the plunge at 3:30!’

Hope you enjoy the pics and the brief account of recent training events and will update this blog when possible. Also, if you find the time to sponsor me then it would be much appreciated. All funds go to Save The Children via a secure site (see ‘justgiving’ link on the top left of the page) and more specifically their hunger programs worldwide.

White Cliffs of Dover