After our successful North Channel swim, friends kept asking Rachel and I “what’s next?” We fibbed and said nothing, but it turned out to be the English Channel on 21st to 22nd August. We swam it, 7 weeks to the day our North Channel swim, so clearly Monday is our lucky day.
How it came about?
In late June, Adam posted on Facebook there were two English Channel slots available at the end of August and September. We hummed, hawed and then forgot about it as the North Channel was our focus. After we had come down from our success in the North Channel our thoughts returned to the English Channel. In mid-July having spoken to Adam again, it turned out that a third slot had become available. A coveted first slot (i.e. first chance at going in a week) between 20th and 26th August with Neil Streeter piloting his boat, Suva. We believed we had the fitness, the water was tropical (compared to Scotland), there were a lot of less jellyfish, we had number 1 slot, and Adam was available, so why not? Team MAD take 2!
Start Time 23:00 – Rachel Swimming
“I jumped in and swam to the beach. I didn’t realise we had to clear the water so I had to clamber onto the stony beach (ouch!), the horn sounded and then I set off. I freely admit I am not the biggest fan of swimming at night. The way that I deal with it is by closing my eyes when my head is in the water. My reasoning is that if I can’t see the sea creatures, they can’t see me!”
“I found it quite hard to follow the boat and I tended to deviate away the boat so Adam kept calling me back. It made sense as I was swimming extra distance I didn’t need to! Following the light is not that easy.”
“Going back in after an hour was okay as I knew that I only had an hour of swimming. 30 mins to go, something touched my feet, which I was informed later was a sea bass, and I speeded up considerably. The only way I could get through the swim was by telling myself that all the sea creatures were asleep and wouldn’t touch me. This reasoning when explained after the swim to people, resulted in roars of laughter but in my defence, it worked for me.”
“I was now used to following the light thank goodness. Adam was fantastic as he sat on the deck for the whole night and shone the torch. This was great to know someone was there as it is a lonely place in the dark. However, the hours did begin to take a toll on Adam as he started seeing trees in the English Channel…”
“The excitement of swimming in the dark began to pall. The upside of this was it was my last “dark” swim and we would be swimming into the sunrise in the next swim.”
“Follow the light” and “water is lovely and warm” were my two mantras and the hour flew by. Knowing this was my last “dark” swim really cheered me up.
“I kept repeating to myself swimming into the sunrise and I could feel the air temperature begin to increase. I could also start to see some of the large ferries and I began to question the wisdom of swimming when we could have just taken the ferry to France…”
“This was my best hour. It is a such a joy to swim when the sun is coming up. This reminded me of my countless early morning swims with Gary and Kirsty (aka Dream Team) in Loch Lomond. Our inane Dream Team conversations came into my mind and I really enjoyed this hour.”
“It was a lovely sunny day and we were making good time. I could see my swimsuits beginning to dry so that cheered me up knowing I could put on a dry swimsuit later in the day. Due to the fact we were swimming hour slot rather than 2-hour slots we didn’t have enough swimsuits so drying swimsuits to ensure we had a dry swimsuit to change into was very important for morale.”
“Just before Rachel was coming out John, our observer, had spotted some porpoises which made a refreshing change from the massive container ships charging up and down the Channel. I got in and oblivious to me, (thank goodness) the porpoises were swimming underneath me for the hour.”
“The sun was still out so this swim flew by and I was buoyed by the fact the fact that France was getting closer. I couldn’t see the coastline but Google maps showed we were close and everyone on the boat could see the 3-mile buoy to France which was very promising.”
” For my sixth swim, I was told by Adam to “Go for it”. I was happy because we were close to the end and I gave it my all. When I came out I was elated but exhausted and John congratulated me when I got out.
” Having seen how close we were to France on the map, I was extremely frustrated to see that we were swimming at right angles to the coast and not heading to the coast. This was due to the notorious French tides which is the reason why our route is S shaped and not a direct line.”
“I felt like I was swimming in circles and memories of the end of the North Channel came flooding back. When I came out I was very disheartened as it was difficult to follow the boat and I did not seem to be able to reach the coast. France seemed a long way away.”
“Seeing how difficult Mum’s swim had been, I steeled myself for another 2 hours to swim. However, the tide turned and it turned out that I was only 50 mins from the shore which was a complete but very welcome surprise to me.”
“The finish! I made it to the end and stood up on the sandy beach, this was a lovely change and in direct contrast to the stones of Samphire Ho, to a cheering and clapping French crowd of around 50 people. Mum followed me as due to Channel rule we were not allowed to swim in unison and reach the beach together. The reception on the beach was amazing and we now know what A listers experience!
We must offer a huge thank you to the following people
- Adam Walker, our coach. He was again an exceptionally good-humoured pillar of support, shining the torch to show us where to swim at night which is a massive boost.
- Neil Streeter and Toby who piloted Suva (lovely pink boat). Suva was a great boat with USB chargers which allowed us to charge our phones.
- John, the official observer, a real gentleman who helped us in and out of the water and was fantastic with words of encouragement throughout the swim.
- Posted by Paul Harvey
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