July 31, 2005

The Relay

Being rather tired and not having much time left on this internet connection, I leave the reporting to one of my teammates, Peter. I should just add that I had a great time, and I almost freaked out when I swam over a massive jellyfish. Also, I got stuck in a huge clump of seaweed at one point. Still, it was a fun swim. It certainly was better being in the water than on the boat, since we all got very seasick due to the rolling seas!

Dear All,

Firstly, thanks so much for all of your support for the team, and for the Calvert Trust!

We made our crossing attempt yesterday (28 July). Having left London at 00h45, we were a bit dismayed on the ride down to Dover...fog so thick we couldn't see forty feet in front of us, bucketing-down rain and (for some salt in the wound) lots of lightning and thunder as we approached Dover.

We met up with our 3rd swimmer (PJ Thum...swimmer extraordinaire) around 03h00 at the marina, along with a few other relay teams and two solo swimmers. The CS&PF (Channel Swimming and Pilots Federation) reps were looking at the forecast, and accurately predicted that the storm would blow over...so we got aboard the boat and made our way out to Shakespeare Beach west of Dover.

Julian, our first swimmer, kicked off from the beach at 04h50 in the hazy light before sunrise swimming into the tide and some quite rough seas. The rest of us on the boat were happy to be on our way, but suffering quite badly from sea-sickness given the big swells and choppy water.

Jules, PJ and I did one-hour long legs across the Channel, running in to just about every kind of weather and sea-condition you can think of: sunny skies, cloudy skies, heavy rain, flat seas, big swells, choppy seas, and so on. The upside of sea-sickness is the motivation to get the hell off the boat and into the water (where the sickness goes away).

We could see the French coast after about 8 hours, and approached the infamous last few miles that our team got trapped in last year after 9 hours. The lighthouse at the Cap Griz Nez (that we stared at for hour-upon-hour last year...and never reached it) taunted us once more. We had hoped (at one point) to finish in under 10 hours, but got caught in the tide that shifted. Alas, we pushed on headlong into it for a while and - thanks to some HUGE swims from Jules and PJ - got within 500 metres of the coast after 11 hours.

I was fortunate enough to have the 'swim on honour' to the shore...except that it took me 21 minutes swimming as hard as I've ever swam to fight the rip tide and finally crawl up onto the rocks on the French coast. Amazing support around with some fishing boats honking horns and cheering, along with some kayakers and people atop the cliffs yelling encouragement. Couldn't have been a better approach.

So all of our goals were met:
1. Be safe and all make it home!
2. Raise some money for charity (not too late to donate!): http://www.justgiving.com/ChannelSwimRelay
3. Have some fun and work hard.
4. Make it to France.
5. Go in under 12 hours.

Again, my thanks to Jules and PJ for great swimming, Natalie (my girlfriend) and Christine (Jules' wife) for the support aboard the boat, despite knee surgery and sea-sickness respectively, Eddie Spelling (our pilot) and his crew...and to everyone's encouragement during training, texts during the day, donations to charity, and prayers/lucky charms/good luck wishes for the day itself!

L-R, Peter Durante, P.J. Thum, Julian Sanders, with Cap Gris Nez in the background

Hey look, a photo! Happy, Lindsey?

Posted by pj at July 31, 2005 03:13 AM