August 22nd, 2013
Swim for Change: An Incredible Journey
Last month we swam the channel to raise support for HART…. twice!
There were 8 in our relay team. Our challenge: to swim to France, undertaking hour long stints across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, fighting jelly fish and hypothermia wearing only a swimming costume and a pair of goggles.
We’ve been training for the Channel for over nine months. We’ve each swum 100 sessions totalling over 100 hours and covering 250km. The cold water sea swimming, which started in April (without wetsuits!) has been the toughest.
We’d heard reports of a flourishing of jellyfish in the Channel in early July. Nevertheless, on 7th July 2013, with 9 months of training and cold water acclimatisation behind us, we set off from the English coast. It was a beautiful sunny day; we tackled sea sickness, swarms of hundreds of jelly fish and very cold water of only 11 degrees. Despite this, our team spirit propelled us onward and we completed over 22 nautical miles between us. Although we had completed the distance of the English Channel, we were unable to touch French soil. A 5 knot current was veering us away from the coast and along the busy shipping route towards the Atlantic.
It was disappointing. But it was not to be the end of our incredible journey…
We determined to try again. Eight short days later, on the 16th July, we headed out to sea again. Our first swimmer Alan bravely set off from Shakespeare Beach at 3:30am. Bas and Lydia took over and swam through a magnificent red-skied dawn. With only an hour’s sleep jumping into the cold water was a real shock. We watched dolphins hunting in the early morning light.
Next came Luke, Carina, John, Lara and Jamie. The jump into the cold water was always a nasty shock after a night without sleep, but our months of acclimatisation were paying off. The team swam fast, undistracted by the cold water (13.2 degrees) or the hundreds of now expected (relatively harmless and, some argued, beautiful) jellyfish. A few of the team suffered small jellyfish stings and Carina found herself tangled in meters of seaweed. By the time Jamie closed our first round of swims we’d made good headway across the Channel. The visibility was fantastic and from this position we were able to see both the English and French coast lines.
After nine months of training and the previous week’s near-miss, the stakes were high. It was some of our best swimming ever. The tide moving across us was strong, and during Lydia’s second swim we only just managed to dodge a fisherman’s trap as it was dragged between her and the boat.
We began edging towards Cap Gris Nez in the late afternoon. Luke and Carina swam hard against the tide fighting the currents that would keep us at sea. John faced the toughest swells, swimming the leg that swept us along the rocky French coast, just 300 metres out from the cape. Because of the strength of the tide there it seemed that we were never going to hit land.
We were dragged past the cape, and at its eastern end the rapid turbulent water began to settle and John managed to swim into the neck of the bay. In the calmer water, Lara took just 6 minutes to race in and set foot on the rocks of Cap Gris Nez, right by La Sirene restaurant. The time taken was 14 hours and 6 minutes.
We were thrilled to have finally conquered the Channel. We all jumped off the boat and followed Lara the last 100 meters to shore through the slightly warmer, seaweed infested coastal water.
Having completed our incredible journey, exhausted, but elated, we swam back to the boat, ready for the return crossing to Dover. Stuart turned the boat back towards England, and within a few minutes we’d all fallen asleep on the floor of the boat as the sun set behind us.
Alan put it well: “Unbelievable feeling, don’t know what else to say, I’m seriously happy. Thanks everyone for your support”
We would like to say a huge thank you to all our supporters. We have raised almost £9000, which will go towards communities supported by HART’s amazing work; to educate children affected by conflict in Sudan and South Sudan, and fight child malnutrition on the isolated Atauro Island, just off the coast of Timor Leste.
So what’s next? Our swim was just the beginning of HART’s Swim for Change campaign. We’ve now completed our attempt to swim the Channel but we’ve got lots of groups undertaking their own challenges over the next few months.
We would like invite you to join in! You can do this by holding a ‘Swim for Change’ sponsored swim or by sponsoring our team. To find out more, visit our website: www.swimforchange.com
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