Sunday 4 October 2009

Channel Swim 21st September 2009

My apoligies again about the long delay with writing about the swim, everything has just been so hectic with school and all the rest! So that I don't start rambling and you end up reading a load of rubbish, I'm going to write the whole thing in five clear paragraphs; the lead up, the start of the swim, the middle, the end, and the afters! By the way, there won't be very many pictures on this post, so if you would like to see more click here.

We arrived in Dover all excited on Wednesday 9th September, thinking that it wouldn't be very long before the swim. However, day by day, the swim kept getting put off. Our original plan was to head home the following Wednesday, but by then there was still no sign of a swim so we had to start making plans for an extended stay. As you can imagine, the whole experience was very demoralising! It was very windy all week, which prevented any swims, but otherwise the weather was very nice. It wasn't until the following Friday that things were starting to look better. On Saturday 19th, we cheered Lisa off on her 2-way swim. The weather looked like it was still improving, so now all I had to do was wait for Lisa to finish (as we were both booked with the same pilot) and then it would be my turn. Really, that was all I had to do, and just hope that the weather held out...

Sunday evening, Lisa was on her way back to England, still going strong. The forecast for the following morning was excellent, if Lisa got back in time I would go at midnight and hit everything perfectly. It was a very tense few hours in the caravan park, and I definitely did not get the rest I should have. At 10:10pm Lisa finished her amazing swim at Dungeness. I got a call from Lance, our pilot, to be at the marina at 12:30pm to turn around as soon as possible to hit the tide. We met Lisa arriving back at the harbour and off we went at 1am. The journey out to the start on the boat was tough. I was never so nervous before. At 1:41am I entered the water at Samphire Hoe. It was a spring tide and I had missed the start so it was going to be very hard to hit the tide turning at the right time. The water felt warm, after about a half an hour I started to get into my rythm, and conditions were excellent. After 1hr, the crew gave me my first feed and my own Channel Swim was well under way.

As the swim progressed, everything looked perfect, the surface was flat calm, I was swimming well, feeling good, and the feeds were going down quickly and staying down. After about 4hrs it was just getting light when we were all brought to our senses by the loudest thing I've ever heard. An oil tanker was steaming down the South-West Shipping Lane right towards us giving loud blasts on its horn. Lance radioed it to change course, they said no, Lance called the Dover Coastguard and blew the whistle, the taker, still blasting the horn, went into reverse and began rotating anti-clockwise and coming towards us sideways. When it had turned enough it went into gear and passed between 100m and 150m infront of us. That was a very scary experience, luckily we survived only to be thrown all over the place by the turbulence caused. It turned out afterwards that the Coastguard had requested it to reduce speed further up the North Sea so that it would pass behind us, but it didn't want to hear it. Over the course of the next hour the Sun was rising and everyone's spirits wer lifted. When we were in full daylight I had a slightly extended feed stop to change over to dark goggles and fix all my gear. Now the we could see real progress being made.

At the 8hr mark Ned told me that if I picked up the pace I could make France in less than two hours, and then he kept repeating the words "sub-10hrs, I know you've been dreamin' about it, sub-10"... About a half an hour later during a feed, he told me that there was a buoy infront of us and that if we were able to get inside it as the tide pushed us West, then I could hit Cap-Gris-Nez, the ideal finish for Channel Swims. I kept sprinting, and believe me I was sprinting and we got inside the buoy. I needed to keep up the pace that I had been doing in order to make the Cap. With 3km to go the tide was slack and it looked like it was going to stay like that for an hour so I would have an easy swim into shore. That of course, wasn't to be! 30mins later the tide started to push me North and I had to really dig deep if I was going to make it. I kept swimming faster and faster, not realisinb the power of the tidal stream. Then Lance said something to me at the last feed, "You've got 800m to go but the tide is pushing you North past the Cap, anything you've got left in your tank, now'd be a good time to use it!" With that I sprinted like hell, right across a 2.5knot current and hit France at exactly 12noon after 10hrs 19mins in the water, 2hrs 40mins of which was at full pace! i eventually clambered over the rocks and cleared the water. Ned then got in and swam in to meet me and ended up 50m North after less than 50m swimming. It was impossible to believe that I was really there. The feeling can only be described as surreal...

After enjoying the view in France and picking up my stone, I swam back to the boat and climbed up the ladder onto the deck. What an amazing feeling! After more than ten and a half hours I was back on the boat with the people who kept the whole show running since 11:30pm the night before... We [sort of] "motored" back to England. I say motored, it took nearly 4hrs! Everyone was falling asleep on the way back. We were all completely exhausted. Everything was such a rush when we arrived back. We met Dad, David (from the caravan park), Sylvain and Dan at the marina. Said our goodbyes to Lance, Chris and Irene and went back up to the caravan park where the French and Irish tri-colours were flying side-by-side. I had a quick shower and then we headed down to the Royal Oak, our local pub for the two weeks, and we attempted to eat solid foods. You'll just have to trust me that your mouth is not suited to anything more than a banana after a Channel swim!

We hardly got a night's sleep because we had to leave for home at 6am the next morning. Just passed London I was woken up to make my first radio interiew after swimming the Channel. It was KC and Lennie from Cork's RedFM. Luckily my wit was sharp enough for them I think... It's a sort of a comedy breakfast show! On the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, I was able to catch up on all my e-mails. Arriving back into Ireland was another great feeling... Only a few days before I thought I would be returning empty handed. I was in for the shock of my life as we pulled into our driveway at home. There wer lots of banners and balloons up around the place and All of my familly, including my Grandad, aunt and lots of cousins, were all there, plus a freelance photographer who took loads of lovely pictures which can be seen at for 22nd Sept. Then we wer rushed down to the Grand Hotel in Fermoy. I knew something was up when we were told to go through the main entrance. When we went in there were loads of friends and familly, swiimming club and school friends all cheering and clapping... We had a really great night.

That's it for the moment but this account is to be continued as that was by no means the end of the celebrations! Keep an eye out...

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