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The hear and now..........................................!
A loose and unguarded comment one evening at a Tri50 swim training session at High March in Beaconsfield has led to this challenge now being a reality.
We have six "like-minded" open water swimmers who have signed up - viz Andrew Allum, Henry Bell, Derek Bissett, Gillian McAlister, Sean Barley and Stephen Gould. Our support crew are Rebecca Bell, Jo Lewis and Steve Lodge.
As a group we did not know each other before circumstance and the "pull" of the English Channel brought us together.
We are registered for this challenge with the Channel Swimming & Pilots Federation :- http://cspf.co.uk/.
Our swim will be officially observed and recorded.
Our pilot is Michael Oram on boat Gallivant, a 36' Dutch steel motor cruiser :- http://cspf.co.uk/pilot-mike-oram
The English Channel is a unique and demanding swim, considered by many to be the ultimate long distance swimming accolade. It isn't just the distance that is the challenge, but more, the variable conditions that you are likely to encounter. These may vary for mirror like conditions to wind force 6 and wave heights in excess of 2 metres. The water is cold and all swimmers are strongly advised to acclimatize to it. There is a very good chance of meeting a range of acquatic life including dolphins, seals, long finned pilot whales, jellyfish and even sharks. There is also the clumping hazzard of seaweed and plastic with the occasional rogue tree or plank of wood. It is the busiest shipping lane in the world with 800 tankers passing through and 200 ferries/seacats and other vessels going across daily. The latter are also permitted to dump their bilge in the Separation Zone between English and French waters.
We are the No.4 slot on a Neap tide from 10th to 16th July 2019 from Dover and are likely to start our crossing at 2.00am or 3.00am (depending upon the weather) from either Shakespeare Beach or Samphire Hoe. The plan is to reach land at Cap Gris Nez between Boulogne and Calais. The water temperature will be circa. 12.0C (way below the seasonal average of 16.0C) with colder pockets down to as low as 6.0C. As a guide, the average water temperature of an indoor swimming pool at a leisure centre is 27.0C
Nirvana Spa c/o Sean Barley, has very kindly agreed to "sponsor" our not insignificant overhead for this challenge which is in the region of £5000.00 and includes the hire of the boat, the pilot and his crew, registration and administration costs, the official CS&PF observer and essential branded kit including dryrobes.
Thank you very much Sean and Nirvana Spa :- https://nirvanaspa.co.uk/
The English Channel is 21 miles across at it's narrowest point, however, with at least two tidal shifts to contend with we are looking at a minimum of 28 miles (and possibly up to the record to date of 65 miles by Jackie Cobell) in an "S"-shaped swim. Initially we will be pulled up towards the Netherlands and then as the tide turns we will be flung back down again toward Jersey and Guernsey.
The wind and weather can also be challenging as weather conditions over the Channel can change very quickly and often don't match the forecasts.
We will each swim for one hour and repeat in order until we reach France.........being on the boat for 5 hours between swims at a swimmer's pace and remaining in one piece may be more of a challenge than the actual swim! Thanks goodness for Stugeron!
We will follow English Channel swimming rules and wear only one textile swim suit (not extending below the knee), one latex swim hat and one pair of swimming goggles................there will be no neoprene in sight! We must not touch the boat nor one another during each one hour stint and once we start we must follow the same order sequence of swimmer rotation. Not to do so - in part or in whole - will mean instant disqualification.
Including relay swims, more people have climbed Mount Everest than have swum the English Channel - considered the global Holy Grail of open water swims.
The average age of a channel relay swimmer is 34 years and for us this is 45 years.......and only that low because young Henry Bell at 19 years of age has pulled our average way down........most of us are north of 50 years of age and should really know better!
Approximately, 7694 swimmers have taken part in 1024 relay swims.
The average time for an English Channel relay swim crossing is 12 hours and 45 minutes and 11 seconds - with weather and currents no one knows what to expect except cold, jellyfish, floating detritus, sea sickness (both in and out of the water) and ten minutes in France without the need for a passport before possibly getting arrested!
The first relays of the Season over the last week or so are taking between 14 hours and 17 hours due to the cold and large fluthers, smacks or blooms of jellyfish. The fastest relay crossing is 6 hours 52 minutes by the US National Men's Swim Team in 1990.
This is a YouTube link to our 2 hour qualifying swim at Durley Chine on Saturday 26th May in water temperature of only 13.0C :-
To track our swim (on-board Dutch cruiser Gallivant and only after we start) and learn more about English Channel swimming, please see below link :-
Our nominated charity is Alzheimer's Society as Team Captain Stephen Gould's father has this awful debilitating disease. He was a GP and a big name in swimming during his career which culminated in coaching and managing the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Swim Team. Team Tri50 has kindly agreed to support Stephen's ongoing individual efforts in fundraising for this wonderful charity.
This is a true team challenge based on the aggregate of exceptional solo effort and incredible new and undoubtedly lasting friendships.
What have I already done as part of this challenge series?
In 2015, 44 licensing industry executives from the UK, Netherlands and USA cycled 315 miles from London to Utrecht raising a record breaking £70,000 for The light Fund plus Euros 27,500 for Wilhelmina Children's Hospital in Utrecht. I was part of that achievement and many of you very kindly sponsored me at that time.
In 2018, The light Fund will host it's most ambitious fundraiser to date aiming to raise between £150,000 and £200,000. From 12th to 15th June, 75 licensing executives from the UK, EMEA and North America will cycle approximately 520KM or 325 miles from Bristol to Dublin through the stunning scenery of the Brecon Beacons and the Wicklow Mountains. The sting in the tail is the elevation and some 17,500 ft of climbing over the 4 days.
I was to be have been one of the 70 cycling, however, due to a rather nasty condition called Acute Prostatitis, I can no longer physically ride - or perhaps more accurately I am no longer able to sit on anything hard and narrow! Instead, I will now accompany the other riders in a support capacity as well as being the official photographer and event blogger.
Not to be in any way out done, I am also now setting myself a different physical and mental challenge that will involve a series of rather unusual open water swims culminating in an Arctic wilderness adventure dog-sledding.
All funds raised will be ring-fenced for Alzheimer's Society courtesy of The Light Fund. The Light Fund is an umbrella charity and is an acronym for The Licensing Industry Giving Help Together. It was set up in 2004 and I am a former Trustee.To date The Light Fund has raised over £1.4 million. It is an official Registered Charity No.1145596. http://www.lightfund.org
My father has Alzheimer's and it is a huge and sobering paradigm shift to see the mind of this once brilliant GP and Commonwealth Games Swim Coach degenerate in this brutal manner. Those around him are also effected in so many negative ways and especially so for my stoical and long suffering mother.
My "bucket list" series of challenges are as follows :-
1) Great North Swim (Lake Windermere 10K) - 8th June 2018
Successfully completed in 2:51:28
2) Henley Classic (River Thames 2.1K) - 1st July 2018
Successfully completed in 0:35:53
3) Bournemouth to Boscombe Pier (1.5 Miles) - 15th July 2018
Successfully completed in 0:31:08
4) Chill Swim (Coniston Water 5.25 Miles) - 1st September 2018
Successfully completed in 2:26:50
5) Barbados Swim Festival (Carlisle Bay 10K) - 11th November 2018
Successfully completed in 3:07:05
6) Arctic Wilderness Challenge (Sweden 165K) - 25th to 29th January 2019
Successfully completed 100km on dog sleigh 28th January 2019.
This was undoubtedly a once in a lifetime adventure through the pristine landscape of Swedish Lapland in the Arctic Circle. In essence an action-packed charity challenge in what is often described as ‘Europe’s Last Wilderness’. It was a mix of survival techniques and learning how to live like the Saami people dog sledding. We traversed an exciting mixture of trails from tundra lowlands to high mountain areas and discovered an area of incredible natural beauty with dense forests and frozen lakes. Each night was spent in wilderness base camps with no electricity and although we kept our eyes peeled, the infamous Northern Lights alluded us due to weather conditions. This Arctic Wilderness charity challenge was a real test of endurance, where we were in charge of food, digs and feeding our dogs. The challenge was rustically basic with self-sufficient lodgings, unpredictable weather conditions as well as looking after our team of dogs throughout. On the lakes we reached -34.3C or -45.0C with windchill – everything was frozen and/or froze instantly on exposure or contact. Simply incredible – like being in a freezer for 5 days and living proof that Narnia is real, alive and very very well indeed. If heaven exists, this is what it must look like!
7) Swim the Arctic Circle (Finland 3K) - 13th July 2019 https://swimac.eu/en/
Note : This challenge is now deferred to 2020 as the date clashes with the English Channel Relay Swim attempt below where we have no choice of date window.
8) English Channel Relay Swim (21 Miles) - 10th to 16th July 2019 http://cspf.co.uk/pilot-mike-oram
To track the swim and learn more about English Channel swimming, please see below link :-
Over these various events I will experience just about everything open water swimming can throw at you including a 4.30am Summer Solstice dawn start in the Thames for the Henley Classic, a midnight sun swim in the Arctic, a 2.00am "dark" start for the Channel, water temperatures of 10C to 28C and air temperatures ranging from -40C in the Arctic to + 30C in Barbados.
Previous swims of this type have seen me stung by jellyfish, poisoned by a Weaver Fish, debilitated by leptospirosis (Weil's Disease) and left with early stage hypothermia.........all character building stuff. Oh.....and I have a terrible phobia of fish and an irrational fear of not being able to see the bottom! In short - open water swimming scares the living daylights out of me.
As for the Arctic - who knows as this is new ground where I learn to very quickly become a musher. One thing for sure though - it will not be in any way luxury living as we will be emulating the Saami lifestyle throughout, cooking on open fires and sleeping in igloos. A full medical is required in advance of the trip and apart from the very real risks of sunburn and frostbite, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Rabies inoculations need to be up to date.........oh, and there are nasty ticks and insects on the ground even in these temperatures with an appetite to bite.
All travel, accommodation, subsistence and race entry costs for the aforementioned are personally covered by myself and will not be deducted or reimbursed from any fundraising donations. The entirety of all donations will go to Alzheimer's Society c/o The light Find.
Why a fundraising target of £4000.00? Well......this would pay for brain scanning equipment to detect changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease, in the hope of finding an affordable, non-invasive test to diagnose the condition.
Any support you are able to give - no matter how small or seemingly insignificant - will be greatly appreciated. As with anything in this day and age, the sum of the parts is always greater than the sum of the whole.
Very many thanks and kindest regards,