The Channel Swim
Well, on Staturday 20 August 2011 my dream suddenly became reality and two years of hard training was about to be put to the test.
START OF THE SWIM.
Before setting off down to the marina to meet Robert and Hannah I thought it was important to try and get some rest. Having drunk water all day I must have got out of bed at least 10 times to go to the toilet! Mum and I left Varne Ridge (the caravan site used by most channel swimmers) in a taxi at 01.30 am. This allowed plenty of time before we were due to meet Robert and Hannah at 02.00 am.
I introduced mum to Robert and Hannah and my nerves began to settle down.
Reg the man who was to pilot the boat was supposed to arrive at 02.30 but appeared to be running late. I rang him to check his whereabouts and discovered that he was having problems with his van. Shortly after he arrived with his brother Ray and the observer in the fishing vessel Viking Princess (FE137). I clearly remember Robert saying “by, you’ve got your money’s worth there!”
Without any introductions or formalities Robert, Hannah and I jumped aboard only taking the time for Robert to take a couple of photographs and for me to quickly hug mum.
Straight away we proceeded along the short journey around the coast to Shakespeare Beach which is one of the main start points for channel swimmers.
When the observer was asked “what is your name?” He replied “just call me sir” which I found rather strange. I went below deck and began to prepare for the swim. I was already wearing my trunks with the light stick attached and had previously applied sun tan cream back at Varne Ridge. I packed my clothes into my big black swim bag, climbed up the short ladder and returned on to the deck with nitrile gloves and Vaseline in hand. Hannah kindly offered to apply the Vaseline which was definitely “over and above” the call of duty. I accepted the offer gratefully, as any swimmer knows Vaseline or channel grease on hands or goggles is a fatal combination as goggles will leak and spoil the swim. As I wear contact lenses I am all too aware of this pit fall. I was tempted to ask for my groin and inner thigh area greasing also but I thought it best not to push my luck at this point!….Right, I was ready!. Sir Mikey (the observer) said this was good timing as we had arrived at Shakespeare Beach. I was briefed on what to do, I climbed down the steps at the rear of the boat and was told to swim to the beach, climb out clear of the water, hold arms aloft when ready and the Viking Princess would sound the horn for the swim to begin. I nervously entered the dark water from the steps and swam to the beach.
PLAN IN MY MIND
I had been planning for months what I would be thinking about during my swim:
My good friend Steve Walsh couldn’t make the swim as he is a stuntman and was away filming in London at the time being beaten up in a mud bath scene by Ray Winstone’s double. (Maybe he would have preferred to have been on the boat). I have often imagined in my mind having Steve on the boat with Robert and Hannah. Steve was to be pace making for me in the water as we swim at the same speed in our local pool. Even though lately he has become faster making our training sessions even more gruelling for me. Steve has assisted and crewed for me on many swims as well as creating and designing a website for me for the channel swim. He has also been a vast source of nutritional and dietary advice. He has been a true friend giving up many hours to my cause.
Believe it or not at the start of the Exmouth swim (first swim of the season) a male swimmer asked Steve to adjust and tie his speedo’s as his hands were covered In Vaseline (wish I had a picture). This was a big disappointment for me, but unfortunately my swimming buddy wouldn’t be there. I am sure he was there in spirit.