6th Time's a Charm

Eminem doing his job pre-swim
After 5 cancellations and a very stop/start few weeks, Angela finally got to make her channel swim attempt on Saturday 21st September. This was the last window of the season, so literally the very last opportunity or she would have to wait until next year. 

I was to crew with Keith (of the Just swim it relay, and pilot extraordinaire) and we were going to do our very best to help Ange get to France and achieve what she had been working so hard towards all year.

I arrived at Dover Marina at 0545 to a very nice, calm morning. The only thing calmer than the weather was Ange. She seemed remarkably unfazed about what she was about to do. She was the complete opposite to me on my swim - well rested, fresh and completely relaxed, even managing to phone her Mum whilst getting greased up. It was excellent to see.

Upon loading up the boat we were told that the C.S.A. (Channel Swimming Association) weren’t providing an observer for the swim. This is shocking, genuinely a really bad show by them. Instead the Pilot, Stuart, was having to observe as well as worry about the course and speeds etc. If they are saying you are allowed to do a swim without an observer, then why does everyone have to pay the extra £80 for one? If it’s good enough for one swim, it’s good enough for all the swims.

Anyway Ange took the news on board and just let it drift straight out of her mind and continued with her positive and relaxed demeanour. I wish I could have displayed the same attitude on my swim.

A glamorous entry into the water
At around 7o’clock she jumped in and swam to the beach in Dover ready to begin her journey across the Channel to France.

0715 and she was in and swimming.

It was my job to try and keep twitter going and keeping as many people up to date as I could. This passed the time really quickly, and before I knew it Ange was alongside the boat for her 1st feed. She was still remarkably chilled out and gulped down her delicious hot Maxim and was soon off again.

Lovely Maxim
The feeding plan was to switch to 30 minute feeds straight after the first hour, originally I thought this was really early to switch, but it worked really well. She never seemed hungry and was maintaining pretty much the same speed and stroke rate constantly.

At 3 ½ hours I jumped in to swim my first hour to offer a bit of company. I was really impressed with the speed Ange was still moving. She would be the first person to admit she is not the fastest swimmer, and was expecting a 18-20 hour swim, but she was certainly travelling at a decent pace as far as I could see. After the hour was up I climbed out of the water back onto the boat, and immediately fell over. It was an excellent comedy fall; it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a cartoon.

Ange was still flying along when it came to Keith’s turn to join her. Keith and I were going to rotate so we would each have 3 hours out of the water, and Ange would have company every other hour. As I watched the 2 of them swim it became obvious a bit of a race was going on and she was more than holding her own.

A little bit of company for Ange
The time was passing by very quickly and soon it was my time to get back into the water. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it if I’m honest. I had shivered a lot after my first hour, as I hadn’t been in cold water for a while. However when I jumped into the water it felt a lot nicer. We were about half way across and I had been told before that the water feels warmer on the French side, and it certainly seemed true.

Just entered French water
The swim was still progressing nicely; we had been going for about 10 hours and were ahead of schedule. The conditions were perfect and Ange was still stroking away towards France. However getting out of the SW shipping lane was proving to take longer than we had hoped. This was because we had to travel almost parallel to the French coast to catch the current, which would hopefully carry us towards the lighthouse at Cap Gris Nez.

Ange was starting to ask where we were and how long it was going to take. This is usually a bad sign but she still seemed absolutely fine, just genuinely interested in where we were. We were avoiding answering the question directly. It’s always a difficult question to answer, as you never know how the swimmer is going to react. We let Stuart deal with it. He simply said it would take as long as it takes. She didn’t seem amazingly happy with the answer but carried on plodding away.

The sun was going down and it was beginning to feel a lot cooler on the boat. The water apparently felt nice though, so that was the main thing.

The mini race
Stuart was starting to get a bit worried that we weren’t going to make it into shallow water in time. We had to miss the current that would drag us to the other side of Calais. This would probably ultimately result in failure. The advantage of making the shallow water is the current is greatly reduced almost to nothing due to the protection of the land mass of Cap Gris Nez. We challenged Ange to a power hour, no feed just a really strong hour swim to get as far as she could. She rose to the challenge and very nearly made the slacker water within the hour.

I then got changed and ready to get in for hopefully the final push into shore. My job this time was to just to keep the pace up and get us to France. This was not hard as the pace was decent and Ange was really pushing herself, she could sense the end was near.

Suddenly the boat stopped, and we were told to wait whilst they prepared the dingy to follow us to the beach. We tread water for about 5 minutes staring at the boat – nothing was happening. Ange said she was getting cold for the first time so I suggested an easy breaststroke towards France. We kept looking back towards the boat, but there was no dingy approaching. We started screaming asking what was going on? Still not knowing how close we were to the shore as it was pitch black.

Then there was a floodlight pointed at the cliffs of France. We were told to swim into the light, so that is what we did.

In an almost exact replica of the end of Hannah’s swim earlier in the season, Ange suddenly shouted ‘SAND!’ and stood up. She then fell over, then stood up, and again fell over.

The walk out of the water was actually really tricky. As I have said it was pitch black, there were a lot of sharp rocks underfoot and we were both falling over constantly.

Once clear of the water and after 17 hours 1 minute, Ange was a channel swimmer. It was an excellent performance by an excellent and very determined swimmer. I cannot congratulate her enough.

Now began the not so small task of the swim back to the boat…

A bit of Saffa pride

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