After lots of preparation going back to July last year, and hard training since the spring the crossing has finally been done with success.
The week up to the crossing had a couple of really hard low points. Firstly my TS5C teammate Charlie Cook had to pull out due an injury to a finger which required an operation. We were all devastated that this larger than life character could not be with us on the boat.
With only a few days to go we had to find a replacement who could join us. Luckily a girl from Yorkshire, Robyn said she would join us. This was great news as she was already registered and had swam the channel as a relay team successfully only a few week before, why she wanted to do it again who only knows!
The second low was my PE Teacher Vicky Gibson, who herself has swum the channel was badly injured during a Road Race in Wales. This was very hard for us as a team as she has supported us and raised money with us for our charity, we continue to wish her well and hope she will be home soon.
So on Wednesday we travelled to Dover arriving in the afternoon hoping to swim on the 1.00am Tide Thursday morning. When our coach rang the pilot at 7.00pm it was not looking good and we had to ring back at 12.15am to see if it was a go. After a few hours’ sleep we got the text to say it’s a go and to meet at the boat at 1.00am.
After a bit of rushing around and loading the boat with enough food for 6 days we set off to a beach down the coast, there was 4 other boats that night also doing the swim. We arrived at the beach after 20 mins and swimmer #1 jumped off the boat and swam to the beach, once on the beach and she got back in that was when the clocked started. We then took it in turns swimming an hour each, with me being swimmer #6. It was great fun supporting the other swimmers as we rotated round through darkness – sunrise to sunshine. The swell in places was a bit high but nothing as a team we could not handle thanks to the training we had been given by Kat our coach. My first leg of the channel was in the water between the up and down stream shipping lanes, so no big ocean going freighters to deal with. Once out of the water and with swimmer #1 back in, time for some drink, food a chat with the team before getting some sleep before it was my turn again.
The tide was pretty strong pushing us south as we neared the French coast, so it was not clear who it was going to be who would touch French soil on behalf of the team to complete the relay. As it got closer for me to get in the observer from the Channel Swimming Association told me that it was highly unlikely that it would be me who finished but swimmer #1 on her third rotation. Still jumping in I was determined to give it a go and increased my stroke rate to make it happen with me needing to cover just over 2.5 nautical miles. The swell increased a bit as I got nearer and the tide was changing direction which made it more difficult but I continued to push on. With just over 10 minutes to go of my leg the landing boat which would retrieve the final swimmer from the beach appeared by me. At this point I knew I had done enough to be the one who came ashore in France for the team.
However in the end it was not to be coming ashore on a nice sandy beach, as I was confronted by a wall of rocks because of where the tide had pushed me. So all I could do was climb clear of the waves and jump back in and get a body board hitch from the landing boat back to our main boat which stopped 150m short of the coast. This was the most exciting thing I have ever done and I will never forget it nor the support you have given me over the last few years which has culminated in this adventure.
It was a great challenge to do and as a team we really enjoyed it and wished Charlie could have been with us. Equally it was great for Robyn to step in at such short notice and drive down from Yorkshire to take up the place allowing us to do the swim
Still now it is back to training as part of the South West Tri Team for the National Championships at Mallory, and hopefully my team mate Charlie will be back on form to join me on this adventure as he too has qualified for the team