The boats engine started, and we were off.
My first thought “make it to Shakespeare Bay without being sick”. Then it was “please, please just make it to Shakespeare Bay before being sick” and then “please, please, please just make it to Shakespeare Bay before being sick” and by that time we were at Shakespeare Bay, and I hadn’t been sick, and I didn’t feel massively sick either.
Dean was starting off the relay and had been fiddling trying to attach a glow stick to his goggles as the boat headed to Shakespeare Bay; our starting point. When we arrived, he got in the water and swam to shore, we noticed a camera flash from the cliffs above the bay and suddenly heard screaming from other members of the club, although rather than ‘good luck’ we heard something about sun cream and one of the Lees instead. Oh and that we couldn’t do the swim in less than 13 hours and 36 minutes because that’s the time they did it in last time…
The siren sounded and we all cheered as Dean entered the water, at 3.44am on Sunday 7th August and we started our swim!
The first hour we were all excited and chatting on the boat and every now and then encouraging Dean whilst he was swimming. He made good progress, but I think at one point decided that France was in a different direction to the one the boat was taking us and started swimming away from the boat rather than next to it. Before the end of his swim the sun was already beginning to come up. Lee.H was second to swim so about half-way through Deans swim he had something to eat and offered round the Hobnobs. About 15 minutes before the first hour was up; he began to get ready to swim. It was still a little dark, so he sat fiddling with a glow stick trying to attach it to his goggles in the same way Dean had. I got the impression that despite being a little anxious, Lee couldn’t wait to get in the water and start swimming.
Once he was in, he swam past Dean and continued the strong start that Dean had made. He looked strong and very comfortable in the water. He did have a bit of an issue with the glow stick as the way he had attached it to his goggles made it flop either side of his head whenever he took a breath meaning that you couldn’t always see it. However, it didn’t really matter as throughout his swim the sun creeped up higher and higher and despite it only being 5.30am it was hot, and the sunrays glistened off the water.
I was the next swimmer so went below deck to put on my swimming costume. It was tricky for me getting down the steps but where it was a small space you were never without something to hold onto. I got down to where the pilots were sitting at then there was a huge step down to get to the toilet. At the back there was a bed and I told myself if I was going to sleep at all then it would be there. I somehow got into my swimming costume in the tiny toilet and clambered back up the stairs. However, as soon as I got to the deck, I felt sick. I sat down and looked at the horizon behind us and tried to distract myself from being sick but in the end admitted defeat and asked what I was meant to be sick in and was handed a bucket. Less than 5 minutes later, I was sick. My fear was that if I was sick once then I wouldn’t stop being sick, just like last time. I wiped my face down. Had some water and rinsed my mouth out and sucked on a mentos fruit sweet, which seemed to help, and I felt a little better after being sick.
I finished getting ready and Dean and I had a brief natter about how I would get down to the platform and get in. We had spoken about it before, but it was difficult to figure out before the swim as we were not 100% sure what it would be like. The boat we were on; Sea Satin, had a rib boat attached to the back of it and it ended up being helpful for me. Once it was getting close to my swim change over Dean went down onto the platform and then it was my turn down the ladder. This was one of the bits I was nervous about because I couldn’t see where my feet needed to go! In the end I stepped down and Dean almost guided my feet and told me which direction I needed to move them in to get to the next step down on the ladder. I was able to lean back against the rib boat whilst doing that which took off some of the pressure and helped with my balance. Once I was on the platform I sat down and waited till I was told to get in.
It was 5.44am when I got in, but I was already hot so getting in the water was lovely. I swam past Lee and felt so at home in the water, I relaxed into the swim almost instantly. I am pretty good at swimming near a pilot boat because of doing it at Windermere and the key is normally to swim and head in the direction the bow of the boat is pointing but for some reason, like Dean, I decided France was in a different direction to the one the boat was taking us. It was difficult for me to see anything because of where the sun was so it was very frustrating but despite that I was still making up a good distance and sticking to a decent, sustainable pace. Before I knew it, my hour was up, and I wished I could stay in the water longer!
Next up was Miles and he decided to swim on the other side of the boat, which confused me a little because I couldn’t see when he had gone past me! When I was told I could get out I realised I wasn’t sure how I was going to get out. I went to the back of the boat and had been told there was a step you could put your foot on to help push yourself up, could I find it because that would be too easy! In the end I had to go under the water to look for it. I managed to get my right foot into it so that my stronger leg was doing all the work and I had Dean standing on one side of the ladder so he grabbed my left hand/arm as I pushed up and grabbed the ladder with my right arm so I could pull myself up onto the platform. Dean helped me up the ladder and I was back on the deck – I had done it.
I had been waiting 14 years for the chance to swim in the channel and I had finally done my first swim, which meant that I was going to complete a cross channel relay because there was no way I was letting the team down by saying I couldn’t swim again, no matter how bad I felt! It was a strange feeling, and to be honest I wasn’t 100% sure how I should feel because although it was progress on last time, I knew there was still a long way to go.
Once I was back on the deck, I thought I might be cold so I had a couple of towels, a hoodie, hand warmers and even my bobble hat, I put my poncho towel on, dried off and just put a t-shirt on because I was too hot in anything else! I again tried to eat something, I had 2 ginger nut biscuits (I was told they were good for sea sickness), some peanuts and a big drink meaning that I needed the toilet so had to go below deck. Once again when I came back up onto the deck, I was sick and threw up everything I had eaten. I was also quite tired by this point and the observer, Mia, suggested I try to get some sleep, the problem being whenever I went down to where the beds were, I was sick and I wasn’t able to get onto the top deck to the comfy seats. She suggested just lying down on the deck and sleeping but it looked incredibly uncomfortable. Eventually by 7.30am as Lee.C was getting ready for his first swim I admitted defeat, put a towel down on the deck and to my surprise fell sound asleep. I woke up shivering about 40 minutes later just before Dean was due to get into the water for swim number 2 so he draped his DryRobe over my like a blanket, I turned over and went back to sleep, apparently snoring and I was later informed I looked a little like a dead body – not the nicest comment I’ve ever been given but I will admit, it was a good power nap! Thankfully no one took a picture of me, unlike the sleeping beauties below:
I had slept through Deans swim but when he got back on the boat he wanted his DryRobe so I got up and before I knew it Lee H had been in for half an hour and it was my turn to get ready to swim again! It was also time for my medication, which was one of the things I had been concerned about before the swim, I was worried about throwing them up straight away. Despite that, I ate a banana and took my tablets. I had never felt sea-sick whilst in the water swimming so, my theory was that if I managed to get some food and my tablets into me and could keep them down till I was in the water then they had an hour to digest before I was back on the boat feeling sick again. It worked.
After eating and having a drink I let Lee know he had 15 minutes left and that was when I saw the Jellies. There were a couple of small ones, and we tried yelling at Lee so he avoided them, but he didn’t hear us and we just got an “oh s**t” as he swam into them. It was also at that moment that the current seemed to change and it felt like we were rolling side to side. I don’t think Lee realised he was swimming either surrounded by jelly fish or seaweed; It was then that I remembered I was meant to be getting ready to get in. Where the boat was rocking, I decided to give myself more time in the change-over so Dean helped me down the ladder and I sat down on the platform, it also meant I could have a wee before swimming – peeing whilst swimming is something I struggle with (possibly too much information).
As soon as I got in, I could feel that it would be a tough swim. I hadn’t been in the water more than a couple of minutes before I saw my first Jelly fish and they just seemed to keep coming. I ended up having to swim looking forwards and with my head up for quite a bit of the swim as Dean shouted to go left or right to help me avoid as many jellyfish as possible. I knew it would be impossible for me not to get stung as the Jellies had decided to come up to play and accepting that I would be stung some-how removed the fear from it. However, at one point I looked down and saw a carpet of Jelly Fish and I will admit had a little bit of a freak out moment. Despite the minor freak out I did enjoy seeing the jelly fish, the compass Jellies were particularly pretty!
My swim was difficult and frustrating, the rolling of the waves added with trying to avoid jellyfish was exhausting and I just wasn’t going anywhere because it was bloody hard work. I only covered about 1.6km in the full hour swim and got out exhausted and frankly feeling a bit deflated, I had managed to get away with just 3 stings though and none of them were bad so that was at least a small win for me.
Next up was Miles and he was incredibly anxious about the jelly fish, he seemed quite scared that he would get stung and asked us what he was meant to do if he got stung, we all responded, “just keep swimming”.
Both Miles and Lee seemed to have a similar issue to myself in that we were putting a lot of effort in but just didn’t seem to be moving very far so their swims, for the most part in comparison to the ‘jellyfish filled swims’, their were pretty uneventful.
When Lee C was swimming, I did try eating again and sadly, again I was sick. Miles offered me some ginger cake and im not a huge fan, but I know it is good for sickness, so I had half a slice and to my surprise it did settle my stomach! We chatted and had a good catch up (10years worth of life) and we also had a laugh with Mia and celebrated the fact she had been given a pay rise, and that her nails still looked good and some other incredibly random things too! We also worked out where we were – over half-way AND we could see FRANCE.
We found out the distance we had left and how far we had already gone and worked it out that we probably all had 1 swim to go, so we were in ‘the home stretch’.