Monday, 13 August 2007

Dover Regatta Weekend

On Friday 10th August having slept for about four and half hours, we were awoken by the patter off tiny feet (if you can call Charlie at 7 years tiny, he was clearly still on Egyptian time and was fully refreshed having slept 80% of the journey home) I on the other hand was knackered, however it was time to rise, unpack then re pack for Dover. Charlie was dropped at my parents, and we began the 340 mile drive. I am familiar with the route having crossed into Europe dozens of times so there was no navigation problems.

After a lengthy stop over at Bluewater just off the M25, (Kelly was horrified going over the Dartford Crossing ! She has nightmares of how she will come to her doom on a similar structure!! strange but true) we eventually arrived in Dover around 6pm, checked into the Ramada and made our way immediately to the sea front, I wasn't entirely sure of the exact location of swimmers beach though our guesstimate wasn't far off. Kelly picked up the first pebble she set her eyes on and we had a paddle to our knees to check the water in THE ENGLISH CHANNEL. I am pleased to report that it didn't feel too bad after my dread following the balmy Red Sea.

It was such a nice evening, so we walked and talked and took some photographs of the usual stuff, ie The Matthew Webb bust, The Two swimmers and The Harbour itself. Then we returned to the hotel to eat and have some long awaited sleep.

Saturday morning wake to a glorious day, after breakfast we made the short trip to the harbour early enough to claim a parking space, the sea front was already a hub of activity with many French and Italian sellers in situ and various other stalls.

The race registration took place between 8.30 and 9.30 followed by the brief, it was obvious at the briefing that a lot of young club swimmers (racing snakes) were taking part yet they looked barely old enough.

Into the water on the role call at 9.57am with much trepidation, I was convinced it was going to be dreadful after last week, I swam over to the Pier Wall and was delighted that it wasn't the freezing temperature I had feared all week. The whistle blew for the start and the racing snakes were off in a flash, some introduction to the harbour this was going to be. I plodded down to the boundary groin touched and returned to the finish on 34 minutes, by which time Kelly was itching to get to the re hydrate. The presentation took place a short time later, The remainder of the day was spent making introductions to several Channel Hero's including The General aka Freda Streeter, The Shingle Stomper Barry and Cliff Holding to name but a few. Then sun worship and a tipple or two (it was Becks birthday so we had a valid excuse after all)

Saturday evening we spent at The Cullens yard, where we had a nice meal and way too much alcohol (it wasn't my idea)

Sunday and another wonderful day weather wise, down to the harbour for ten (its normally nine for the swimmers but I didnt want to interfere with the regulars on my first day, as they would be doing long 6 and 7 hour swims in anticipiation of making crossing in the near future) I spoke with Freda (see pic below) and felt as though she had taken me under her wing without delay, all the horror stories I had heard were not true, she was lovely and without hesitation I thought "I like her, this is going to be good" She was kind enough to allow me to just do 90 minutes on my first day too.

I was planning to wait but was gagging to get started, I couldn't find my clear goggles but wore my tinted ones getting in more or less right away and began swimming to the Eastern Dock Wall, On the return the chop picked up quite a bit and I couldn't see a thing, the temperature was fine, I swam back and the repeated the same with a shorter loop third time round. We couldn't swim up the other end of the harbour at this point due to other demonstrations taking place. The 90 minutes were up fairly quickly, other than the frustration of my misty goggles and a cold left hand I felt really good. I was my longest sea swim to date and a massive step forward. Later that morning I met and spoke with the Queen her self aka Alison Streeter, she too was really positive and full of great advice. Another lovely person, the place seemed to be full of them, the energy was almost overwhelming.

Before too long we said our goodbyes, received some training advice from Freda and promised to return. Thank you all for a great weekend, for your time and generosity. WE WILL BE BACK

90 minutes @ 18 degrees

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