Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Champion of Champions (CofC)

With the familiar road to Dover once again beckoning, we departed from home midday Friday 17 June, we had made arrangements to collect Joe Hunter enroute with a rendezvous of Cambridge services. No sooner had we recommenced the journey from the RV when Joe started reading out emails from his iPhone (posted on the Google Channel Swimmers Group) indicating the severity of the weather forecast, for the first time in history Freda Streeter the Channel General, was advising swimmers that gale force winds together with a spring tide would make it unsafe to swim in the harbour the following day.

This, in our minds, obviously put the BLDSA Champion of Champions event (5 miles then 3 miles then 1 mile) in doubt..it would be a great shame to take time off work, book and pay for accommodation and drive the best part of 350 miles only to find the event cancelled. There was no news from the organisors, therefore we continued south to our lodgings for the night just outside Dover on the A20. Once checked in we headed off to Cullin's Yard for the standard maximum belly stretch, the storm was certainly with us, the windows of the restaurant being lashed with wind and rain as we stuffed our faces.

Next morning after a poor nights sleep, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a clear blue sky as I packed the car and prepared for the brutal day ahead. The normal early breakfast issues and nerves began to surface, there was little time to worry though as we were required at the safety brief for 8:30am.

Several swimmers had already arrived, we sat, chatted, registered/ numbered and basically became a little frustrated as the start time came and went. Eventually a briefing did take place however it was not entirely good news, the standard 1 mile square course was to be adjusted, we were required to visualise this as the buoys were yet to be placed, suffice to say the square would be replaced by a half mile triangular course, meaning ten clockwise laps not 5! what a nightmare, Neil Streeters boat 'Suva' would be anchored at the base of the triangle, we would simply swim by, shout names and numbers and be ticked off...easy enough...?

Around 10:15 swimmers after downing a litre of maxim, we were counted into the water and off we went, the water was 58f  about 14.5c, the usual dog fight at the first turn buoy before the field spread and clear water appeared, it was a little bumpy you might say, the incoming tide was bringing big swells, and wind brought with it just about every weather type known to man, we had rain, sunshine, hail, cloud, wind all in the space of three hours. The photographs do not capture the water movement sadly.

Neil was unable to anchor Suva on the silt bottom of the harbour which resulted in the first lap being more of a square due to drift, a change of plan emerged as numbers were now being taken by a rib, it seemed to take forever to reached six laps, I was worried I was going to have to do eleven as the rib was away performing a rescue during one of my passes. After what seemed like an age without a feed in the choppy swells, I swam upto the the first turn buoy on completion of lap ten only to be told to swim to Suva and give my number again, after 3hours and 10 minutes I was heading to shore after what felt like more than 5 miles, having battled the breakers at the beach, it was actions stations to feed and warm up before the start of the 3 mile swim in less than and hours time.
After a sit in the car and chat with Joe, being attended to by the motherly KGB we emerged to be given the news that due to several issues (abandonment's, injury to kayak safety crew and the weather conditions) the 3 mile event was cancelled. Most of the experienced swimmers stated the 5 mile swim was nearer 6 so that was pleasing but I didn't know how to feel in truth...the lazy part of me was relieved, the planner in me was disappointed, I felt a little cheated but accepted the cancellation decision and spent the next hour or so catching up with some friends who we hadn't seen for some time.
Several 'legends' for me to introduce to Joe, the likes of Kevin Murphy (The King of the English Channel) Jane Murphy, Marcy MacDonald, Freda, Nick Adams, Nuala, Dee, Liane, Thomas, Rebecca Lewis to name a few.
The course was then re positioned closer to land for the 1 mile event, two laps and that was us all done, we hung around for about an hour for the presentation and then due to delays hit the road for the seven hour drive home.
Tired and a little disappointed due to the lack of the 3 mile swim but overall very happy to have swam for 3 hours without a feed at 58f, something I have not managed before now.

Thank you as ever to KGB for your help and support, to Joe and of course the BLDSA especially the paddlers in some atrocious conditions.

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