Swimmers view

Swimmers view
Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Arni Thor Arnason - Solo Channel attempt. 10th July 2011 report by Cliff Sharp

Arni Thor Arnason - photo from http://www.wix.com/sjosund/coldwater
I joined the CSA pilot vessel Sea Leopard at 0400hrs. There were several other swim boats and swimmers about at this early hour but no sign of our swimmer. Eventually our group arrived at 4.30am whereupon I introduced myself to Arni Thor Arnason, the swimmer and his four man support team.

Loading of the gear took place, and after some banter and wishes of good luck with some of the other teams, especially the women’s relay team on Pathfinder, the pilot Stuart Gleeson following introductions of himself and Stuart his crew gave a safety briefing. We then set off. At this time I gave a brief recap of the essential rules regarding the swim, swimwear and what was required during feeding etc.

As we arrived at the start point of Shakespeare beach it was a bright sunny morning. The sea was calm with a slight South Westerly wind, Arni was already preparing by stripping off and being liberally covered in grease, also attaching glow sticks in case it should be dark by the time we reached the French coast. Shortly afterwards he jumped in and swam the few yards to shore.

0542 - The off was given and Arni entered the water from Shakespeare beach to start his swim. His plan was to attempt the swim in no more than 17 hours.

0550 - Although it is a very slack tide the high winds of the past few days have left some swell and caused the tide to be stronger than expected. Arni is being swept towards Dover quite quickly. We talk to Pathfinder who set off before us and receive confirmation that this is affecting their swimmer just as much.

0600 - Another five boats arrive behind us to start their swims, now seven swims on-going.

0642 - First hour gone and still swimming strongly. First intake of food for Arni, of Maxim & Frutose energy drink via a bottle tied to a fishing rod and line. A few problems with this as the line tangled but feed successful. No problem with feeding team as they all tuck into sandwiches and chocolate bars! 

0720 - I explain that the three boats that started after us but had already overtaken us had strong relay teams and were expected to be much quicker.

0732 - P&O Ferry Pride of Burgundy crosses across our bow. Stuart confirms we have covered 4.5 miles but only 2.5 from coast due to the strong tide.

0742 - Second food intake, Maxim with chopped up Banana.
There are now nine swim attempts taking place, apparently mostly relays, although we know of one other solo attempt.

The stronger than expected tide now at last appears to be thankfully easing as it has pushed us a long way eastwards.

0820 - DFDS Ferry Dover Seaways leaving Dover alters course for us.

0842 - Food intake of Maxim with tinned peaches taken. The fishing rod and line method working perfectly now. Arni still swimming well but appears to be favouring his right arm.  I am informed that he does have a known problem with his right shoulder and this is a cause of concern.

0845 - Advised feeding will now take place every thirty minutes from now on.

0900 - Arni changing briefly to breast stroke and one handed crawl to rest his right shoulder. We have concerns at the speed now as the tide and wind are carrying us ever further Eastwards.

0910 - Thirty minute feed of 300 millilitres of Electrolyte drink plus a painkilling half tablet of Volteren

0915 - Sun disappears, becoming cloudy and dull, slight temperature drop. We may get some light rain.
Stroke rate now a constant 54.
The Pathfinder is also on our track although much further Eastwards, and we are keeping pace with their relay team which is encouraging to Arni and the team.
Most of the other boats are now calling Dover Coastguard to confirm entering the SW shipping lane.

0923 - Switched to breaststroke for one minute to rest shoulder.

0926 - Arni lost track of where he was going and had to have shouts and hand signals to bring him back on course.

0940 - Feed of Maxim and chocolate drink taken.

0950 - Excitement on board as we sight a large seal just ahead of us. This is an Icelandic team and they explain how good seals are to eat.

0955 - We enter the SW shipping lane And call up the Coastguard to advise our position.

1000 - Several small coasters pass down channel, but none of interest.

1010 - Feed of 300 millilitres of Electrolyte taken.

1035 - Arni resting right arm for short periods, still swimming with left only. Says he is OK.

1036 - DFDS Ferry Dunkirk Seaway passes us on way to Dover

1042 - Feed of 300 millilitres of Maxim and chopped banana drink taken.
Stroke rate down to 47, not surprising as Arni constantly favouring right arm.

1048 - Large container vessel Sampogracht passes quite close astern.

1105 - Still favouring his right arm Arni making little forwards progress and we are still being pushed Eastwards by both wind and tide. The tide must ease soon!

1106 - Bulk carrier Mistral crosses our bow.

1110 - Large tanker the B W Edelweiss passes across our stern.

1110 - Feed of 300 millilitres of Maxim fructose, tea and one half tablet of Volteren taken.
Arni advised by Stuart to push on hard now as the tide had finally eased and it was slack water. Now was the time to make good progress.

1140 - Feed of 300 millilitres of chopped peaches and maxim drink taken.

1145 - Large wake from some ship hits us knocking over coffees and other gear, makes a fine mess of Stuart’s deck!

1146 - Although Arni had advised prior to entering water he would not be using a pacemaker his team thought this would help. I explained rules for pacemaker.

1149 - Pacemaker entered water.

1205 - The very heavily loaded container ship, M.S.C. passes astern.

1210 - Feed of 300 millilitres of chopped peaches and maxim drink taken.
Sun comes out again.

1212 - Tugs towing barge carrying huge white metal bridge appears behind us and makes slow progress down Channel.

1232 - DFDS Ferry Dover Seaways alters course for us on her return to Dover. Second time we have seen her!

1235 - Pacemaker leaves water early. No improvement on speed.

1240 - Feed of 300 millilitres of chocolate and maxim drink taken.
Large patches of floating channel weed now passing.

1305 - Right arm still painful to Arni whose stroke rate is down to 40 mostly as he is only using this arm intermittently.
Shipping lane quiet only small coasters passing well astern.
Sea state getting worse, quite a bit of swell with a few white horses.

1315 - Feed of 300 millilitres of Electrolyte plus one pain killing tablet taken.
Arni is now noticeable dragging his right arm most of the time. I am told that although he is swimming strongly with only his left arm he is using an under-stroke with his right. I am not convinced!

1325 - Calls to Arni to swim closer to boat as he is wandering off line. He acknowledges and comes back to us.

1335 - Arni has only really used one arm since his last feed.
We are approaching the separation zone at last. Stuart advises we are about half way across.

1340 - Container ship Cosco crosses our bow this time the first ship to pass us close going up channel.

1340 - Feed of 300 millilitres of chopped banana and maxim drink taken.
Another pacemaker readies to go in.

1349 - Pacemaker enters water.

1355 - Entered NE shipping lane.

1411 - Feed of 300 millilitres of Electrolyte plus one Volteren tablet taken.

1420 - Stroke rate down to 28 SPM.

1430 - Pacemaker leaves water as not making any real difference.
We are currently 10 miles from nearest point of French coast.

1445 - Feed of 300 millilitres of chocolate and maxim drink taken.
Wind is now against tide making larger waves and rather uncomfortable for both swimmer and those on board.

1455 - DFDS Ferry Dover Seaways en-route to France. Third time she has passed us.

1500 - Arni very tired now, not using right arm at all and not having much strength remaining in his left.

1510 - Discussions with Arni from his team regarding lack of progress and advice from Stuart that the flood tide was running again which would push us down channel.

1515 - Arni agrees to review in thirty minutes.

1539 - Preparation for next feeding.

1540 - Arni has had enough and almost without warning grabs hold of the ladder on the stern and hangs on exhausted.
Total time swimming 9 hours 33 minutes.

After a spell of resting Arni is helped into the boat where he sits exhausted while his team wrap him in warm clothes and give him energy drinks.
He is suffering greatly with pain from his shoulder and obviously disappointed to have to give up. Other than this is OK.
He has made an excellent effort and would have made his crossing had it not been for the shoulder injury. Considering he swam for some hours basically one handed he did exceptionally well.

Drogue pulled in and we set off for Dover

1630 - Not again! The DFDS Ferry Dover Seaways passes us for the fourth time!

1720 - Finally after a fairly rough and choppy trip back we dock in Dover.
Arni seems reluctant to leave the boat, perhaps to fully end his swim attempt. He however swears he will be back next year stronger and fitter and will make the crossing.

The team gather up their kit and with handshakes all round leave the boat.
I stay on board as we have to move the boat to her moorings and I have to grab a lift back to Folkestone.

 With thanks to Cliff Sharp for providing the report.

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