Swimmers view

Swimmers view
Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Crawlers - 9th August 2011 - report by Cliff Sharp

The Crawlers - Jennifer, John, John & Diana - photo from http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=crawlers&isTeam=true#
I joined the CSA pilot vessel Sea Leopard at 14.30hrs, meeting the four members of “The Crawlers” relay team, plus their two trainers/helpers. Introductions were made to the team, boats crew and me. Paul Ingenthron, who is planning a solo swim later in the year, asked if he could accompany us for the experience, as no one had any objections we welcomed him aboard.

Loading of the mountain of gear took place and Sea Leopard left the pontoon on the falling tide. Prior to leaving, Stuart Gleeson, the skipper gave a brief safety talk and advised on safety equipment etc. At this time I gave a recap of the essential rules regarding the swim, swimwear and what was required during changeovers etc.

I established that no food or drink was planned to be consumed while swimming and that the group would each swim for one hour.     

We took a slow run down to the start point off Samphire Hoe on a gloriously sunny afternoon the sea was very calm with the wind coming from the Northwest and off the land so we were in the shelter of the cliffs. Pathfinder who had an Australian solo swimmer on board followed us down. After a brief update on safety while swimming ashore through some large rocks at 15.17 Jennifer jumped in and swam to the beach.

1532 - The off was given by whistles and boats horn, Jennifer started the teams relay attempt with much encouragement from all on board!

1540 - Jennifer swimming strongly and fast. Pathfinder who had set off her swimmer a few minutes after us draws alongside our port side. Their swimmer seems very strong. Hope he is not going too fast as on a solo. I want to swap boats as all on board Pathfinder are eating doughnuts!

1600 - Many shouts of encouragement to Jennifer and even more photos taken.

1627 - Hour gone very quickly.

5 minute warning to next swimmer John and Jennifer.

1632 - John Hobbs in water.

1640 - 1.4 miles covered.

John powering on and covering a lot of ground.

1650 - Yacht under sail passes close in front and between us and Pathfinder.

1727 - 5 minute warning to next swimmer John and John in water.

1732 - John Young in water.

1750 - Sea Venture calls up the coastguard to announce their swim has started, we think a bit late as they have been off Samphire for some considerable time.

1800 - Another swim started, Stuart confirms there are four swims in progress now.

1810 - Wind has veered to the South West and started to pick up we are noticing a slight side swell.

1827 - 5 minute warning to next swimmer Diana.

1832 - Diana in the water.

1840 - Sea is picking up and becoming uncomfortable.

1915 - Relay team on Viking Princess given up! They could only have been swimming for just about two hours, they must have a problem.

1925 - 4.5 miles from English coast.

1927 - 5 minute warning.

1932 - Jennifer in the water for her second swim.

2005 - A flotilla of yachts pass astern of us coming from Folkestone there must be an inshore race.

2027 – 5 minute warning.

2032 - John Hobbs in the water for his second swim. This time he has on both a headlight and glow stick as daylight is now fading fast.

We are now just half a mile from the shipping lane.

2040 - John powering off again and covering a lot of ground.

2045 - We have entered the shipping lane.

2120 - Large bulk carrier the E W Brooker passes very close across our bow. Stuart has already called her on the radio to notify her that we have a swimmer in the water. We brace for her wake but as the swells are so bad now anyway we don’t actually notice it!

John called to swim close to boat for safety.

2127 – 5 minute warning.

2132 - John Young in the water for his second swim.

2200 - A procession of large ships passes down channel well in front of us.

2220 - Large car carrier well lit up passes across our bow.

2225 - Full dark now although quite a bit of moonlight. Swimmers lights show up well.

2227 – 5 minute warning.

2232 - Diana’s turn to enter the water for her second swim.

2240 - Pathfinder calls up Dover Coastguard for the latest weather forecast as conditions deteriorating. This not available yet.

2250 - Dover Coastguard call Pathfinder back and give the latest forecast South westerly 5 to 7 then gale 8 later.

2310 - Pathfinder call up, they have aborted their swim due to bad weather. Only us left now.

2315 - Stuart talks to the team and advises that with the way the wind and swells are picking up and with the terrible forecast, there will be no way we can land in France. He explained that where we were, although uncomfortable, was safe and that we could continue the swim for some hours, but that we would still not be able to land, thus we would not be able to complete the swim. Did the team wish to continue?

After some considerable discussion the team decide that it would be a waste of effort to continue swimming when they all knew they would have to abandon at some point.

2323 - Diana called to in water and told situation etc.

2325 - Diana swims to boat and climbs out of the water.

2330 - Drogue and dinghy secured with a little difficulty in the rough seas and we are on our way home. Side screens pinned up and everyone told that it would be a wet passage home.

A choppy journey home however the team are undaunted and drink cans of Guinness to celebrate

0110 - We make it into Dover Marina where the swimmers unload their gear and with handshakes and farewells leave to make their way back to their hotel.

0130 - I stay on board as we have to move the boat to its mooring and I have to grab a lift back to Folkestone.

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