Swimmers view

Swimmers view
Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Qing Li, Channel Solo Swim Success, 25th August 2011

Photos thanks to Qing Li. Report by Keith Oiler (KO)

1820Arrived at Dover Marina, Steve Franks also waiting to go out with swimmer on Pathfinder.

1825 On Pontoon. Meet Qing and her parents who will be accompanying Qing during her swim.

1830 On board Sea Leopard with Stuart Gleeson, Pilot and Stewart Richardson, Crew.

1837 Safety talk given by Stewart. KO informed Qing of proceedures and CSA guidance together with main rules covering solo swims. Qing gave detailed information sheet to KO and pilot.
Dover Marina
1845 Left Dover Harbour.  Weather good, light winds, overcast skies. Some clear areas but it looks like it might rain. Rather choppy sea as we leave harbour - mum and dad look apprehensive.

1850 Qing preparing to swim. Light sticks attached to strap on goggles and to swim suit straps and both activated.

Shakespeare Beach, Dover

1903 Arrived off Shakespeare cliff with Pathfinder and their solo swimmer. Qing is taking her time with preparation and appears almost reluctant to enter the water. Stewart checks that all is okay.
1908 Qing enters the water and swims approx 75 yards to beach.
1911 Qing reenters the water from beach. Stopwatch started and swim commences at 1911hours
1914 Qing alongside Sea Leopard swimming on port side.
1925 Inshore waters look very quiet other than two other swim boats (Pathfinder and Anastasia) Weather - dry at present. Wind decreasing but still 8/10 knots. Sea choppy with moderate swell. Mum and Dad are very quiet. I don't think they are going to enjoy their trip across the Channel.
1930 Only visible shipping - 2 x Sea France ferries entering and leaving Dover and a car transporter j in the South West Shipping lane.
1935 Qing stops swimming momentarily to adjust swim cap - continues swimming strongly.
1945 Stuart calls up Dover Coastguard and advises of commencement of swim.
1952 Qing stops swimming to show mum and dad the sunset. It is beautiful this evening. Continues to swim strongly. Stroke rate now 66, up from initial 63 spm.
2011 Feed and drink. No problems, drinks via string tied to bottle. Feed via pole with bucket. Feeding, along with other essential data is recorded hourly intervals on separate log sheets.
2025 Qing swimming gradually further away from Sea Leopard. Attention eventually attracted and returned to good distance from port side. It is nearly dark. Light sticks clearly visible.
2035 Yacht passes close across bow going up Channel. Qing swimming too far away from Sea Leopard again.
2041 Stop for drink. Qing swims to starboard side and takes further drink. Has been raining and those on board are now also wet.
2045 Qing swimming too far from Sea Leopard and in wrong direction,. Does not respond to Klaxon or whistle. Stuart concerned, turns Sea Leopard around and circles to come alongsid Qing. Stewart explains that she must stay close to boat in dark. Told to swim in light from spot light that is centred approx 4 yds from side.
2115 Mum and dad continue to watch Qing. Concerned when she goes too far from Sea Leopard, but now staying much closer. Mum and dad are not enjoying the journey - both have been suffering from sea sickness since before first feed.
2125 Stroke rate slightly down for first time. 56spm.
2130 Sea Leopard is gradually moving up the Channel with the tide. Getting closer to cross Channel ferries - 3 off port side.
2141 Stop for drink. Stewart now doing the feeds. Mum and dad taking a rest from preparing and giving feeds.
2220 Rain has eased. Sea is much calmer and wind has completely dropped.
2245 Enter South West shipping lane. Small coaster passes close across bow going down Channel.
2319 P&O ferry passes on starboard side bound for Calais. Coaster passes close astern after altering course following advice of Sea Leopards position by Dover Coastguard.
2330 MV Ostree calls up Sea Leopard. After giving position and speed, Ostree confirms alter course to starboard and passes very close astern going down Channel.
0023 CMA line container ship CGM Magellan passes across bow going down Channel. It is 365m long and 187000 tonnes. Very close to Pathfinder who is approx quarter of a mile ahead.
0025 Qing stopped swimming momentarily - sea weed.
0030 Stopped swimming after taking a mouthful of water. Conditions are not good for swimming. Qing offered and took drink of water before continuing.
0055 Shipping relatively quiet. More persistant rain now.
0105 Anastasia has aborted her swim and passes on starboard side on return to Dover.
0150 Shipping remains quiet. Weather has improved slightly - light rain with S Easterly wind force 1/2. Sea has calmed with a slight swell.
0230 Mum has been asleep for past 2 hours - on port side sitting on deck behind wheelhous to gain some shelter from the rain. She is also under her umbrella. Dad sitting on starboard side deck with head above gunwhale. Nearly asleeep but always aware where Qing is and regularly shouting "Stay in the light." Qing is now swimming at a more constant distance from Sea Leopard but still veers away and has to be called back. Let's hope she swims more consistantly after dawn.
0247 Left South West Shipping lane and entered separation zone.
0320 Now heavy rain with lightening towards French Coast and above our position. Visibility now considerably reduced. No shipping visible other than Pathfinder approx 1 mile ahead.
0340 Entered North East Shipping lane.
0410 Still raining,
0415 Slightly delayed feed - Qing happy and positive. Clearly requests what she wants for next feed.
0455 Very little shipping in the North East Lane. Conditions are not good. Moderate swell and wind from the East now. Wind pushing Sea Leopard toward Qing. She still continues to swim strongly and is maintaining a consistant stroke rate of 60spm.
0535 Nearly stopped raining but wind has increased slightly. Sky is starting to clear and daylight is coming. Visibility has improved - can clearly see lights on French coast and Cap Gris Nez light.
0545 Delayed feed. Large bulk carrier, NYK line passing close astern, general cargo ship crossing close across bow.
0546 Feed taken. Drink only. Qing vomitted whilst taking stop for drink. Stroke rate has reduced slightly down to 58spm due to deterioting conditons.
0555 Sea conditions are quickly deteriorating as the wind is increasing. Qing continues to swim strongly in very difficult conditions.
0635 Pathfinder advises French Coastguard that her swim has been aborted and returning to Dover.
0700 Three and a half miles of Cap Gris Nez. Dad asking how much longer. Steward advised about 3 hours.
0703 Qings stroke rate has dropped to 54, rechecked and again confirmed at 54spm. She appears to be tiring but is still continuing to swim relatively strongly.
0714 Stopped for feed. Took approx 90 secs, Qing then vomitted, needed time to settle and take water. Asked how far to go. Stewart checked and confirmed Three and a half miles. Qing appeared to be happy with this and started swimming again at 0719. Responded well to encouragement given by Stewart.
0725 Qing swimming strongly again. Stroke rate back up to 60spm. (Stewart thinks he is wasted as crew and should be a trainer/motivator)
0735 Shipping has been very quiet over past 2 hours. Coaster astern and Normad Line bulk carrier off starboard side both going up the Channel.

0755 Sea conditions not good but Qing is coping very well. Cap Gris Nez is now approx 3 miles away. Tide is going slack and this should enable Qing to make better progress.
0810 Enters French Inshore Waters. Stuart advises French Coastguard.
0820 Inshore waters are quiet. No ferries, too far west to be bothered by them now. 2 yachts between Sea Leopard and coast which is beginning to look much closer.
0900 Flood tide has started - not good news. Stuart doubts that we are close enough to make landing west of Cap Gris Nez. If we dont make it our trip could be 2 or 3 hours longer.
0929 Feed delayed slightly to try to make most of opportunity before tide starts running stronger.
0958 Yacht Lady Guinevere passes 40m across our bow - a friendly wave from crew.
1010 Looking hopeful but the weather has closed in again and it's raining. No inshore traffic - not a dingy, fishing boat, cruiser or yacht in sight. Perhaps the French are more sensible than we give them credit for?
1028 Stopped raining. Sun is now shining.
Nearing Cap Gris Nez
1045 Not making enough progress in the right direction. Tide is going to take us past Cap Gris Nez.
1059 French yacht passes astern. Only other visible vessel is a fishing boat approx 3 miles to the West.
1125 Stewart prepares for landing. Oilskins, boots and lifejacket but decision is made it is not safe to go into shore in tender. Mum and dad are at last beginning to look brighter. Mum is encouraged to boost Qing over this last taxing part of the swim.
1130 Last feed before landing? Stewart talking to Qing. Tells her half a mile to beach - aim for the houses, land where the road comes down to beach or on beach to left of road. Reminds Qing to stand clear of the water. After encouragement from mum and dad, Qing starts swimming again.
1150 Approx 150 yards from beach. Qing given final instructions, re landing. Stuart keeps Sea Leopard in position to enable observation of completion of swim. Seal in water as welcome party.
1159 Qing stands clear of water on pebble beach to correctly complete swim. Stop watch stopped at 16hours 48mins, location - Slipway east of Cap Gris Nez.
1210 Qing safely back on board Sea Leopard. After drawing a large crowd of people down to slipway and at windows in restaurant above beach. She also talked to a local reporter so may make the news in the local newspaper.

Qi back on board Sea Leopard

Getting warm below deck on the way home.

1214 Stuart reports completion of swim to French Coastguard and commences return journey to Dover. All on board in high spirits but it has just dawned on mum and dad that they are going to have a lively trip back on Sea Leopard.
1425 Enter Dover harbour after a very bumpy amd at times wet return crossing. Mum and dad visibly brighten once we are in harbour.
1435 Safely back on mooring in Granville Dock.
1442 After congratulating Qing on her excellent swim and wishing family a safe journey home, completed paperwork and left Sea Leopard at 1442.
Observers note:
This young lady was very focussed, mature and confident in her approach to her swim - which she totally owned. Her preparation was excellent and included a sheet given to pilot and observer which gave her detailed feed plan, drills, gear, clothing, equipment, etc. It even included yes and nos - be truthful and to the point. Don't ask about food - you have plan. Don't ask about pain. Don't tell me where I am/how far - unless I ask.
This information was invaluable as her supporters were unable to assist her after third hour. All subsequent feeds were undertaken by crew. This was only possible by planning that Qing had undertaken - this very muhc contributed to her success. Only issue - she did not realise how cold she would be after the swim. Not prepared for this. However, experience and knowledge of crew meant she received care and attention she needed at this time - well done Stewart.
An excellent swim undertaken in far from ideal conditions - very well done Qing, you planning was one of the keys to your success and many other prospective Channel Swimmers could learn a lot from you. It was a pleasure to observe your well deserved success.

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