Thick frost on car windscreens quickly melted in the sunshine as we made our way to join Sea Leopard in Dover Marina for a trip. No need for introductions as we've all met before, Victoria Hill & Hanno Nickau both having swam before with me (Dan Earthquake) on previous trips. The winter has been kind to us this year - it's been cold inland to give us some proper conditioning without completely freezing over so as to stop us swimming. The cooler inland waters have meant that our trips to the coast have been productive with swims of reasonable duration & the low winds have given us a few opportunities to charter the Sea Leopard for offshore swims such as today.
Conditions were great, a calm sea, no breeze & sunshine, water reported to be 8 degrees Celsius going by the Folkestone Weather Buoy. Stuart took us past Shakespeare Beach towards Folkestone, mindful of half a dozen boats that were taking advantage of the conditions for sea angling trips. Just three of us swimming today, each with our own reasons:
Hanno Nickau is an experienced ultra distance triathlete, being one of the few to have completed a double, triple & quintuple ironman triathlon. This year he is doing the Enduroman Arch to Arc event which consists of a run from Marble Arch to Dover seafront, a Channel Swim followed by a cycle ride to Paris. Only 9 people have ever completed it (see http://www.enduroman.com/a2a/ ). Hanno is training with us to gain experience of swimming with a boat in open sea conditions as well as improving his conditioning to the coldwater.
Victoria Hill describes herself as a "Fearless open water swimmer fuelled by Asahi lager. Trying to toughen up for a winter of coldwater swimming & failing." She certainly isn't failing, looking around there are only three of us out here today with just a few more swimming down at the beach.
Victoria swam first for 30mins, testing out a new swim cap. Tucking in a pace beep, Victoria jumped overboard but soon found the hat to be uncomfortable & discarded it, dropping the pace beep giving future archeaologists and Neptune a gift of 21st century technology. Imagine finding it in a hundred years time - they will have some fun trying to work out what it is for & how it got there.
Hanno's turn followed - head first & swimming as well as I have ever seen him. A hard act to follow.
Stuart gave my friends the usual sport of changing course regularly. He must have heard my "Follow the boat" lecture so many times and I guess he enjoys testing whether I can practice what I preach. It's good fun actually - whilst I can't see the shore or any real fixed point I notice the direction of the current with body hairs. The sun suddenly in my eyes was also a clue. My time went fast enough, had some random aches from strength training Thursday so it must have been effective.
It was a fantastic morning, any of us would be happy to have similar wind and sunshine in the summer for our Channel adventures, though a few more degrees of warmth in the water will be welcome. I have enjoyed swimming in events & various locations over many years but these sea trips are the best for me. There are moments when the reality of the situation enters the mind. I'm swimming in a pair of trunks a mile off shore. It's January. And then I think of how it will be on the way to France & it suddenly becomes the way of things. This is perfectly normal for me and my friends. It's what we do & it's fun. Nice to be the only swimmers out here, if only briefly in the scheme of things.
Thanks as ever to Stuart & Gary for the trip & to Victoria Hill for the extra photos.