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Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Force 6 Channel Relay team - practice swim 19th May 2012

Force 6 Channel Relay Team - 2012
 Force 6 Channel Relay team took the opportunity to have a practice swim away from the shelter of the land in preparation for their coming attempt. Team Captain G gave the swimmers a briefing on how the rules of the swim on the day will work & how changeovers are made every hour with the first swimmer being overtaken by the second, this being the process that will be repeated hourly until the swim is complete. The official observer will be keeping time & making sure that the rules of the swim are followed for official recognition. It is good practice for the team to have a rota of who is looking after who, so the first swimmer will usually be attended to on exit by the fourth swimmer, the second by the fifth and so on. This ensures that each swimmer who has just finished is looked after by someone who has plenty of time to help, every team member having an opportunity to eat, sleep & get ready for their swim whilst the journey continues across the Channel to France.

 Team Captain G gives a briefing to the swimmers

G getting ready to swim

G swimming in the Channel for a practice swim

G surfing along a wave


Fiona the little Mermaid

Alex the Rocket



G & Ali Castleton discuss the weather

Ali Castleton - practice swim in the English Channel.

Following the boat is the most important skill for a Channel Swimmer as one waves are over a few inches in height as is usual (more likely a few feet!) it is virtually impossible to see anything other than the pilot boat & direction is certainly difficult to judge. Luckily the pilot will know which is the optimum course as per the prevailing tide & conditions, steering the boat accordingly. The movements of vessels in the English Channel are carefully monitored by Coastguards on both sides along with constant radio communications. At regular intervals both coastguards warn shipping of particular hazards to be mindful of, these include unusual loads being towed (such as an oil exploration platform); marker buoys that are off station or drifting; notifications of emergency situations such as man overboard or containers floating & of course the presence of Cross Channel Swimmers. Each pilot boat has AIS (automatic identification of ships) radar fitted so that both Coastguard & shipping can see the location of the swimmer, the speed & course that is being taken. Much of a pilots expertise is concerned with safely negotiating the swimmer through the two shipping lanes whilst taking into consideration all the pertinent factors. It may be that a swimmer will have to treadwater whilst a large vessel passes, restricted as it may be in moving or altering course. There may be other obstructions - such as a debris or loose nets from fishing boats that the pilot has to avoid - so a swimmer must be prepared to follow the boat no matter what without question. Any time taken discussing direction & location is time wasted in drifting. If circumstances force a swimmer to treadwater whilst a large ship passes, this time can be used for extra feeding, hydration & motivation from the supporters. Practice swims such as the one today allow for all these instances to be easily understood so that on the day of the adventure the swimmers can turn their arms knowing that all eventualites are in the hands of their pilot, who they know & trust. Additionally practice swims help the pilot become familiar with the swimmer & assess their capabilities in varied conditions which is helpful for calculating the optimum course.

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