Swimmers view

Swimmers view
Sea Leopard - swimmers eye view

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Dan Earthquake - Successful Solo Channel Crossing 2nd July 2013 - 21 hours 25 mins.

...And so it was that I found myself on Sea Leopard at 220am on 2nd July 2013 leaving Dover Harbour on my own solo attempt. Stuart Gleeson the pilot, Big Stuart Adams the Crewman. President of SLCSC & Head Coach of the Birmingham Lifeguards - my coach - Richard Davies was with me along with Ali & Pete Hornby who had volunteered to feed me, no mean feat at any time of night or day. Hanno Nickau had also joined the party with a camera & I hope to spice story up a bit later with some of his photos.

Shakespeare Beach loomed in the darkness & I went down the ladder slipping into the water. Instantly I smiled, it was not cold. I breaststoked steadlily to the beach enjoying the moment - the anticipation was over this was it. I had resolved that this would not be the be all & end of all of swimming. Sometimes I swim a long way, sometimes not far & today would be just another day in a lifestyle of enjoying the water. Of course I wanted to succeed but I wasn't going to kill myself if I didn't. Better swimmers than me have had to stop before reaching France. I scrambled up the pebbles raised my hand & the horn went - & it started.

The first hour was delightful. Sea Leopard is well lit & a beautiful boat to swim with at night. There was a bit of a chop but nothing I hadn't had before & I began the first of maybe a hundred songs that I would sing to myself during the swim. First feed, liquid only at seventy five minutes.

My boat butlers Ali & Pete had a crate of choices & some simple guidelines. No matter what time of day the swim started I would be having breakfast between 7 & 830am, lunch between 12 & 130pm with dinner to be served between 530 & 7pm. The larger volume of these feeds was split into three or four at 15 minute intervals so as not to drift too much whilst still mimicking the usual pattern of eating I have at home. These breaks were to be accomodated as they fell on the 75 minute schedule with Tamsin's homemade Channel Swimming Biscuits (1 each) to be at breakfast, Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches for lunch & noodles for dinner. Feeds between were to be: Channel Swimming Biscuits/6 grapes/half a tangerine/half a banana/jaffa cake. It was their choice what to give me. Fluids were to be warm water, warm ribena with strawberry milkshake & elderberry syrup to be kept for the final hours. Lots of people say real food is no good for Channel swims, but I've tried powder mixes & they don't suit me. I like food & my 6 hour plus swims from February onwards with food were delightful.

Treading water to feed is something I didn't practice properly, & I got some cramp in my left hamstring after the third feed. Mark Bayliss was telling me how he stretched his legs to avoid such concerns in Bournemouth back in April & I often do a similar stretch in bed at night - one foot over the other push up, pull down. I had some discomfort for another seven hours but nothing significant & eventually the cramp disappeared & I felt much happier.

I saw a jellyfish. It was about the size of a pint glass, had an orange tinge & swam beneath me around four hours in. They were a beautiful, if alarming sight - & I lost some time by keeping my hands as fists during the deeper part of my stroke so as not to be stung on the inside of the fingers. I dodged a purple one the size of a football with the tentacles & was pleased to miss him. They were with me for miles, gradually thinning out & only clear once out of the NE lane.
Before the turn of the tide - about 10 hours in - Richard Davies told me I had to take advantage of the slack & push on a bit as my stroke had fallen. My friend Peter Jurzynski who has had 20 Channel Solo attempts & been successful 14 times had said to me "At 10 hours consider yourself somewhere near to halfway." I knew at this point he was right, but didn't focus too much on how far done or what to do.

I saw a few boats occasionally, but generally nothing but Sea Leopard & my friends, maybe the odd seagull. At one point I saw the boat turn away sharply & ride a large wave which made me smile (sorry crew) but it didn't affect me at all.
Leaving the NE lane required "a half hour push," as described by Richard Davies. I was about 15 hours in by guesstimate & it would be dark before I had another time reference. I knew that it is never a half hour push to get into the inshore traffic zone & upped my pace with the hope of holding it for as long as possible. Time passed, there were no more jellyfish & I started to feel really good for the first time enjoying the trip. A boat approached - Gallivant bringing back their successful swimmer (or swimmers). They cheered & waved & clapped, the boat horn blowing hard. I felt renewed again as if only just starting out. I've never spoken to Mike Oram & we don't know each other. I'm grateful for the gesture, thanks Mike.

Heavy rain a while later pounded my friends & I felt sorry for them being stuck watching me all day & likely half the night. The water flattened off though, & stayed calm for the rest of the swim. Light began to fade. I fed again quickly & continued on, still trying to push. I could feel the energy draining out of me & as it started to get dark Stuart Gleeson came to the rail for the first time. It hasn't been enough, I thought. I'd used up all my songs & had an hour or more on a few positive mantras. I didn't have much left. I'm going to have to argue now that I can go on & they're going to start discussing how to recover me if things go wrong. He said "In the shallows now Dan. Follow the boat & the tide will take you in." It was another euphoric moment.
Eventually I saw the punt pulled in which made me feel happier. I had for hours kept thinking, "come on Stu, get the punt out & follow me in." I knew now I had been going over 20 hours but had no idea how much. I no longer cared. I'd found a little bit left.

A short while later Stu Adams & Richard Davies pulled in front of me with the punt & I followed it now seeing a beach ahead under the wall some quarter of a mile off.  I touched sand with my hand. A few more strokes & it was now too shallow to swim. It was still a long way off though, a very shallow slope. I waddled with my knees until I could crawl, fearful of standing after all this time.  It felt like an eternity.
Finally I cleared the water. I flopped into a seated position & raised my arms. The boat horn went. Big Stu & Richard waded over. I noticed that I wasn't shivering. A big achievement to finish without shivering. I smiled to myself. I stayed sitting, my knees now very sore suddenly. Richard told me well done. "That was a long half hour" I told him. He laughed. They helped me up & I waddled to the boat & fell in the front. They got me alongside Sea Leopard & I sort of fell over the side into the boat, supported by my friends.

I had a small bag in the pocket of my rucksack which I made for instantly. Water on the sponge to wash the face especially round my mouth & nose. Mouthwash which stung like hell followed by lipsalve. I got dry & dressed & slept all the way back to Dover Harbour. I'm uncertain about the exact time. Most of us think it was 21 hours & 25 minutes. The "unofficial official" time is 21 hours & 24 minutes.

Back on land, I met up with Peter. He said "You did it Dan. You swam the Channel!"

Dan Earthquake & America's greatest Channel Swimmer Peter Jurzynski.

Track image with thanks to Nick Adams.
Thank you to all my friends who helped one way or another over the years, especially my crew: Richard Davies, Ali & Pete Hornby, Hanno Nickau & Tamsin Lane. Travelling with the Stuart Gleeson & Stu Adams is always a pleasure, good strong men who know their stuff & want you to succeed.


1 comment:

Messages and comments will only be published once verified.