Greetings from what has been an incredibly windy Dover.
Hopefully my experiences will assist you guys in the planning of your upcoming challenges and adventures!
My window has been completely blown out. That means no swim because of weather – namely gale force winds – this normally happens in August, and has never happened in July before but the weather over here has been completely unseasonable. There are huge number of swimmers who have been thrown out by this… and Dover has been stress town. Thankfully we are staying in a Channel swimming caravan park which only takes Channel swimmers for 3 months a year called Varne Ridge. If you can get in here, do it, the owners David and Evelyn are super nice, the accommodation comfy and the community spirit rocks. Not to mention it is perched on top of the white cliffs of Dover which has the most SPECTACULAR views. If it wasn’t for staying here I would have probably slit my wrists, Dover is a hole, plainly and simply.
We hired a car locally from Enterprise Car hire in Dover which is half the price of hiring one out of London, and they are super nice people. You need to book in advance. It is an easy train ride from London to Dover Priory Station and you can walk to the car hire from there. If there are a number of you, getting a driver to take you Dover might also be an option. We did this as the train fare for 4 was more than a driver in a van with all our bags. You definitely want a car in Dover or you will find yourself looking for quick death opportunities! Every day that you have to wait, you want to get out and explore the local surroundings and towns. We have done a LOT of this with almost 2 weeks of waiting here now 🙂 Also when you get the GO for the swim you will need to get to your boat!
I train every day in Dover Harbour. On weekends there is a group run by Freda Streeter who you can join, if you do this, bring a couple of refill bottles of Sards from Australia to say thank you. She loves this stuff for cleaning her grandson’s clothes! They meet in the middle of the beach at 8:30am. You need to wear a red swim cap, and sign a waiver form. Tell them you are mates with me and she should have no problems in you joining. You are in the water by 9am.
On weekdays if you swim from in front of the Water sports centre down the Marina end of the beach, you can store yourself in lockers and have hot showers and change room afterwards. This was a really great discovery!
So the good news is, after all this wait, there looks like there will be a weather break from Friday and I am set to swim this weekend. Details to be confirmed tonight, and will post update to FB once I know exacts, but I am now going to be swimming on a 7m Spring tide, which means a higher water velocity, stronger currents, slower time, but right now all I want to do is make it to France! Our training should have set me up to be able to cope with this. I am very confident in my pilot picking the best opportunity and I know I can do this.
So – learning – you need flexibility at the end of your trip – Call your captain as soon as you land in the UK and get an idea of if there is a possibility of an earlier swim date…if you get an option to swim early, it might be very wise to take it. Swimming early, instead of enduring the painful wait of the last 10 days and then having to throw out my post swim holiday in Italy, would have been far more appealing in retrospect!!!
You need to be able to stay on for the spring tide after your swim in case what happens to me happens to you. There are a number of people going home without having achieved their dream, and after all the training and sacrifices, that is just NOT worth it!!!
Be aware that if you bring crew who are on limited time frame they may miss the swim. This happened to my brother… he went home on Saturday after a week hanging out in Dover. Make sure you are not reliant on someone with a limited time frame to be providing your mental support for the swim. That could have a devastating impact.
Things to Bring: Ugg Boots, track suits, polar fleeces, wool layers and CROCS – yes, as unfashionable as they are, you really want these to walk down the beach at dover… I would be lost without mine – seriously!
a good checklist is this one: http://loneswimmer.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/donals-channel-and-marathon-swimming-checklist-july-2012.pdf
You can pretty much buy anything you forget here, so don’t stress too much. Not your swim gear, but everything else. Freda sells the lights you need for the night swimming on the beach on the weekends. They say green is best.
Emotionally, I am doing great. It’s been a massive rollercoaster, but I have stayed confident I will get my swim even if I spend the entire month hanging out in Dover.
After Lochie’s swim 2 weeks ago, there was not a successful one for 10 days straight. On Saturday, a very good swimmer went out alone (ie no other boats except his risked it) in bad conditions and after 13 hours and just off France he got pulled as the tide changed and stared forcing him back out and the weather got so dangerous, so he got pulled… two more went sunday, and they made it, in 30 knot winds for the last 5 hours… its a gamble, you definitely need to ask the right questions of your pilots and ensure your gamble on your swim day pays off. You also need to ensure you don’t let your own head space get swept up in what’s happening.
If you are not on the Channel swimmers chat site on Google groups, I recommend you join… email your Pilot and ask him to add your email address – it is FULL of nutrition advice and stuff.￼￼￼ You need to search all the archives before you ask questions on it – people get annoyed answering questions that have been answered before. 🙂
Right, that’s it from me. I am super excited about getting to swim this weekend. Thanks so much for all your support so far, I can’t wait to conquer this and hand the baton over to the rest of you for what will be a successful Channel season all round for Vladswim!
Let’s do this thing!!!