Round Jersey Report – Part 3

Continued from Part 1 (run-up to the swim) and Part 2 (second half of the swim) from earlier in the week. This post is about the second half of the swim only. I’ll have a reflection on what went well and what didn’t go so well in Part 4 (final installment) tomorrow…

Photograph – Alice Harvey

Chantelle holds up one of the Twitter hashtags that were being used during the swim. These have been popular with Channel junkies since we got #CmonCraig trending during Craig Morrison’s English Channel solo in July 2012.

By the 5-hour feed, I was starting to feel a little bit more positive. I no longer felt like I was going to fall asleep in the water and could see that the next headland was getting nearer. I took the feed (300 ml of warm High5 4:1), kept my mouth shut and swam on – that was me able to tell myself to keep going rather than needing the crew to tell me. By the next feed, I was feeling more confident still: I knew that if I lasted another 30 minutes we would be switching to the 1-hour feed cycle, as scheduled, and this would make a big difference psychologically. I took the gel and asked for some jelly babies at the next feed as a treat. A few minutes after the feed (5 hours 40 minutes in), I could see that we were rounding Grosnez and about to head south along the western side of the island. I was mentally prepared for a long slog across St. Ouen’s Bay from L’Etacq to La Corbière as I was told that you lose much of the tidal assistance at this point and it’s further than it looks! I told myself to swim feed-to-feed and I’d get there eventually. At this point, the crew started transcribing some of the encouraging tweets onto the back of my feed schedule and showing them to me which was nice.

The next feed was at the 6-hour mark – it was 300 ml of warm High5 ZERO and two jelly babies – again, I said nothing and swam on. I could see the long sandy beach to my left so I knew that I was well over halfway. Knowing that I’d now be feeding every 20 minutes rather than every 30 was also a comfort. The next feed was 200 ml of warm High5 4:1 with a Twitter report! At the next feed (gel), I told the crew that I was feeling better and asked how many hours it was “to the lighthouse” and Mick replied: “a few”. I could see that we were making progress so carried to the next feed, which was a High5 ZERO and two jelly babies, completing the first 1-hour feed cycle, so I asked if it looked like I’d break 10 hours and Chantelle said that she “wouldn’t say no” so that was good news. I had now been swimming for 7 hours…

Photograph – Chantelle Le Guilcher

Approaching the lighthouse at La Corbière on the southwestern corner of the island.

By 1:40 pm, my stroke rate was a steady 60 spm and we were approaching the lighthouse at La Corbière. At 1:47 pm (7 hours 20 minutes in), I had a regular feed of High5 4:1 and, from my limited knowledge of Jersey’s geography, knew that were at the southwestern corner of the island. We had lost a lot of the push from the tide but we were on the final leg of the swim now and making good progress. This was where I felt the advantage of feeding every 20 minutes: I could put in a good effort between feeds and it didn’t feel like a very long time, I could now easily thinking 1 and 2 hours ahead. The  view into St. Brelade’s Bay was also a nice distraction at this point. At 8 hours 20 minutes, I had the last two jelly babies onboard with my regular feed and, 20 minutes later, I took my last SiS caffeinated gel – I had some High5 gels as spares but they don’t suit me taste or stomach! I felt a little tired again but I knew that the caffeine would perk me up. I asked for some chocolate in 10 minute’s time anyway…

Photograph – Chantelle Le Guilcher

Just past Portelet Bay. I was very confident of finishing at this point…

After 10 minutes (3:17 pm; 8 hours 50 minutes in), the crew appeared with three chocolate fingers, as requested, but also my regular High5 feed which wasn’t due for another 10 minutes! They had followed the plan to a tee until now so I knew that it wasn’t a mistake, they obviously had a reason for giving me the feed early (I now know that it was to take advantage of the current near Noirmont point). I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing. They pointed out the black and white tower at Noirmont and told me that it was the last point before crossing St. Aubin’s Bay to the finish. This was intended to be my last feed! I said that was fine but had other ideas in my head – I was sure that it would be a drag getting across the bay and that I’d need a boost to get over the line…

Photograph – Alice Harvey

Approaching Noirmot after the last feed, the last landmark before the end of the swim! This is my favourite photograph from the swim.

A few minutes later, we rounded the point and headed straight across the bay. My stroke rate was back up to 65 spm at the 9-hour mark. The next time a sighted forward, I could just about make out the diagonal black and white markings at the end of Elizabeth Castle Breakwater. Though it was already very calm, the surface of the water flattened out even more as we progressed across the bay – it became “glassy” and I felt like I was swimming in Knockananig Reservoir on a dead summer’s day. The crew seemed to be getting excited at this point, doing plenty of waving, cheering and clapping – it’s amazing how much of a boost a bit of noise can give you – and the more noise they made the harder I swam. I began to sight more often as well to be able to judge more accurately how hard I could afford to swim at each point.

Photograph – Chantelle Le Guilcher

Crossing St. Aubin’s Bay, the black and white marks at the finish line visible.

About 35 minutes after the last feed, I asked the crew (without breaking stroke) for a caffeinated gel. I could see Alice get one ready but it soon disappeared, they crew didn’t want to stop at this point as we were so close to the record. Mick appeared from inside the cabin and signaled that I had 10 minutes to go. John, who I hadn’t seen for about 7 or 8 hours, then appeared which made me think that we must be very close! Then all the crew signaled that I had 5 minutes left – I looked up and could see the finish only a few hundred metres away. I put my head down and swam as fast as I could, having not fed for 40 minutes, for the breakwater. I touched the barnacle-encrusted wall (right behind where I started) very relieved to be finished. I gave the crew a thumbs-up, tumble-turned and kicked off the wall back to the boat. I managed to haul myself back onboard with some dignity and the crew told me my time: 9 hours 35 minutes.

Photograph – Chantelle Le Guilcher

Finished – 9 hours 35 minutes later! I celebrated with a pool-style tumble-turn at the breakwater.

That’s enough writing for today! Watch out for Part 4 (final installment) coming tomorrow…