It took a while, but here it is!! Especially for all my friends and openwater swim lovers all over the world! Enjoy this English version and let me know your experience!
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Ofcourse here is a little preview. Read about my first English Channel crossing:
Twelve pilots are on the list of the English Channel Association (ECA). The ECA is the official organization you have to apply to. This organization guarantees the safety and makes sure the crossing is done according to rules and regulations. It is required to choose one of these twelve experienced fisherman as your pilot. Because there are more swimmers than fishermen, I am put on a waiting list for my preferred pilot: Val Noakes. Joke van Staveren, the best marathon swimmer of the world at that time, recommended me to her pilot and informed him that I’m a fast swimmer. Dad and I go by his house to meet with him and go over my race. We are received warmly with a cup of English tea with lots of milk. He places me as second on his list. He tells me that a reputable Canadian swimmer who is going to try a triple, Dover-Calais-Dover-Calais, has priority. She is planning on swimming across, back and across again. The agreement is that when there is a favourable weather forecast of thirty-six hours, which is needed for a triple, she can start first and when there is a favourable weather forecast of twelve hours, I am the first who is allowed to dare the crossing. I don’t like that very much, because the weather is beautiful and I want to go first. Lovely sun, little wind and an almost flat sea.
The training in the sea and harbour of Folkestone go smoothly. The day of the first possibility to cross approaches. Everyone is watching the weather forecast on TV. There is a favourable weather forecast of twelve hours. I immediately call my pilot. He tells me that the Canadian wants to start first anyway. She wants to set a good time and if the weather remains well, continue for a triple. I’m extremely disappointed, this was not the deal! But the pilot thinks the Canadian is better than me. She does have a state of service, to be honest. I am a nineteen-year-old rookie who hasn’t shown anything yet internationally. And the pilot has the last saying in this, he decides.
After twenty hours the weather changes. Wind force six to seven. The Canadian swims across and back, but doesn’t makes the triple. With the following tide, a day later, starting is not allowed because of the tumultuous weather which causes high waves. The following tide neither and the tide thereafter neither. Waiting. I’m getting more and more frustrated that I cannot start. Maybe the weather won’t calm in time.
Waiting, waiting and staying in shape.
After two days the wind settles down. It’s looking good, but the waves are still tumultuous on the sea. I still have to wait for another tide of six hours. I talk to other swimmers a lot and kill the time by staying in shape and swimming an hour twice each day. The other swimmers point me to the professional circuit. This appeals to me, because this way I can still do something useful with my half-finished swimming career, with my years of training. Finally, Val says there is still one starting chance left. The waves are still there. A chance on a fast time is not possible, but I’m here now and should better just swim it. That way, I’m one of the few who crossed the English Channel and my goal is accomplished. Besides, it’s a great honour. The last possibility approaches. In the middle of the night. At eleven o’ clock the springtide starts.
At twelve o’ clock I can start. Pitch-dark. A green fluorescent stick is attached to my bathing suit, as a marker. The water temperature is around sixteen deg degreesi8rees Celsius. From Dover Beach I walk into the water and swim as fast as I can to the floodlight of the fishing trawler. I have never swam in the dark before. It’s actually kind of scary, outside of the reach of the floodlight I don’t have any reference point at all. Just swim. The light shines into my eyes all the time. I can’t see anything. I’m scared to death that I will end up outside the light and get lost in the great, dark sea.
Suddenly I see that the moon is shining. It’s a full moon. It feels like I’ve got company, sort of a buddy. I like it and say hi to the moon. The moon changes position. In the beginning it is small, bright and behind me, after five hours it is big, yellow and in front of me. It gives me the idea I’m swimming from one to another point. A reference. A huge mental benefit for me. The waves are still brutal, choppy. The little, choppy point-waves make me heave up and down fast. It makes me sick. Don’t complain, I say to myself, just swim on. We did not pay this amount of money for nothing and this is my chance to put myself in the spotlight. Maybe, the sea sickness will get better later. It didn’t. The pilot and my father have a solution. I have to swim on the other side of the boat. The waves are coming from my side. If I swim on the other side, the boat can break the worst waves. The problem is that I can only breathe on my left side with my crawl and thus should swim on the right side of the boat. On the left side I have to look out over the wide sea. Giving up due to sea sickness is not an option. I am going to try it. It’s indescribably scary to lie in the North Sea outside of the floodlight. I feel panic rising up in my stomach. What if they don’t find me again? I hold back a little bit and swim like crazy to get on the other side of the boat. In the meantime, the pilot moved the floodlight to the other side of the boat. He was right, the waves are broken by the boat just enough to not get seasick. It’s starting to get a little bit brighter outside. Even though I breathe on the left side, I can see the bottom side of the boat under water. This way I can stay on track. It isn’t desirable, but that’s the way it is. It’s good training to learn to breathe on the other side. The race continues.
It’s light and finally we see Cap Griz Nez rising up. I have to get on land. But where? Officially I have to get dry feet before the attempt is approved. I only see rocks and the waves are heavy. Climbing on the rocks could be dangerous, there’s a chance of hurting myself. Now what? A few more moments and I will crash into the rocks. From the trawler a dinky is deployed. The pilot and my father sail to me. They lift me out of the water before I crash. The official on the trawler sets the time: 8 hours and 44 minutes.
The last 100 meters the zodiac sails with me so I can come as close as possible to the rocks and then climb into the boat so I don’t crash into the rocks.
I made it! I am so proud. Although I still feel a slight disappointment because, in my experience, I could have broken the record if I was allowed to start a few days earlier. Achieving is so hammered into me, that settling down with less, is hard.
The zodiac takes me to the trawler to sail back to England. I have to hold myself on all sides to not fall over. I am amazed by what I see. Did I swim through these waves? The cold and fatigue get their hand on me now. With chattering teeth, I sit another hour on the boat back to Folkestone.
What should have been the end of my career, becomes the beginning of a new one. I have talked to lots of people here in England and I think it’s a rush to be good at long distance swimming. I realize I’m not that bad at all and can do way more than my trainer made me believe in the past. Above all it’s really fun to abide in this small, special word. A variety of people from all kind of countries. In the water competitors, out of the water friends. A taste for more!
GET YOUR COPY HERE (UK)
Have fun reading it!