One of the key aspects of channel swimming, that most people forget, is the waiting. Swimming the channel (or other sea swims) is not like swimming in a lake as there are so many more variables with the weather, the tides and the other boat traffic and how they all react to each other.
While I’m no expert on this, and intentionally left all the organising of this swim to someone else, my understanding of how it works is as follows:
– You are give a ‘tide’ for your swim – a slot of a few days when the tides are favourable and your attempt will [hopefully] be made
– You are then given a position in that tide – all the boats take multiple swimmers across on a tide and so you are given an order ‘first boat, second boat etc’
– You are then at the mercy of the weather and your pilot – you trust your pilot to get you over safely and so you trust them to decide when you should set off. Sometimes stronger swimmers / teams may swap with weaker ones (I think), but generally you wait for the weather to work for you and then go. It does mean that if the weather is bad for a particular tide some of the later swims booked in can miss the tide altogether (although wherever possible they are moved to different tides).
We are booked on a tide that starts on July 1st (tomorrow) and we are the first boat. Looking at things from the harbour and the beautiful weather we have here now there appears to be no reason why we shouldn’t set off as soon as possible. However, we are sheltered here and the pilot has a better view and more experience of what it is like out at sea. So currently we have been told to expect a Thursday morning departure.
For those that don’t know, how it works in a relay once we set off is that we swim for an hour each in rotation. Once we have all gone in then the first person goes back in again and so on. If for any reason someone can’t do their slot (illness, injury, fear are probably the main reasons) then the attempt is void. I believe that there is an observer on each swim and we can’t touch the boat or receive any assistance during our hour either. Of course all of this is done in swimming costumes only, no wetsuits, according to the channel swimming rules.
So now I wait.
Dover’s not the most picturesque town, but the BnB is lovely and the weather’s great and I can read and watch the sea… sounds perfect, I may not want to swim!