Tuesday 31 July 2007

Back in Dover to meet Channel Legends, Train with Loraine and train for my next challenge??

Above: Hoffy meets Anne Cleveland, now a four times Channel Swimmer with two successful solos and a double to her name. (Double - Mmm, that seems like a challenge?).

Above: Hoffy (GB - 1 x Solo Channel Swim), Anne Cleveland (USA - 4 x Solo Channel Swims), Alison Streeter (GB - 43 x Solo Channel Swims, "Queen of The Channel"), Marcy MacDonald (USA - 9 x Solo Channel Swims).

When I first started to investigate how to swim the channel in 2006, the first web site I came across was Anne Cleveland's. So it was amazing for me to meet her last Saturday when I returned to Dover to train with Loraine in preparation for her swim in August. Not only that, it was like a swimmers Hall of Fame down there with Nora Toledano from Mexico and many others. It was very International! I then bumped into Alisn Streeter and Marcy Macdonald, both very illustrious channel swimmers, and am proud to have had the photo above taken with all three.

Above: Hoffy with Loraine Verghese who supported his channel swim and I will be supporting her in August.

The main reason for going to Dover, apart from the fact I was getting withdrawal symptoms after only 1 week, was to train with Loraine who I will be supporting on her channel swim attempt in the week commencing August 20, 2007. I swum for 2.25 hours total and found it surprisingly cold (Freda said it was because I had now totally relaxed after my swim). However, we had a good training session, with Loraine completing 6 hours. Go Loraine - you will do it, I know you will! You have trained for it, so there is no reason you shouldn't.

While down there, I did something which everyone has called me "mad" for doing. All will be revealed shortly!


Monday 30 July 2007

"On the sofa" at BBC Radio Suffolk with Leslie Dolphin...well actually, Stephanie Mackentyre!

Above: Hoffy with BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Stephanie Mackentyre on Friday July 20, 2007.

Above (Left to Right): Hoffy, Stephanie Mackentyre and Beccy Hopfensperger actually on the sofa!

Before the channel swim, having either swum the channel or failed, we had been invited to BBC Radio Suffolk to chat "on the sofa" with Leslie Dolphin, but she wasn't going to be there so we were interviewed by the lovely Stephanie Mackentyre. It was a great experience and we both really enjoyed it. If you have an hour to spend listening to the show, please click on the link below. It is the full one hour broadcast with news, music and channel swim information etc.
Be patient it can be a slow download depending on your Internet connection speed. Hope you enjoy it!


Saturday 21 July 2007

Things you have to do in Dover when you've swum the Channel, and a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped me!

Above: Thursday July 12, 2007. My Pilot Andy King and me look at the chart of my swim in our caravan at the Varne Ridge Holiday Park.

Above: Saturday July 14, 2007. Me presenting the Channel General, Freda Streeter, with two small presents to say a big "Thank you" for all her efforts in helping to get me across the Channel. You'll have to ask her what we got her personally!

Above: Saturday July 14, 2007. Martin from The Sandown, took Beccy and I for a "Pint or Two" at The White Horse in Dover. All successful swimmers are entitled to put their names and times on the wall. There were some very illustrious names up there. Mine is now next to Mike Cross's name who is now a two time channel swimmer. Well done Mike!

Above: Sunday July 15, 2007. David and Evelyn at the Varne Ridge Holiday Park where we stayed during the swim week, always raise the national flag of a successful swimmer, and place their names and National flag on the wall. The above was taken the day we left to come back to Bury.

As can be seen from above, it was all go for the days following the swim. Having got back to Bury late on Sunday July 15, 2007, one week later it still has not slowed down!

Above: Beccy and Baz count the £138.35p sponsorship money collected in a 3 litre whisky bottle at the Rising Sun Pub in Bury St Edmunds. Thanks to Bob and Jan for a great effort!


It would be impossible to thank everyone who has been involved in the channel swim personally, so I will attempt to do it here. Please forgive me if I miss anyone, there have been so many:-

  • My wife Beccy, for spending so many weekends at the seaside for the best part of a year, and to being such an expert feeder on the day of the swim.

  • My son Sebastian (Baz) who also spent many weekends, including a very cold Boxing Day in December 2006, helping me, encouraging me, shouting for me during swims and for just being there. Thanks Baz.

  • The Bury Free Press, for putting a monthly article in the paper, every month for 11 months! It has been fantastic coverage, and thanks to the Editor, Barry Peters, for this.

  • Freda Streeter, for really making my weekends in Dover enjoyable, and for never ever letting me give up when sometimes you really want to. The bollockings have been legendary (see just one of them below)!

  • Barrie the Shingle Stomper, Cliff Golding and the beach feeding team for constant encouragement, laughter and feeding us during all those 6 and 7 hours swims. You're commitment is unbelievable!

  • Gudrun and Mark at The GeeCol Wellness Studio and Med & Mind for all the massages and Electro-Magnetic treatments to sooth my aching body!

  • To Loraine Verghese for being my support swimmer. I am now looking forward to being your support swimmer at the end of August.

  • BBC Radio Suffolk for their excellent radio coverage before, during and after the event. Thanks to reporter Jon Wright who came onboard ship and threw his guts up but still managed to broadcast all day! Well done Jon!

  • To John Stemp, my coach. It brought us together again after a gap of about 23 years! It was good fun, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks John.

  • To Mike Read, 33 times channel swimmer, who inspired me to do this way back in 1980, and has encouraged me all year.

  • To everyone who has sponsored me so far, and who will hopefully sponsor me in the near future - Don't stop I am still about £45,000 short of my target!

I'm sorry if I've missed anyone. But thanks to you anyway if I have.


Wednesday 11 July 2007

On Tuesday July 10, 2007 I swam to France...

Above: Hoffy & Support swimmer Loraine Verghese . Thanks Lorraine, you were a Godsend!

Yesterday morning at 06.50 hrs. I set off from the support Vessel Louise Jane in my attempt to swim the English Channel. I dived from the boat (see picture below), swum to shore at Samphire Hoe near Dover, raised my arm, then dived in to start on my momentus journey to France.

The experience and task was mammoth, and today I am feeling very sore. I can barely move my shoulders. I will update the blog when I return to Bury. However, suffice to say that 13 hrs. and 52 minutes after leaving Samphire Hoe, I walked ashore at Wissant in France to be greeted by about 30 cheering French men, women, and children who took photos and shook my hand. It was a very emotional experience which made me cry.

Please find below just a few of the many photos taken by BBC Radio Suffolk Reporter, Jon Wright, and my wonderful wife Beccy who fed me and watched me solidly for nearly 14 hours. From the bottom of my heart Bex, thank you.

Above: Leaving Samphire Hoe, near Dover, with about another 13 hours swimming ahead! A film crew from Dangerous Films Limited were on board and circling the boat to film for a documentary for The Discovery Channel about the Human Body. 

Above: swimming with Ferries, Super Tankers and the Dangerous Films Limited small boat with film crew on filling my lungs with Diesel fumes!

Above: Lorraine dives in to give me a helping hand whenever the support team felt I was struggling, particularly near the French coast.

Above: The very difficult job of feeding in The Channel. The longer the swim goes on, the smaller your throat appears to get making it very difficult to swallow. I swum on Maxim Original, Maxim Electrolyte, Bananas and 2 x Hot Chocolates.

Above: Bonjour Wissant, in France! A sight for sore eyes and tired arms! What Beccy didn't tell me was that as I swam towards the shore on my own, a seal was swimming along behind me. I think I would have swum much quicker had I of known!

Above: Back on board the support boat, Louise Jane after a long day in the channel. Tired, sunburnt, but very happy!

Click to download Bury Free Press Report

Please log on to www.HoffysChannelSwim.org.uk (or opposite) and sponsor me and help me to raise £50,000 for CLIC Sargent and St. Nicholas' Hospice.

Thank you. Hoffy.

Thursday 5 July 2007

Diary update prior to swim...

Monday July 09, 2007 - 15.48 Hrs.

Reporting live from Miles & Barr Coffe Bar, Dover!

SWIM IS IMMINENT! - Latest news is that I will be swimming at 06.00am tomorrow, Tuesday 10th. The No. 1 swimmer completed the swim in 16 Hrs. and 28 minutes yesterday. No. 2 is out there at present. I am no. 3.

There were many failures both yesterday and today. One girl has come all the way from Australia and swm for just 2 hours before the cold got to her. This really is a difficult task, but I am focussing on getting across and trying not to listen to why they have failed.

If I do not report back after this entry, then you will know that the swim has started at 06.00 Hrs. on Tuesday July 10, 2007. Thanks for all the support. Hoffy.

Sunday July 08, 2007 - 21.15 Hrs.

Reporting live from Cullins Yard restaurant, Dover!

Ten boats went out today. Reports back say that there have been many failures. Two people we have spoken to said it was really cold in the middle of the channel. The temperature dropped by 1 degree centigrade in the middle. That doesn't sound alot, but when you have been swimming for 6-7 hours at 15 degrees, and it suddenly drops to 14, it is a major problem.

I spoke to my pilot Andy King at 19.15 Hrs. who was with the No. 1 swimmer. They have been going for 15 hours, and apparently the swimmer was getting tired, but still OK. There is a good chance of No. 2 going tomorrow, which means that I could go on Tuesday (am). However, if the No. 2 swim is for 15-20 hours, Andy needs to get some sleep, so it could be Wednesday (am). Will keep the blog updated as soon as I know.

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 09.15 Hrs.

Spoke to my Pilot, Andy King, he said that the weather should be OK over the weekend for the first swimmer to go on Saturday July 07. This means that swimmer No. 2 could go on Sunday, which means I could go on Monday. Very exciting!

The swimming order for the week will be as follows (apologies for any spelling mistakes):-

1st - Collie Kinsal (Australia)
2nd - Jerel Whieans (United States of America)
3rd - Paul Hopfensperger (United Kingdom)
4th - John Hymen (United States of America)

The high tide on Monday is at 05:29 Hrs (5.7 Metres). This means that we will leave at approximately 03.30 Hrs. This is obviously just provisional at present.

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 11.00 Hrs.

Recorded an interview with Sonia over the phone for local radio station SGRFM for release on the day of the swim.

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 13.00 Hrs.

Got a text from Karen Roberts at CLIC Sargent (the children's Cancer Charity I am swimming the channel for). She has put a poster in the window. I went down and had a photo taken of both of us beneath it.

Above: Hoffy & Karen Roberts from CLIC Sargent outside the shop in Bury St Edmunds advertising "Hoffys Channel Swim".

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 14.00 Hrs.

Amy from my Title Sponsor Dangerous Films telephoned me and asked what I was wearing on the day! True! Apparently, they have to know what colour hat, trunks goggles etc, I will be wearing so that it is consistant throughout the filming. When I explained that if my goggles broke I would have to change them and I did not have two pairs the same, she paniced! Eventually, she went to a sports shop in London and bought me 5 pairs of goggles all the same. As I write, they are on the back of a motorbike courier from London to be delivered here by about 5.30pm!

I don't know - the life of a channel swimmer is never dull is it?

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 16.00 Hrs.

BBC Radio Suffolk reporter Jonathan Wright popped into the office to check the current status. He will be broadcasting live from the boat on the day of the swim. Click on the link to access BBC Radio Suffolk's web page.

Thursday July 05, 2007 - 18.03 Hrs.

I really can't believe it! No more than about 4 hours after Amy from Dangerous Films in the West End of London telephoned me to ask what I was wearing, 7 sets of Speedo Goggles arrive at my front door directly from London by courier (about 90 miles away)! Thank you Amy and Dangerous Films! I will now have to try all of them on, test them in the pool and make sure they are all OK prior to the big swim.

Above: Me with seven sets of matching Speedo goggles for the filming of my channel swim.

Wednesday July 04, 2007 - 16.15 Hrs.

Just spent an hour on the West Suffolk Radio with my coh John Stemp who is the DJ at West SuffolkRadio. It was an intesting experience!


Wednesday 4 July 2007

Tapering down, preparing to swim the channel in just over a week...

Above: When we emerge from our training sessions, all our shoes are always neatly lined up waiting for us to step into them. 'Crocs' are obviously what the best dressed chanel swimmer is wearing this summer! Mine are the "Okey's" top right (NOTE - I must get fashinable and buy some Crocs).

Saturday June 30, and Sunday July 01, 2007 saw me start to taper the training down to a 3 hour training session each day. With just over a week to go before my channel swim attempt, it is important to keep my body fresh, and not overdo it, but to still keep training.

I did my 3 hours but throughout the session I kept thinking that I just wanted to swim the channel now. I felt ready. After about 30 minutes, I stumbled into Loraine Verghese and we did 3 widths of the harbour together (about 3,450 Metres). I found it really useful to swim alongside someone else who swims at the same pace as me. Loraine did exactly this, and on emerging out of the sea, I asked her if she would accompany me on my channel swim attempt as my "swim buddy". I was astonished when she immediately said "Yes, I'd love to". I was really pleased about this as I had been struggling to find anyone the same speed and who was prepared to do it. Loraine - "Thank you" and I look forward to seeing you on board the "Louise Jane" next week!

Above: Loraine Verghese and me prior to Sunday's training session. Loraine will be my "Swim Buddy" during the channel swim.

The Sunday swim, I found really boring. Having done a 7 hour and a 6 hour the week before, I really could think about nothing but the channel. I wanted to swim the channel I was fed up fannying around the harbour now, and so I decided at two hours I was going to get out. I spent the last 30 minutes thinking what I was going to tell Freda (The General).

"I'm ready now - I'm getting out". Mmmm. A bit weak.

"Freda - I don't care what you say, I'm ready now to swim the channel and I am getting out". But would she buy it? I doubt it.

I settled on "I'm bored now and want to get out". That would do it. She wouldn't stand a chance with that little beauty. She would be shaking in her boots when she heard that one. What could she possibly say to that one? This was going to work! Nothing she would say would stop me getting out!

Approaching swimmers beach, I started to break out into a cold swet as I saw her standing on the beach. I kept practising my lines over and over. Coming ashore, I knelt up and said "I'm getting out now I'm bored!". The roar nearly bowled me over in the water! "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK WE ARE THEN? GET BACK IN THERE!" rooooAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! came the bold reply. I went rigid. Took my banana, ate it. Drunk my Maxim and swum away for my last hour with my tail between my legs.

Above: Feeding after my bollocking for asking to get out because I was bored.

Coming in after my 3 hours, I thanked Freda and we laughed. "You wouldn't get out if you only had an hour left to do in the channel would you?" she said. "No" I replied like a naughty schoolboy! Everything she says makes perfect sense, and you just can't help but see why she gets so many people across the channel.

Beccy was the puppy babysitter again this week for Sandy and Laura's puppy (our dog Casper has been sniffing that jacket all week).

Above: Beccy "puppy sits" Jessie the Jack Russel Puppy while we are swimming.

Well, I completed my two days, covering 17,900 Metres and it had been a successful weekend. Next weekend, I will be in Dover waiting to swim, covering just 1 hour per day until the swim. I will try to update this blog when I know I am swimming so watch this space...

I just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped me, trained me, supported me, and read this blog and who has made this whole experience something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It's been great fun, we've met some great people, and now we just have the big day to get through!

Kind regards.