Leaving home after work on Friday the 13th of June, I was wondering if anything untoward would happen on this most superstitious of days. This week, Beccy was off to Dublin to celebrate her sister's 30th birthday. Having entered the "Champion of Champions" event some time before we knew they were off to Dublin, I decided to stay and swim, and 'Little Hoffy' and his friend James accompanied me to Dover.
At about 6.30pm, my mobile rang. It was Beccy. All I could hear was screaming on the phone, and not being able to comprehend what she was saying, I asked Little Hoffy to speak to her. Friday 13th I thought, feeling quite panicy and ready to turn the car round! When he had finished speaking to her, Little Hoffy informed me that someone called Maggie, had donated £1,000 on my website to St. Nicholas' Hospice, and with the 'Gift Aid', it means that the Hospice was now £1,280 better off! Wow! I was blown away. Maggie, whoever you are, from the bottom of my heart "Thank you". It was such a generous thing to do, and makes all these trips and training worthwhile.
Champion of Champions Event 1 - 5 Miles - 09.15 Hours
All Champion of Champions (CoC) entrants assembled on the beach for a briefing at 08.45am. The channel swimmers were as usual, all at the far end of the beach, and had to keep clear of the 1 mile course, marked out by four yellow buoys in the harbour, which for the first race, we had to swim round 5 times.
Above: With fellow 'Swimmers Beach' swimmer Rob Telford prior to the first briefing of the day.
Above: Swimmers receive their instructions from B.L.D.S.A. Championship Hon. Secretary Stephen O'Brien, and below, I keep a beady eye on the opposition!
This years starting and timing procedures were different to last years. Alison Streeter's new boat, "Rocco" was anchored in the harbour, and had an electronic timing pad mounted on the rear. We had to strap an electronic device onto our wrists (see below), which we had to touch onto the rear of the boat at the end of the race. We all swum over towards the boat and waited for Alison to sound the horn to start the race.
The first 3/4 of a mile, my shoulders, lats and pecs were still very painful from last weekend's seven and six hours swims, and the sports massage I had the following day to ease the pain. It was also, a very tough fight with the other swimmers to get round the first two buoys. Then, all of a sudden I broke away and found myself out on my own, with a few swimmers in front, and the rest behind. All in all it was a pretty lonely race, which I kept at about 80% sprint effort for the entire race. It was, tough keeping at this pace, but at the end of the day, it was a sprint race, and I thought about Nick Adams's training he had given me over the past two weeks. I think it definitely helped.
Last year, I completed the 5 mile course in 2 Hours 28 Minutes, and 52 Seconds, although there was problems with the course, which allegedly was more than a mile, and the sea was very rough. This year, the buoys had been positioned with GPS to ensure it was a 1 mile course, and the sea was dead calm. As I finished the first race by touching my wrist strap on the back of the timing pad on Alison's boat, I asked Ali what my time was. When she told me 1 Hour 50 Minutes I was astonished! The official time turned out to be 01:50:29 which I was really pleased with.
Champion of Champions Event 2 - 3 Miles - 13.45 Hours
At breakfast, we had met Keith Bartolo from Malta who was staying in the same B&B as us. Keith is hoping to be only the second Maltese man to swim the English channel in maybe 2010 and had been training in the harbour all week. He is a great chap and we have made a new friend in Malta.
The 3 mile race was very similar to the 5, in that we set off in the group and after about 3/4 of a mile I was out on my own with a lonely race again. I was pleased to pass Ned Denison on the last lap. Ned, who is a fantastically fast swimmer and was over from Ireland, had beaten me in the first race, but this made it one all! Once again I swum at about 80% effort, and was very pleased to finish in 1 Hour, 7 minutes and 53 seconds which again beat last years time of 01:15:21. So far, two very pleasing races.
Above: Keith Bartolo from Malta exits the harbour after finishing the 3 mile race in a time of 01:08:38.
Champion of Champions Event 3 - 1 Mile - 16.55 Hours
After the long wait between the second and third races, we all undressed for the last race of the day, the 1 mile race. This was the worst because you are now entering the cold water for the third time having dried off and warmed up twice. It is also a full 100% effort sprint around the buoys for one complete lap.
Having been started for the final time by Alison, I was flat out round the buoys for a full circle. By the 1/2 mile spot, my arms were really burning but I was pleased with myself that I didn't let up in any way, shape or form. I pictured myself heading for the French coast, trying to beat the tide, and I feel this was very good channel training. I was however, disappointed to see that my time was 22 Minutes 25 Seconds which was slower than last year's time of 20:08. However, I seem to remember that last year due to shortening the course, it was probably less than 1 mile. Ned Denison also beat me making it 2:1 to him! Well done Ned, but wait till next year!Above: Rounding the 3rd buoy near the Prince of Wales Pier for the last time in the 1 mile race.
Above: With Keith Bartolo from Malta after completing all three events at the 2008 Champion of Champions event.
Above (Left to Right): Me, Kevin Murphy, Keith Bartolo, Mark Blewitt and Freda Streeter who had come to see what was happening after the Channel Swimmers had finished on Swimmers Beach.
Above: James Patterson, Keith Bartolo and Little Hoffy who was photographer for the day. Thanks Baz and well done!
It was a great day, and I added another 9 miles to my training for the channel and Jersey. I was also delighted to find out that I was positioned 8th out of 45 senior men's swimmers in a total time of 03:20:46 (HH:MM:SS) with the only swimmer in front of me who was older than me being Ned Dennison. All the others who beat me, were younger. It's good to know that I have got some speed as well as endurance for my Serbia, Jersey to France and two-way channel swims.
Next weekend, weather permitting, I will be supporting Mark Ransom on his channel swim attempt.