Saturday 19 December 2009

IOWSA welcomes Keith Bartolo from Malta to the committee

Above: Paul Hopfensperger (left) and Keith Bartolo (right) after completing the 2008 BLDSA Champion of Champions event in Dover Harbour.

I would like to formally welcome Keith Bartolo to the committee of the International Open Water Swimming Association (IOWSA). Keith is an experienced Triathlete and Open Water Swimmer and will be a valuable asset to the IOWSA committee. He is a member of the B'Kara St Joseph Sports Club in Malta, and he is already looking at an exciting IOWSA swim in Malta which we will inform people about once we have more information.

I would just like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and happy new year, and look forward to getting back in the water for some more open water swimming in 2010.

Thursday 17 December 2009

"The Butlin Challenge Trophy, International Swim Across The Wash" - Trophy found after being lost for 33 years

Above: The late Jim Rohn at the Herbalife Headquarters, Los Angeles, California, January 24, 1988. Picture taken by Paul Hopfensperger.

On December 05, 2009, my mentor of 22 years, Jim Rohn ( very sadly passed from this world into the next. He had such a profound effect on my life, it is impossible to put into words. He taught me the ability to believe that anything you want in life is possible, you just need to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals and he was most definitely there in my mind through both of my channel swims. Of all the incredible things he taught me, one little phrase always sticks in my mind. A phrase which some people I have said it to, just look back at me blankly, while with others it instantly strikes home and fires them into action. The phrase was “Things don’t just happen. Things happen just”. I will let you decide if that simple phrase makes sense to you, however, in my humble opinion, it is most definitely appropriate for the story I am about to tell. God rest you Jim, and thank you for getting me to where I am today. The following story was inspired by Jim Rohn who taught me to set goals and to never give up on a dream.

On Saturday July 14, 2007, having completed my first channel swim in 13 Hours 52 Minutes just 4 days earlier, I stood on the beach in Dover feeling very depressed. Why? I had achieved a goal first set in my mind in 1980 to swim The English Channel. Having endured a year’s worth of training, long weekends in Dover and everything else that channel swimmers have to endure to reach their goal, I thought “Now what?”. I had to do something, but didn’t know what. Kevin Murphy, “The King of The English Channel” came over and asked what was wrong. I told him, and he assured me my feelings were quite normal after such a challenge comes to an end. “Why don’t you swim The Wash?” he said. I didn’t fancy that at the time, but placed it into a little compartment at the back of my mind for future retrieval. My swimming adventures in between then and September 2009 are documented on this site, so I won’t repeat them here. Wind forward over 2 years to September 2009………

Having handed back my BLDSA trophies to the president on Saturday September 27, 2009, my wife Beccy, son Luca and I headed the extra few miles from Lynn Regis to Hunstanton in North Norfolk. Why? I wanted to swim 'The Wash' in 2010 and set about trying to organise the swim.

After stumbling from one end of the beach to the other on a simply glorious day, I came across the life guards hut and was introduced to a very nice chap called Ken Sach who was the Beach Patrol Officer. When I told him what I wanted to do, he was very enthusiastic and took me into a large warehouse where he showed me the plaque below:-

Above: Me with Hunstanton Beach Patrol Officer, Ken Sach holding the Mercedes Gleitze plaque to commemorate the 75th anniversary of her swimming The Wash.

Ken informed me that the plaque had never been erected due to Mercedes Gleitze's name being spelt wrong, they spelt it 'Gleitz' instead of 'Gleitze'. He also informed me that he had a large collection of her memorabilia. To cut a long story short, this episode started me on a journey which has been unbelievable so far!

Above: An autographed photograph of Mercedes Gleitze (b. 1900 - d. 1981) the first person to swim The Wash and the first British Lady to swim The English Channel.

Ken gave me a lot of information about The Wash and some very useful contact numbers of people in North Norfolk who can help with my proposed swim.
Above: The Wash, Saturday September 27, 2009 at low tide. The other side can just about be seen if you look closely.

Returning home, I was very inspired to find out more about The Wash and to start organising my swim. But who would be the pilot?, who would ratify the swim?, etc., etc. There were so many questions with no answers, but I had an idea. About a year earlier, I had spoken to two illustrious Open Water Swimmers about this very issue, and it was clear that there was a need for an organisation to help swimmers achieve their goals in open water swimming, where an existing organisation didn't exist. And so, on October 25, 2009 we formed International Open Water Swimming Association Limited (IOWSA) for this very purpose. We already have members in the USA, UK, Ireland and Malta, and we have only just started. At present, my swim of The Wash will be the first IOWSA swim, and it is very exciting! We have registered "King of The Wash" and "Queen of The Wash" as IOWSA trademarks and if anyone wants to swim The Wash, contact us through the IOWSA website (
Anyway, back to the story. While collating and ratifying the known swims of The Wash, I spoke to both Kevin Murphy and Mike Read, who have both swum The Wash, with Mike Read being the last person known to have swum it back in 1976. He told me that there was originally a trophy, which he had won in 1976 and which he hasn't seen for years. He told me to contact East Lindsey District Council as they were the ones who took it from him. I telephoned them in early November and spoke to a lady called Jackie. I told her about the trophy and she said she would investigate. About a week later she phoned me back and said there was no luck. She had tried everything but to no avail, no one had heard of it. I thanked her and wondered how I was going to locate the trophy. About an hour later, I had a very excited Jackie on the phone - "We've found it!" she yelled excitedly. "It was in an old warehouse in a box. It's a bit dirty but should clean up OK. What do you want me to do with it?" she asked. I suggested donating it to IOWSA if no one wanted it, and we could use it for swims of The Wash. She spoke to her superiors who agreed.

Yesterday, after a 165 mile drive in the snow, I drove to in Manby, Licolnshire in my role as Chairman of IOWSA, where I met Jackie and she gave me the trophy. She was so pleased and said of all the things she had done since being on the council, this was the most satisfying. Apparently, she tried everyone she possibly could to locate this trophy, and spent all of yesterday morning cleaning it up before handing it over to me.

Above: Jacqueline Thomas of East Lindsey District Council hands over the trophy to Paul Hopfensperger, Chairman of the International Open Water Swimming Association in Manby, Licolnshire on Wednesday December 16, 2009.
The inscription on the trophy is as follows:-


Solo names on the trophy are as follows:-

Kevin Murphy - Age 24 - 26th May 1973, 13 Hrs. 54 Mins.
Tina Spry - Age 13 - 26th May 1974, 8 Hrs. 36 Mins.
Michael Read - 1974, 7 Hrs. 52 Mins.
Michael Read - 1975, 8 Hrs. 30 Mins.
Michael Read - 1976, 5 Hrs. 57 Mins.

There is also a relay name on the trophy as follows:-

Nottingham Bath Masters
Wash Relay Swim
Sunday 20th August 1972
Mick Scothern, John Brooks, David Young
Ray Hutchins, George Johnson, Bob Rust

This is an historic trophy, and I am honured to have accepted it on behalf of IOWSA, and am looking forward to The Wash being the inaugural swim organised by IOWSA in 2010, followed by others overseas.

I would sincerely like to thank Jacqueline Thomas from East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) for her persistance in trying and evetually succeeding in locating this trophy and to James Gilbert also from ELDC for allowing IOWSA to have the trophy and organising yesterday's visit. I would also like to thank Ken Sach of the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk for donating the Mercedes Gleitze memorabilia to IOWSA.

So from a tiny seed planted in my mind by Kevin Murphy in July 2007, all of the above has happened. As Jim Rohn said "Things don't just happen. Things happen Just".

Sunday 15 November 2009

In search of a pilot boat on the wettest, windiest day of the year so far!

Above: Me with Luca, barely able to stand due to the wind and driving rain. Cromer, North Norfolk, Saturday November 14, 2009.

In preparation for my big 2010 swim, Beccy, Luca and I headed off to Cromer in North Norfolk on what the weather experts called the windiest, wettest day of 2009 so far. Arriving in Cromer at about 2pm, we stepped out of the car and the wind was simply immense. It was all you could do to stand up. What was bizarre though was the sea looked as calm as it could possibly be. Not a 'white horse' in sight. I don't think I will ever get to grips with the wind and the sea. I'll leave that to the experts.

We stopped in a restaurant overlooking Cromer Pier and I got chatting to the waitress about pilot boats. She spoke to her son who put me in touch with the local wet fish fishmongers. Trekking out in the rain again, we successfully got the phone number of a man who could possibly help us, but we were recommended to head towards 'Wells-Next-The-Sea'.

The drive along the North Norfolk coast was very picturesque, despite the driving rain. Arriving at a little hamlet, I noticed boats in the bay, and headed down a track. There was a local fisherman in typical fisherman's yellow protective clothing. I wound the window down and explained what I was looking for. "AArrghhhh" came the reply in typical Norfolk language. "You better goow too Wells-Next-The-Sea four thaaat. If oi took 'ya, I'd probably git lowst". I thanked him and continued on our way.

Arriving in Wells just as the sun set and the rain eased for about 10 minutes, I spoke to a fisherman who gave me a name and contact number of someone who could help me. We then found a most beautiful old sailing ship called "The Albatros". It was permanently moored in the harbour and was now a Bar, Restaurant, Music Venue and B&B. If you're in Wells, I thoroughly recommend it. We were served real ale, and Brancaster Bay Muscles in a white wine sauce. It was great!

Finally, we met the captain, Ton Brouwer, a Dutchman who explained all about the boat. He sat down with us, and we told him what we were looking for. He gave us a phone number, and said he would help us.

Above: Beccy, Luca and I enjoy the hospitality of Captain Ton Brouwer on board 'The Albatros'.

We headed home and I was satisfied that I had three numbers of pilots who could help us organise next year's swim. Despite the weather, it had been well worth while spending the day on the North Norfolk coast.

Monday 28 September 2009

British Long Distance Swimming Association - Lynn Regis Championship 2009

Above: British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA) 2009 President, Jacky Classen, with me prior to handing back the 'Senior Men' (right) and 'Veteran Mens' (left) Trophies which I won at the 2008 Lynn Regis event - eventually! (click here for more).

On Saturday September 26, 2009 we set off for Kings Lynn in North Norfolk, to hand back the two trophies I had won at the 2008 BLDSA Lynn Regis Championship. Not having swum much this year, I would not be trying to defend my titles, but will hopefully be able to do so next year. When we got there we sat next to the BLDSA Hon Publicity Officer, and English Channel Swimmer, Dee Llewellwyn who I had such a great race with last year. She told me she had been ill for much of the year so was also not swimming. We wish you a speedy recovery Dee.

Race secretary Stephen Smith called everyone to order, men first followed by the ladies to enter the water. In the men's race was 2009 English Channel Swimmer, Ollie Wilkinson, and in the ladies race was Dee's sister and 2009 2-Way English Channel Swimmer, Lianne Llewellwyn.

Above: Swimmers enter the water. Second left, No. 26, is 2009 2 Way English Channel Swimmer, Lianne Llewellyn and her sister Dee, holding the camera at the front.

Above: The start of the 4.5KM race in The River Ouse, Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

Above: Beccy and I watch this years race with Luca and Dee Llewellyn.

Above: 2009 Senior Men's Winner and 2009 English Channel Swimmer, Ollie Wilkinson who won the race in 59.3 minutes.

After the race, we headed up to the beach in Hunstanton. The sun came out and it turned into a beautiful and very hot day. During the day, we started the ball rolling to organise a pretty unique swimming challenge for summer 2010. I will update the blog very soon with further information as soon as it is finalised.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Sylvain Estadieu's English Channel Swim. England to France, September 20-21, 2009 - 14 Hrs. 44 Minutes

Above: Me (left) with Sylvain Estadieu on the quayside at Dover Marina prior to his 14 hour 44 minute successful swim of The English Channel on Sunday September 20, 2009.

On Sunday September 20th, I was one of three crew members to crew for Sylvain Estadieu, a French national currently living in Ireland. The other two were Niall MacCarthy, a Sandycove Swimmer from Ireland, and Dan Martin who will be attempting to swim the Atlantic in 2010. We had stayed the night in Lisa Cummins's caravan at Varne Ridge the night before. Lisa was just hours away from completing a historic, 35 hours and 20 minute 2 way channel swim, the first Irish person and only the 20th person in history to complete a 2 way (click here for further information). We boarded 'Gallivant' captained by CS&PF Honoury Secretary, Mike Oram, and set off for Samphire Hoe.

Sylvain entered the water and swum ashore to be greeted by a group of people who had assembled to see him off. This included Ned Dennison a well known and respected open water swimmer who had also stayed at Varne Ridge the previous night. Sylvain entered the waters and set off on the swim he had been training for for many months.

We hadn't gone out far when a Belgian film crew pulled up and started filming Sylvain. Dan, speaking excellent French, found out that they were doing a documentary on swimming the English Channel. They were a bit invasive, at one stage the cameraman entering the water, swimming up to within about 3 Metres of Sylvain and filming him in the water. However, after about an hour they sped off into the distance.

Above: In the South West shipping lane, dodging the oil tankers.

It had started fairly calmly, but the wind and therefore the waves really picked up and I actually felt quite cold on deck. Niall did a sterling job mixing the Maxim feeds, while Dan and I took it in turns feeding him. It was good teamwork, and an essential part of a channel swim. He fed every hour for the first 3 hours, and every 1/2 hour after that. It worked perfectly.

Above: Niall and I on deck watching Sylvain on his swim. It is important that at least one person watches the swimmer at all times.

Above: The P&O and Sea France ferries can be constantly seen on any channel swim.

Not once did Sylvain moan or even speak. His feeds were awesomely quick, mainly about 10 seconds, the longest probably 20 seconds. He just put one arm in front of the other, head down, and headed for France. As night fell, the wind dropped a bit and it felt a little warmer. We were swimming on a 7 Metre Spring tide, and what happened next, will linger in my mind for any future swims I may do.

Having swept past Cap Gris-Nez down towards Boulogne, we tried to get Sylvain to pick up his pace. He was literally 1KM from the French coast. For 30 minutes he upped his pace, but the tide was just too strong. All of a sudden, we were swept around the cap at a speed of 6 Knots! It was incredible. The sea felt as though a volcano had erupted underneath. The boat was all over the place, and Sylvain was about 30 Metres away from the boat heading off to England. If I had not have seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it! Then, all of a sudden, dead calm. We were round the cap, and headed into the bay towards France.

Above: Nearly there, about 600 Metres to go until Sylvain reaches France.

Above: Dan prepares to swim in to shore with Sylvain, a large can of Guinness tucked into his trunks for them to celebrate with in France!

Above: Sylvain Estadieu - Channel Swimmer - England to France - 14 Hours 44 Minutes. Well done. Fantastic job!

We had a 3 hour trip back to blighty, then I headed back home to Bury, totally shattered, but really pleased to have been part of another English Channel swim.

A full set of photos can be found on my Facebook page by clicking on the link below:-

Thursday 17 September 2009

Abbeycroft Leisure - St Edmundsbury Sports Awards 2009

I am delighted and very honoured to have been nominated for the "Sports Personality of the Year" award at the 3rd annual Abbeycroft Leisure St Edmundsbury Sports Awards 2009. The event will be held at the Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange on Sunday September 27th, 2009.

It was won last year by fellow open water swimmer Steffanie Biller of West Suffolk Swimming Club and Germany. I was runner up at the inaugural event held in 2007 following my first swim of The English Channel. The entry listed all my swim achievements from my 2007 channel swim up to the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships in January 2009.

I will update the blog after the award ceremony to let you know how I did, however, I am just very proud to have been nominated in the first place.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Boats, Waves and Automobiles - Bank Holiday fun in "The Far East" (Thorpeness & Aldeburgh, Suffolk)

Above (left to right): Me, Nick Clements (my brother-in-law) and Viv Clements (mother-in-law) on the Thorpeness boating lake, Monday August 31, 2009.

Having had a bit of a swimming sabbatical while waiting for our son Luca to arrive, on the last summer Bank Holiday of 2009 we decided to head for what I like to call "The Far East" for a swim in the sea, my first since my mammoth session in Dover Harbour back in March. So after negotiating all of the very frustrating Bank Holiday traffic, through which Beccy and Luca slept soundly, we finally arrived in Thorpeness, one of the most easterly towns in Great Britain (Lowestoft is the most easterly) to meet up with my mother-in-law, Viv, brother-in-law, Nick and his girlfriend Danni for some good old Suffolk fish and chips before heading for the famous Thorpeness boating lake.

Above (left to right): Danni, Beccy and Luca enjoying the glorious sunshine while being rowed around the lake by Nick.

Above: Me with Luca, Nick (doing a sterling job rowing) and Viv.

Having spent about an hour on the lake (the exact time was in dispute due differences in everyone's watches) we headed for the short trip (about 3 miles) to Aldeburgh, where I was going to swim. It is ideal there because there are no groynes, just a very straight beach of a couple of miles, so you can swim along the beach in deep water, and only be about 5-10 Metres from the beach at any one time. It is ideal for training in.

As I got in the sea and started to swim, it was simply fantastic. So refreshing after the heat of the day, and great to be back in the sea after such a prolonged break.

It was fairly rough in there, quite a few waves, but then again it was The North Sea. I really enjoyed myself, and it has fired me up in preparation for by next big swim which I am currently trying to organise. More details will follow as soon as I get the go ahead.

Luca was looked after during my swim by his mum and Nick. Apparently he did in fact open his eyes and watch me swim for a while before adopting his usual sleeping position!

After my swim, we headed back through the winding countryside roads to avoid the heavy Bank Holiday Monday traffic, stopping off for a glass of cider in Framlingham. It had been a beautiful day!

Saturday 22 August 2009

"Channel Buoys and Gulls" Channel Swim Team appear on BBC TV show "Eggheads"

Above: The "Channel Buoys and Gulls" team who took on the mighty "Eggheads" on Monday August 17, 2009. Left to right: Paul Hopfensperger (2 x English Channel swims), Megan Forbes (1 x C.S.), Mike Cross (3 x C.S.), Sophie Rutenbar (1 x C.S.), Jim Boucher (1 x C.S.). Kevin Murphy, "King of The English Channel" with 34 x Channel swims was the team substitute (not pictured).

Above: The world famous BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, London.

When we were asked to audition for the BBC quiz show "Eggheads" in June of this year, I have to admit that I honestly didn't expect to be selected, however having been informed that we had been selected, we all journeyed from our various parts of the country to assemble at the BBC Television Centre as a team of English Channel swimmers with a combined total of 42 channel swims between us and to be know for the day as the "Channel Buoys and Gulls" quiz team.

Above: Assembling in "The Green Room" which was in fact remarkably yellow prior to entering "makeup".

Above: Jim and Sophie get their makeup and hair sorted prior to entering the studios.

Above: Having our microphones fitted in the main Eggheads studio.

Above: Lisa explains to Kevin why he has to be the substitute member of the team. This was due to the fact that he works for the BBC and so was not able to appear on the show.

Above: One of the extremely large Sony television cameras used for filming the show.

We were given about 30 minutes of instructions prior to the Eggheads entering the studio, and as team captain, we had a list of the subjects and who would answer them if the subjects were selected. As I was not allowed to have the piece of paper during filming, I was trying to memorise who was doing what.

Every time one of us broke into a slight sweat, the makeup girl came and "touched us up" with her little brush!

Final check of my papers before the Eggheads entered and filming commenced. Due to the secrecy we must maintain, I am not allowed to explain here how we did. The show will be aired sometime in 2010 as part of series 11 (we are currently on series 10).

Above: After the show was complete, we had the picture above taken with the Eggheads. Again due to secrecy, one of the Eggheads is temporarily airbrushed out of the photo.

Above: The Eggheads sign autographs in Megan's Eggheads book after the show.

We all had a fantastic day, and I would like to thank Lisa and here team for inviting us and making us feel very welcome during our day in London. A full set of photos can be found on my Facebook page by clicking on the link below:-

<'Channel Buoys and Gulls' Eggheads Photos>

Article in The Bury Free Press, Friday August 28, 2009:-