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:-

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