Scottish Swimming East District Junior Channel Relay
(AKA Andrea’s Minions*)
Our team of 6, together with Andrea Gellan East District Open Water Convenor and Ruth Gray team manager travelled down to Folkestone from Inverkeithing on Saturday 29th June. Our window for swimming the channel was from Sunday 30th June to Monday 8th July. We stayed at Varne Ridge nearby and were on standby for possible swims many times, just training in the sea every day while we waited.
It was 9am on Friday 5th July that we set sail from Dover Marina for Samphire Hoe (a beach between Dover and Folkestone). Our boat, the Louise Jane, stopped just offshore and swimmer number one, Jennifer Milligan (InCAS. 16), swam to shore and stood on the beach. A blast from the boat’s horn started the swim and Jennifer jumped into the waves and started swimming towards the boat until she came alongside it. From then rule number one was swim next to the boat following its path, as it is the pilot that chooses the most suitable route across the channel based on the anticipated speed of the team and the conditions and tides that day. Rule number two was don’t touch the boat as that would have resulted in instant disqualification. Our official observer from the CSA was Steve Franks and he was responsible for making sure all the rules were followed and that the takeovers were legal.
At the end of Jennifer’s hour the next swimmer, Emily Paterson (Fins, 16), jumped in behind Jennifer and then set off for her swim. She handed over to Leigh Gallagher (Scotia/ Aquanauts, 16). Leigh handed over to Harriet Gray (Fife Performance/InCAS, 15). Harriet took the team into the very busy shipping lane where 600 tankers pass through daily and at the end of her hour handed over to Kirsty Pearson (InCAS, 13) and then Kirsty handed over to James Gray (Fife Performance/InCAS, 13). It was shortly after James entered the water that we started spotting jellyfish in large numbers. There were a few different species including moon jellyfish, blue jellyfish and even a lions main jellyfish. They were present for the whole hour of James’ swim and he reported seeing layers and layers of them beneath him. He could not avoid swimming into the ones on the surface and he was stung many times. Andy King, pilot of the Louise Jane stated that he had never seen so many jellyfish in a crossing and that grown men often got out for far less, however James managed to keep swimming at a fast pace despite the stings and he handed over to Jennifer for her second swim, and got out and was doused in vinegar to neutralise the stings. Jennifer had had to jump in trying to avoid the jellyfish and although the numbers decreased they persisted for the rest of the crossing with Emily, who again followed Jennifer, having to deal with some small groups, despite a real fear of them.
Leigh who followed Emily was given the task of swimming as fast as possible in order for the team to catch the tide, and she handed over to Harriet for her second swim with the possibility of a finish during that hour. Harriet sprinted for France and when the boat was about 0.5 mile away from the French coast it had to stop and the on-board dingy was launched to accompany Harriet into shore. Harriet had to climb onto the rocks and stand up for the clock to be stopped. The rocks were slippery and sharp and she cut her legs in the process but a huge cheer went up from the boat when she stood up and raised her hand in victory. The team had crossed the channel in a superb time of 9 hours 41 minutes,
The team at the finish with France behind them
Left to right: Jennifer, James, Kirsty, Harriet, Leigh, Emily
The following day was the turn of the district masters channel relay. Report to follow.
Ruth Grey Team manager
* Team’s own choice of name
Scottish Swimming East District Masters Channel Relay
-Saturday 6th July
Masters relay at Dover Docks
The masters’ team started at 8 am from Shakespeare beach just outside Dover harbour, with CSA pilot Andy King in boat Louise Jane.
The team consisted of Matt McGeehan (Warrender), Calum Fraiser (Dunfermline Amateurs), Steven Gardener (InCAS), Kevin Spears (Carnegie), Richard Hill (Warrender) , Andrea Gellan (InCAS) and Jenny Waring (InCAS).
Matt lead off completing well over 2 miles in the first hour followed by Calum, who also clocked up the miles. Steven was in next with very rough conditions with Kevin , Richard , Andrea and Jenny following, each swimmer swimming for an hour at a time.The sea state was quite rough with 12-15 mph easterly winds, and quite cold - 12°C at the start, dropping to 9.6°C in mid channel and rising to a warm 15.6°C at France. There were also several large blooms of jellyfish.
During the second half on the swim the pilot informed us that the tide was particularly strong along the French coast and we would have to sprint to get through it. Calum put on a tremendous performance to cover 3.1 miles in his second hour. Despite the great effort we missed Cape Gris Nez (the closest point in France) after 10 and half hours of swimming as the tide swept us west down the French coast. We had to continue to swim for 2 more hours until the tide started to turn. Before I (Andrea) went into the water for my last swim the pilot told me that I would be able to make land fall if I sprinted this last section, so I gave it my all and 25 minutes later climbed on the rocky shore at Cran Aux Oeufs just south west of Cape Gris Nez in France. Total time 12 hours 25 mins.
Also the swimmers from both teams are on target to raise over £1000 for charity.
East District Open Water Convenor