It's not as simple to swim the channel as just deciding you want to go. For starters, its the busiest shipping channel in the world, with between 500 - 600 ships passing through it every day. Secondly, at its narrowest point it measures 34km (21 miles), so it's not exactly a leisurely swim. Add to that a very small number of boats and pilots who are able to support channel swim crossings, and only operate under good weather and tides to give the best opportunity for a successful crossing and you are soon looking at a rather long wait. Why do you need an official channel boat pilot? The list is endless but they make sure you are swimming in the right direction (there's no black line or lane markers in the channel to help you out here...), they help you cover the shortest route possible with the tides, and probably most importantly, ensure you avoid being hit by a ship which is certainly not going to get out of your way!
So how have I ended up with a place in a relay team to take on this challenge? I've always loved swimming, but was never part of a swimming club growing up. I had no idea if I was swimming at a reasonable speed in my local pool, only aware that I was considerably slower than those at an elite level. Unlike my attempts at running long distances, swimming long distances has never been an issue for me, and I can happily lap up and down a pool for ages. Last year, I took my first steps into open water swimming and instantly adored it. No longer limited to swimming up and down it offered a new freedom to swimming that I'd never had before. Suddenly, this once ridiculous idea I'd had about swimming the channel was looking like it could be a possibility.
Having taken part in Aspires pool channel swim challenge in 2015, I knew they offered the opportunity to join a relay team to swim the actual channel, and in November last year I found myself at an assessment day with a lot of other people from all over the country. The day was split into 3 main parts, with the morning spent watching a documentary on exactly what we would be signing up for (cue a lot of worried faces) and hearing how the charity helps those living with a spinal cord injury, an interview with Aspire to discuss not only your swimming background and ability but also fundraising - as that is the main reason we are taking on this challenge, and lastly a swim assessment, overseen by channel swimming royalty! Much to my relief (I'd genuinely been having nightmares that I was going to be by far the worst swimmer there), not being part of a swim club growing up or a masters swim club as an adut doesn't appear to have affected my swimming ability too badly, and after lapping up and down the pool for a while whilst my swim stroke was assessed and being timed over 400m I left with this feeling that if I didn't get a place I was going to be really really dissapointed.
Cue quite possibly the longest week of my life whilst waiting to find out the results, I finally got a phone call to say I'd been successful (and it turns out my swimming isn't too bad, with my 400m time placing me in the top 10 on the day) and was placed in the Aspire Sea Eagles Relay Team. With a boat date of 30th June we will encounter long hours of daylight, but will be swimming the channel at its coldest during the swim season and will be swimming before the 3rd and final training weekend in Dover, meaning we must pass our 2 hour swim test on the 2nd (and our final) training weekend in May. For me, over the winter its been a lot of cross-training, improving my fitness levels and strength whilst lapping in the pool. However, acclimatization to cold water is crucial for us to succeed so from this month open water swimming shall commence. There's something I'm not looking forward too...!!
Please help support me on this challenge by sponsoring me at www.justgiving.com/CazzLander