Niall O Crualaoich and I have backgrounds in endurance events on land, not so much as swimmers, so the channel was a strange one for him to try. In fact Niall first learned to swim in 2005, me in 2006. We both started because we wanted to take part in ironman triathlons. Swimming the channel is very different from other things we have done because no two crossings are the same. The effects from the weather and the tides mean you never know what you are going to get. Niall was self taught initially but last year Eilis Burns very kindly (foolishly?) took him on and tried to tidy him up a bit! She completely rebuilt his stroke and made a proper swimmer out of him.
We arrived in Dover on the 4th September for the first neap tide window which started on the 5th. Even the journey there was difficult with the drive to Rosslare then the ferry and an 8 hour drive the other side to get to Dover. Poor Finbarr Heddermann (a successful Channel swimmer), who had kindly agreed to help crew the crossing, had to put up with it all the way.
We stayed in Varne Ridge with Evelyn and David who have a long history of looking after channel swimmers. The weather was awful for the first weekend and we spent most of the time holed up in the mobile home. Needless to say this didn't help the humour of the swimmer who was nervous as hell. On Sunday I got out for a couple of hours and ran a marathon in Margate. It was a great stress buster. The weather started to improve on Monday but the winds were still high and very few people were getting out to swim. We were really getting frustrated at this point as it started to look like we might not even get out at all. By Thursday, the weather had improved enough that we were able to say Friday or Saturday would be good enough. Unfortunately this coincided with the tides increasing (stronger currents) but good weather is more important than slack tides so we were going to go for it.
Thursday night we got the call from our pilot (Dave Whyte - A Legend!) to say we would be leaving at 7am on Friday morning. We were due to have an experienced swimmer and crew person (Imelda Lynch) on the boat but because of the short notice she couldn't make it to Dover on time so it was up to myself and Finbarr to crew for Niall. Friday morning was calm and we got on the boat in a nervous silence...