The short version
I successfully swam around the beautiful island of Jersey on 18th July 2015 in 11 hours 55 minutes. I am chuffed to bits!
The longer version
I was due to swim Loch Lomond on Saturday 18th July, but the weather forecast was hideous for the few days beforehand and on the swim day itself. Also, I wasn’t feeling very well on the Tuesday and Wednesday and the thought of driving up there wasn’t particularly appealing. I took the decision to postpone the swim.
I was supposed to swim around Jersey in 2014, but was blown out by bad weather, and rebooked for 2015 for the period between 1st – 5th August. Being a bit weather obsessed, I spotted that the weather forecast for Jersey for the weekend was the polar opposite to Loch Lomond, i.e. it was sunny with very little wind. There was nothing to lose, so I contacted my pilot Matt, who didn’t try hard enough to put me off and said that the forecast was looking fantastic for the weekend. Decision made! I figured it made sense to attempt the swim in good weather, even if the tide wasn’t the biggest, as I didn’t fancy being blown out by bad weather again.
I sorted out flights from Bournemouth International Airport (!) to Jersey, and accommodation. I picked up my sole crew member Joanne Postins in Basingstoke on the Friday and off we went.
The flight was nearly two hours late so we passed some time drinking in the bar at Bournemouth International Airport. We certainly know how to live!
Eventually we were called to the gate and we rushed to join the hordes of passengers waiting to get on our flight.
The flight itself was very brief and we were airborne for just 26 minutes before landing in Jersey. I had a slight panic when we were coming into land. Jersey is huge and the thought of swimming around it suddenly seemed like yet another one of my stupid ideas.
Anyway, we made our way to our B&B, met up with Sally Minty-Gravett, and wandered down to have a look at the boat. The boat looked lovely, and then Matt popped his head up, so we had a chat before going off to our B&B.
The next job was to do some carb loading for the busy day ahead.
I slept really well that night, and was feeling quite bouncy and alert in the morning. I couldn’t eat anything, but that’s fairly normal for me before a big swim. I knew that I could eat once I got going (or at least that was the plan).
Sal collected us just before 6am and took us to the marina. Thanks Sal! We met up with the official observer from the JLDSC, Steve Holley, and my kayaker for the first two hours, Jonathan Reynolds. I then went to find Lucy Roper who was swimming on the same day with the JLDSC club boat, Sea Swimmer 2 and we had a nice big hug and wished each other luck.
The next bits are a bit fuzzy. I was really really nervous and I have no idea what I was saying or doing. Somehow I managed to sort out hat, goggles and Vaseline. Joanne had the lovely job of greasing me up – sorry Jo! I had a minor panic when I picked up my earplugs and realised they were both labelled “R” for Right ear.
It didn’t take long to get to the breakwater for the start of the swim. Lucy started her swim about 3 minutes before me. I was still faffing about at that stage, losing valuable time, but eventually found an “L” earplug. Preparation is key! I then made my quickest every entry into a body of open water, and touched the breakwater to signify the start of the swim.
About five seconds after I had started, all nerves had gone and I wanted my breakfast.
Lionheart soon headed out and left me to swim with my kayaker Jonathan through the rocks for the first two hours. The rocks are too close to the surface for Lionheart to be able to navigate through that section of the swim. The first hour or so was quite uneventful. I swam alongside Jonathan through the rocks and seemed to be making fairly decent progress.
First feed was taken just before La Motte (Green Island) and I had a bit of a chat with Jonathan about wardrobe malfunctions, then off we went again. The next hour was quite exciting as it was through the rocky patches in the approach to La Roque. I was reminded of “Emma’s Rock” from Emma France’s 2014 swim and tried to avoid swimming into anything that looked to be masquerading as a rock and fixed in place. Some of the rocks beneath the surface looked very close but I managed to get through unscathed. I caught a glimpse of Lionheart in front of me as we approached the breakwater at La Roque, and knew that we were nearly through the rocky part.
We rounded the corner and Jonathan told me that I could have my next feed in a few minutes and we would now make our way towards the boat. The next feed was deployed and I think I was given some banana as well at that point. I was in very good spirits at that stage, I had enjoyed that first section immensely.
The next bit wasn’t so great. I was getting tummy ache and feeling a bit queasy. I know that my stroke rate dropped quite a bit, and I was swimming as if I was on a “Sunday stroll” rather than a major marathon swim. For the first time I doubted I was going to make the swim. I felt as if I had no energy and was swimming like a bag of spanners. In truth, I was swimming like a bag of spanners. It didn’t help that there was quite a bit of seaweed around which kept wrapping itself around me and disturbing my stroke.
We passed Gorey, and I didn’t really take much notice, we made our way towards the breakwater at St Catherine’s and I was still swimming like a bag of spanners. I asked for an extra scoop in my next feed to give me some energy. That made me feel worse. Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy swimming up the East coast of the island as I was feeling rough, such a shame because the photos taken show that it is a very beautiful part of Jersey.
As we rounded St Catherine’s in the north east corner of the island I was told to pick my stroke rate up. I managed to do this for a brief period, but it was hard work and my tummy was getting really sore. At the next feed I asked for an energy bar. It was disgusting, but it did the trick. About 15 minutes after that feed I managed to throw up the contents of my stomach and immediately felt so much better. “Better out than in”.
The next couple of feeds were either black tea and peaches, or water and a jaffa cake. I seemed to have far more energy on these feeds than earlier on in the swim. My stroke rate picked up and I actually felt as if I was swimming properly. For the rest of the swim my stomach was settled, my stroke rate improved and I felt really good in the water. I was only sick the one time, which is a personal best for me!
Joanne asked if I wanted some company. I think I said “yes please”. Maybe I didn’t, as she didn’t get in with me. It seemed to take forever to get to Plemont / Grosnez at the north west of the island, and the water got a bit more lively as we rounded the corner. Once we were round the corner I could see the expanse of St Ouen’s bay. This is a 5 mile stretch of sandy beach, which can get quite boring. This was the best part of my swim. I actually got on with it and did as I was told.
At my next feed I was a bit rude to Joanne and barked at her “Are you getting in, or what?”. It seemed to me as if it had been three hours since she asked and I was getting a bit fed up of waiting. Joanne was duly thrown into the water, and my stroke rate picked up because I was trying to stay ahead of her and was wondering why it had been suggested that she got in with me. I was a bit worried that I was in danger of missing the tide and heading off to Guernsey.
I’m not proud of myself for barking at Joanne, but when you’ve been swimming 7-8 hours you do start to get irrational and it doesn’t always manifest itself in the nicest way. Sorry Joanne, I actually do love you to bits.
Anyway, it worked because I got my head down and (felt as if) I picked up my pace and headed for the lighthouse at La Corbiere. I then entered a time warp, because no matter how hard you swim, or how fast you think you are going, Corbiere Lighthouse never gets any closer. I can understand why it has been said that the West coast of the Round Jersey swim sorts out the sheep from the goats.
I worked out in my head that I had now been going for 13 hours and it was going to get dark soon, so I really needed to get on with the swim as I wasn’t wearing lightsticks.
We approached the lighthouse and came in quite close to the rocks. This part of the swim was ACE. It was really bumpy and such fun to swim through. I could see Lionheart in front of me bobbing around and I was really enjoying this part of the swim.
16:44 Ten hours into the swim.Shortly after we rounded the corner I was given another feed and some paracetamol. I didn’t ask for the painkillers, but I figured that the crew must have spotted me swimming oddly, so I obliged. I was also given two Percy Pigs, but they took forever to chew so I gave up on them and spat them out under water.
I saw a few jellyfish around this spot, mainly barrel jellyfish a few feet down. I hope the jellyfish enjoyed the Percy Pigs. The water was so clear and I could see a long way down. I was told that a baby dolphin had been spotted near La Corbiere. As is usual for me on marathon swims, I missed seeing the dolphin.
Matt then told me that I only had a couple of hours left, which left me feeling a bit despondent as I had now worked out that I was on for a 16 hour Round Jersey swim. That would be a record, but one that I didn’t want to hold. He also told me that everyone in Dover was watching and cheering me on which did boost my morale, but my response to Matt came out the wrong way as “I’m surprised they don’t have their pyjamas on by now”. I probably shouldn’t talk when swimming!
Anyway, time to crack on. The next hour or so felt pretty good and I was still really enjoying the swim, even if I was talking nonsense. We passed Ouiasne Bay and approached Noirmont and I was given another feed. I was told “If you get your ar$e in gear now, this will be your final feed”.
The final part of the swim was the slog across St Aubin’s Bay. This seemed to take forever. It was also really fun, because it got quite choppy and I was getting thrown around a bit. Joanne looked to be bobbing around on the boat a bit and I imagined it may not have been so much fun for her.
My observer Steve was getting really animated and telling me to kick harder.
I could see the breakwater getting closer and then realised I was actually going to finish this.
I looked over to the boat and nearly swallowed half of the bay, as Joanne and Steve had unfurled the pink SUVA pirate flag. Although it’s a bit of an “in joke” it did make me chuckle!
As I approached the finish, the wall looked bigger and bigger, and a bit scary. I swam the final few metres to the finish, and finished off with three (legal) strokes of butterfly and a simultaneous, separated two hands finish. I didn’t want to get disqualified by the observer for an illegal finish. 😉
I swam to Lionheart and was then told my time. 11 hours 55 minutes. My calculations were a little bit off, but I was never very good at maths. I was very pleased to go under 12 hours on a fairly low spring tide.
I have lots of people to thank for this swim, and apologies for anyone I have missed out.
- Joanne Postins. My only crew member, who had to put up with me all day, but also had a very enjoyable tour of the island.
- Captain Matthew Clarke of the good ship Lionheart, for his excellent piloting skills.
- Steve Holley. The official observer from the JLDSC, and for his excitable encouragement all day long!
- Jonathan Reynolds. My wonderful kayaker for the first two hours, for keeping me safe through the rocks.
- Wendy Trehiou, for all her help and advice.
- Mark Robson for his constant updates on Facebook and keeping all my friends and family informed on the day.
- Sally Minty-Gravett for her help during our visit to the island and the rest of the JLDSC for enabling these swims to happen
- Freda Streeter, Emma France, Helen Beveridge, Sam Jones, Kate Robarts, for all their encouragement and putting up with me when I said “I can’t do this”.
- Mark, William and Gemma for letting me do this.
I already have plans afoot! 😉
Fundraising for Naomi House Children’s Hospice
PHOTO CREDITS: Joanne Postins, Steven Holley, Mark Robson (maps), Sal Minty-Gravett