Start held off by the weather – too much wind and too strong a tide… The last 36 hours or so has been a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from excitement, nervousness and eager anticipation through to disappointment and finally relief.
My booked slot actually begins tomorrow but today’s forecast wasn’t good and my pilot said there may have been a chance to start a swim earlier at 3am this morning. After consulting with my crew we decided it could be my best chance as the next weather window was not looking likely until the coming weekend. So we loaded up the car and hit the road. Spirits were high, the sun was shining, “Let’s go and swim!”
Our accommodation was in Folkestone I arrived to find a fresh breeze. The sea looked choppy with lots of white horses but I tried to ignore these inconvenient facts, as did the rest of the crew, and put a brave face on things. But underneath I was feeling slightly anxious as there was more wind than forecast. Still we all soldiered on and prepared. We all had our jobs to do. Mine was to rest and try to get some sleep and the crew’s was to assess and interpret the changing forecasts. I failed to sleep but the crew managed their job quite successfully from the pub overlooking the harbour.
By around 6pm the chances of the swim going ahead had dropped to around 50% so we had dinner and arranged to meet my pilot for the final decision. Unfortunately it seemed that there was more wind than forecast and that the window had shortened. This would have meant an increasingly rough swim for me with wind against tide for the last leg. (When the wind is against the tide, you get steeper waves and choppier conditions.) It now seemed the chance of swimming was slipping away but we decided to postpone the final decision until midnight just in case there was to be any divine intervention.
Midnight passed with no miracle change to the forecast so we all agreed that the swim was not going to go ahead. Bummer. I woke this morning, looked out of the window to see a relatively calm sea. Total bummer! But soon I got reports that it was blowing hard in Portland, and that it was coming our way. It did, and by the time we’d had breakfast it was already Force 4-5 in the Channel. I’d of only been 7 hours into the swim at this point so was really feeling that we’d made the right decision.
Some pilots and swimmers did decide to go today and there have been successes and failures, but everyone had a really tough time. As the day has progressed the consensus seems to be that the wiser decision had been to stay in port.
That why I’m now home again, happy and relieved. My pilot, Stuart Gleeson, called the situation perfectly and advised me according. I also had a fantastic crew with loads of experience and we all agreed that this tide hadn’t had my name on it. So I live to fight another day – possibly an early morning start on Saturday!