After you've decided you want to swim the Channel you need to find a pilot, train like mad, find a crew, train some more and then do some more training. Whilst doing all this you also need to apply to one of the ratifying bodies which in my case is the Channel Swimming Association. They require various paperwork including a medical certificate and a certified qualifying swim of six hours completed in water of less than 60ºF (15.6ºC). I was happy to complete a swim of around 17.5km in six hours with the help and support of training buddies at Durley in Bournemouth.
My Channel swim is booked on the window of 10th to 16th July. The sea on the South Coast will probably still be cold enough to complete a qualifying swim until late June but my Channel Swim is fairly early in the season so I wanted to build up my distance and get my qualifier done as soon as possible. There are many good reasons for building up to a long swim early on. For many people, it's purely psychological as after a winter of relatively short pool sessions many find it hard to imagine they could ever swim that long in the sea. So it's always a good milestone to tick off. For me, it's more practical as I only have a relatively short period in which to build up to my maximum training distance before I have to start reducing my training (tapering) before the actual Channel swim.
Durley Sea Swims
I do most of my long distance training at Durley Chine with a group called Durley Sea Swims. We base ourselves at the lifeguard station and train from May to October. We start swimming from 9am in May and from 8am for the rest of the season. Swimmers support each other on a rota basis so there are always at least two people on beach duty looking after kit, offering support and feeding swimmers at hourly intervals.
We aim to swim hour-long loops from Durley Chine. First east to Bournemouth Pier (for around 15 mins), then west (for another 30mins) towards Branksome before arriving back at Durley Chine, hopefully after an hour. So the idea is that all swimmers will swim an hour-long loop. Faster swimmers will swim slightly longer loops but the map shows a 3kmph loop.
Durley Sea Swims offers a great training environment. We're pretty inclusive and not everyone is training for solo English Channel swims, and there's no requirement to swim for six hours! We have many swimmers training for other long-distance events, including Channel relay teams, as well as many people who've already completed their big swims but come back to lend their support and advice and help others.