Porthcawl to Devon 7-9-23
Swim time: 14:27:05
Start: Sandy Bay, Porthcawl
Finish: Foreland Point, Devon
Observer: Stephen Butler
Swim Crew: Ranu Harrison
Pilot boat: Cobra
Ratified by the BCSA. Andrew also completes the Original Triple Crown with this swim, he is the first documented Australian to swim the Channel and we believe takes over the crown of oldest male to have finished the OTC!
The Bristol Channel swim caught my interest as I was looking for non-Ocean Sevens swims that had unique character and were not that well known.The swim presented a multitude of challenges , from tides and currents to a number of different routes. Ultimately, I decided on the Kevin Murphy course.
I had two other long swims planned within a three week window so swim preparation was focused on pace and endurance. Lots of high intensity pool work and building extended ocean swims from 8-20km in the lead up. The ocean swims included 15km fartlek sessions which I felt would help with the channel currents I encountered.
The swim started well, conditions were great, I was disappointed that the boat was not ready and there appeared some disorganization with pilot and support pilot. They were inflating the rib, arrived after us for example.
As we progressed I felt I was either in dead water or swimming against the water when I expected to be running with the incoming tide.I have not followed up with the boat to get the track and any observations. The swim took about 4 hours longer than anticipated and I need to have further information to understand why.
There were issues with the boat as the sun was setting and that affected mental state. I was bitten by a marine creature at the 12 hour stage (approximately), it was a hard hit and initially , from what I could see in the water I thought a seal. Subsequently it seems a fish. That did make the swim more interesting, it was a painful addition.
Finally the light at Glenthorne was getting closer. I was well exhausted at this stage and struggling mentally and physically to push the last distance.I was not keeping fluids down, however maintained good stroke and legs up , well positioned in the water.
I landed on the rocks , had pulled myself up but the boat was calling me to swim around, I had thought there must be a particular point to land, swimming around I struggled to find somewhere to get a footing in a way I could get up.Eventually managed a toe hold and with a push I was up and clear of the water”so exhausted and in pain there was no elation just relief that I had made it .I found my way back into the water and out to the boat.
I met Andrew and his partner Ranu at Swansea Marina at 7:10 and we waited for the Crew to arrive. Once the crew were ready for us to board, we loaded the Rib (Cobra) with our equipment and went through the Boat safety briefing. We left Swansea later than planned and made a fast transfer up the coast to Porthcawl.
We arrived at Porthcawl at around 08.20. Andrew had already started prepping himself during the transfer as we were behind schedule. Ranu helped him with the application of suncream, Vaseline as we headed close to shore. Andrew was wearing standard Speedo swim trunks, goggles and swim hat. He left the boat and swam ashore clearing the water, re-entering, and starting the swim at 08:36:00 He swam back to the boat, and we made our way out to sea in the Direction of Glenthorne.
The weather conditions were good with water temperature at 18C with a 9MPH easterly wind. There was quite a bit of surface chop on the water, but Andrew soon got into a good rhythm and a consistent stroke rate. His feeding plan was very meticulous and his support very well organised with feeding every 40 mins. Andrews swim line was unusually dead straight towards Glenthorne. Ashton the Pilot explained he had never seen this before with no tidal movement assisting the swimmer.
Andrew continued with a consistent stroke rate and seemed in good spirits feeding regularly. The channel was very quiet for the duration of the swim only passing two vessels during the crossing. Through the next four hours he swam strongly consistently south continuing to make good progress. At 25 kilometers Andrew started questioning if he was making any progress as he felt he was in dead water or against the tide. He was reassured by the pilot he was making progress against the unusual tidal movement.
As we started to see Glenthorne from the boat the sun was starting to set and the light deteriorating. The Pilot checked the boats lighting and spotlights as we would be eventually swimming in darkness. The Pilot started pushing Westerly to ensure that when making the final turn for Glenthorne we didn’t overshoot the landing point. It was visible there was a significant number of trees floating in the water and we changed course slightly to avoid the debris. Andrew was starting to tire mentally and physically and took a couple of short breaks and additional feeds.
At 22:00 Andrew shouted to the boat that he had been bitten and an was very distressed. He was asked him to swim closer to the boat to enable the crew to assess the injury. It was evident that his right hand was bleeding slightly . We used the boats spotlights to see if there was anything visible around the boat and swimmer, but nothing identified. Andrews Partner and I reassured him there was nothing visible and this settled him. He was adamant he wanted to continue with the swim as the lighthouse was getting close. Andrew continued swimming but it was evident his stroke was deteriorating with tiredness and the trauma he had endeavored. He was given lots of encouragement continuously and he dug deep to continue. He was starting to struggle keeping feed down.
Andrew was informed that one last big push would get him to shore as the water was very choppy around the rocks directly below the lighthouse. He raised his stroke rate enabling him to clear the water and stopping the clock at 14 hours,27 minutes and 5 seconds.