Penarth to Weston Super Mare 6-8-2022
Swim time: 6 hours 14 minutes 0 seconds
Start: Penarth Seafront - 51.432370, -3268204
Finish: Western Super Mere – 51.352705, -2.991542
Observer: Michael Boyle
Swim Crew: Bob Bolton
Pilot: Ceri Davies
Ratified by the BCSA.
Up to the summer of 2019 I was a pool swimmer who had never been in open water. That was the summer I put on a wetsuit to “give it ago,” I have to say I didn’t enjoy the wetsuit at all so decided that a costume was the way to go. When the water started to cool and the open water season started to tail off and pool was calling me back, a friend (Neill Hughes) said I’m swimming at the Ivan Percival in Liverpool do you fancy joining me. He also encouraged me and my swim buddy Michael Boyle to have a go at the Polar Bear challenge. That year we didn’t get our names down in time but we swam alongside him whilst he completed his challenge. Winter swimming is amazing !!!
The summer of 2020 we set off down to the south coast to take part in a 5 person channel relay with Neill Hughes, Michael Boyle, Ian Griffiths and Bob Bolton. With much disappointment we set off back home again without swimming as the weather had not been kind to us. On that journey home my swim buddy had mentioned the Bristol channel so I looked it up on my phone and decided that it would be my next challenge and booked it for 2021. With the combination of covid and weather we swam the channel relay in June 2021 with the intention of me swimming Penarth to Weston in the august of the same year. However, weather intervened so it would be August 6th 2022 before I could attempt the swim.
Training throughout went really well and mainly injury free. Michael was my constant swim buddy joining me on some rotten cold and windy sessions at Pickmere lake through winter and spring. Cold water training is a regular feature of my swimming and I completed an Ice Mile during January 2022. Pool training resumed post Covid in the summer of 2021 so I was able to supplement my distance with pool sessions.
On the day of my swim the weather was fantastic and had been for a prolonged spell giving us warmth both in and out of the water. The wind, or rather the lack of it, made the swim a real joy ( well for the first 4 and a half hours anyway!). Feeding went well using Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem in a thick mix, which didn’t make me sick – I’m not great with feeding! Feeds were generally every 45 mins after the first feed that was taken 1 hour into the swim. I tried to keep them to 30 seconds so as not to drift and I took fluids in as well (hot Vimto), although not as much as I should have done which led to me being a little dehydrated – lesson learned. The last 90 minutes of the swim saw the tide turn and the wind whipped up in the opposite direction to the tide flow so I got a bit of a battering now and again. Having said this I doubt I could have had a better day for this swim. There were though a couple of unexpected challenges. Whoever decided to call it Sandy Beach obviously hasn’t visited lately as it should be renamed muddy beach along with the rest of the shoreline from the disused broken pier all the way to Weston pier. As I tried to clear the waterline the mud was sapping my energy and at one point I thought I was going to get stuck. Bob was going to swim in with me but took one look at the mud and decided against it, saying there’s no point in both of us getting stuck in it! Eventually I clawed my way back into the water. The boat had to stay a couple of hundred metres from the shore due to the water depth so I had a further swim to get to the boat. I know it sounds daft after over 6 hours but that last 200m was an unwelcome surprise. All in all it was a truly memorable swim
Thank you to Ceri at Bristol Channel Swimming for his expert navigation skills and the super exciting trip back! My swim buddy Michael who has been by side every step of the way, organising great adventure days and providing endless encouragement and a professional observation report of my swim. My husband Bob who has encouraged me to keep going when things got tough, sending me out when the weather was crap and Bev who is the best land support ever.
After being weathered out in August 2021, Jo had a chance to complete the challenge. The strong winds from Friday had dissipated and the sun was shining. A delayed exit, after meeting at 9am in Penarth Marina, through the Cardiff Bay Barrage meant the start of the swim was 10:18am.
The conditions were ideal as Jo slipped off the boat and made for shore. Waved off by friends from the ‘Lifeboat’ slipway at Penarth, just in front of PYC. All was good at the first check, with Jo swimming strongly. The first feed after 1 hour was ‘Perpetuim’ something Jo was not looking forward to. But the feed went well.
Weather and feeds went well – as noted on the log for the first 4 hours. Then as we neared land, with the tide turned the wind picked up. Wave height raised from a calm sea to approximately 1m with a 1m frequency.
What was meant to be Jo’s last feed (15:10) was ‘rushed’ as conditions were choppy. The Pilot believed that conditions would be more favourable as we closed in to shore so her support planned to have an additional feed.
However after 10 minutes the closeness of Birnbeck Pier clouded judgement as to how soon the swim would finish.
In the slightly sheltered waters, Jo was carried slightly parallel to the shore and at some points appeared to make slow progress in land, when compared to the pier structure.
Due to water depth Cobra had to stay 300m to 400m from shore as Jo made her final approach to Weston Super Mare. Bob decided not to join her for the last part of the swim.
Jo struggled up the beach due to soft sand/mud, completing the swim in 6h 14 minutes.
Jo maintained a steady stroke rate throughout the whole of her swim a remarkable achievement.