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Jo Bolton

Sandy Bay Porthcawl to Foreland Point Devon 24-8-23

Swim time:  11hrs 17mins 36s

Start: Sandy Bay Porthcawl

Finish: Foreland Point Devon

Observer:      Tom Chapman

Swim Crew:   Bob Bolton

Pilot:              Ceri Davies

Ratified by the BCSA.

Swimmers report:

Despite having completed the English Channel in just over 14 hours less than a month ago I was no more confident going into the swim than I would’ve been had I not done the Dover Calais swim. I was however feeling a little bit more relaxed about things so didn’t have the same level of nervous tension at the start of my Bristol
swim. The weather at the start was nice and calm, sea temperature was comfortable and there was very little wave to deal with. I had my first feed at 45 minutes and kept it down easily which was more than can be said of my English Channel. Second feed on 90 minutes was fine too as were the third and fourth feeds which were on a half
hourly schedule.

The wind picked up a bit and created some chop to contend with. Things suddenly changed a little bit in the water as the waves developed and I was given a choice of Vimto or the Perpetuem feed that I was using. I went to the Vimto for a couple of feeds and felt like the swim was going well. I was promised Mars bar at the next feed – this was got me through last time so it was a treat to look forward to. At the next feed I got my promised Mars bar but couldn’t keep it down. It was the start of a period of sickness that would last for several hours. The waves had become really quite big at this point and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I just had to get on with it so off I went to the next feed which was a repeat of the last one. The feeds had to be done quickly because the tender boat was swinging around towards me and I was being drawn towards the boat because of the swell. Not much time to be sick but I managed it! I got a message from Bob to say Ceri was going to circle around me in the boat so there I was in the middle of the Bristol channel all alone with big waves sloshing around and me trying to be sick as the boat disappeared off around me.

Off we went again and it seemed like an eternity to the next feed - I knew that it was more than half an hour which was a bit disconcerting because I was working things out based on the feed times. By now I wasn’t sure how long I’ve been in the water but I had other things to think about because I was just getting constantly battered by huge waves and the feed seem to have been replaced by drinking seawater. I was beginning to sense a coastline ahead of me albeit a long way in the distance which sort of spurred me on as I knew that land was getting closer. The feeds were still hit and miss. I figured out that I wasn’t getting the feeds because I wasn’t able to keep them down which as it turned out was correct. There came a point where the waves stop battering me as much and I was able to get into a better rhythm. The sun was beginning to drop lower in the sky which made it really difficult to see the boat and almost impossible to see whether Bob was trying to communicate with me. The land was feeling closer to me by now and I kind of thought the end was in sight which again spurred me on. The sun dropped lower and lower and I thought I could see where I was going to land. This suddenly change though as I felt I was being moved more to the left by the tide. I hadn’t had a feed for ages and I’d pretty much given up on the idea that I was going to get another one so I just focused on swimming. Eventually I saw what looked like a beach with buildings
on it which apparently was Lynton. I thought I was about to swim into there but I was swept to the left of it. I just kept swimming into the beach. Things were sort of getting easier as the coastline got closer. Suddenly the boat that had accompanied me throughout disappeared. I thought I was alone and concluded that the finish was approaching. I was getting washed into an area of rocks on the beach that made the exit a bit tricky having to clamber over rocks – not easy after being horizontal for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t figure out where I was and ended up walking around the back of the rocks when I spotted the other boat Cobra that had apparently followed me in. Being unable to breathe to the left I hadn’t spotted Cobra until I made the shore so it was reassuring to know that I was going to get back without too much of a struggle. The tandem solo swimmers kindly landed me like a beached whale onto Cobra and we trundled off to meet our boat and pick up our kit. By now I was getting cold and was feeling really tired. Bob had transferred over from our boat to Cobra and helped get me changed. I can’t thank Barry and Dave enough for all the help they gave me getting back onto the boat and for keeping me upright for the bumpy journey back to Porthcawl. I think that was the only thing that stopped me from throwing up. A big thank you to Ceri and Tamin for keeping me safe and guiding me across the channel and to the fantastic Tom Chapman who turned out at short notice to be my observer and last but not least my fabulous husband Bob who had to make difficult feeding decisions.

Observers report:

Jo Bolton Porthcawl to Devon

I met Jo and her swim crew Bob at Porthcawl Marina at 8am on Thursday morning, a reasonable start time for a change! This is Jo’s second Bristol Channel swim having swum Penarth to Weston Last year and the English Channel 4 weeks prior to this swim. We carried her equipment down to the boat, the Shee Ann and had the boat induction from the pilot, Ceri Davies of Bristol Channel Swimming. The Marina gates wouldn’t open for 45 minutes with the start of the swim just outside the marina.

Jo got ready, into a standard swim suit, greased up with lanolin and wrapped herself up in a blanket. Soon it was time to motor to the start, Sandy Bay Porthcawl. Jo swam ashore, cleared the water and at 9:03:30AM, re-entered the water, swam back to the SheeAnn and we headed out towards Devon. The wind was light, sky cloudy, good conditions.

Jo’s first two feeds were at 45 and 90 minutes, Hammer Nutrition, she took on some but by no means all of what was thrown. Her subsequent feeds were on 30minute intervals, mainly hammer but occasionally mars or warm vimto.

The wind built steadily from the outset but the water remained reasonably calm for 3-4 hours with us making good progress south. By the six hour mark the waves were starting to break and the sea was choppy. Jo had been taking on a bit of water and was sick and struggling to keep her feeds down.

Her stroke rate remained constant and we made steady progress south as the wind built further and sea conditions deteriorated. The boat was rocking quite badly but her crew remained on the rear deck, watching Jo throughout. Sun broke out occasionally but a cool day with mostly cloud. Bob did his best to feed Jo things he thought she could hold onto to varying degrees of success.     

At the 8 hour mark a car transporter passed reasonably close behind us but other than that the channel was quiet. As the tide turned. the wind began to swing more Northerly and the waves and swell started to finally help her, pushing towards Foreland Point.

Jo did very well to battle through the waves and swell, the large cliffs grew every closer. The pilot wanted to hold us West of Foreland Point and at about 11 hours, finally eased the bearing, allowing us to get swept toward the point on the strengthening tide. As we got into the shallows, Cobra, who had been escorting another swim came alongside and escorted Jo in (as it has a shallower draft). Jo Cleared the water on the western flank of the point, finishing in 11 hours, 17 mins, 35seconds.

She swam back to Cobra, we all transferred to the rib and made the best speed we could through the swell back to Porthcawl. A tough swim, executed consistently well from start to finish in accordance with the rules and regulations of marathon swimming. Congratulations Jo!



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