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The North Norfolk Crawlers [3]

Porthcawl to Glenthorne 7-7-2023

Swim time:  12hrs 28minutes 1 second

Start: Sandy Bay Porthcawl (Coney Beach)

Finish: Glenthorne Bay, Devon.

Swimmers:    Isobel Robson, Sue Ventham, Sandra Claxton

Observer:      Anton Chadwick

Pilot:              Kevin Goodman (Wild Frontier 2)

Ratified by the BCSA.

Swimmers report:

TWe were delighted that we were having a day swim, (having had 2 really horrible night swims for the Irish and the English Channel) the weather forecast was for sunshine and temperatures in the mid 20’s. We met the crew and pilot at 5.30am on Friday 7 th at Ilfracombe– the tide was still out so we waited until 6am for the boat to float – there were a few nervous looks out to sea as it looked choppy!

The journey over to Porthcawl took nearly 2 hours – It was pretty choppy and Mark and the boys got soaked!
At about 8.05am I was given the “go” -swim to the shore – my swim into shore was ok – the waves pushed me in although I was a bit worried about the surfers and hoped they’d see me! I got onto the beach and waved frantically – I was so far away from the boat ,I couldn’t hear the start ! Back into the water , through the waves, past the surfers and the water temperature felt ok . It seemed to take ages to reach the boat and the waves made it
difficult to see . I wasn’t sure that I liked it when the boat sped up and left me behind but I guess it makes you try to swim faster to keep up !

Hour one over and Sue came in to change over- Again Sue was happy with the water temperature but found it so rough . a few jellies but so nice to have the sun out as that makes a difference. Sues hour complete and Sandra took over we had already covered 7k – Sandra jumped off boat ( she was nervous about this part but did a lovely straddle jump) for the first 30 mins it was choppy and difficult to get into any stroke rhythm but then it calmed
slightly – Our loving husbands ( who have been on every swim looking after us and accomplished swimmers themselves) gave us a 40 min sign , then 10 minute warning to change over ,this is always the best bit when you see the next swimmer preparing and when the hat and googles go on you feel elated! Hour after hour we changed over we felt like we were making good progress although the sea was still giving us a tough time and only
calming for short periods .

Sue’s had the jellyfish soup swim – we’ve never seen so many jellyfish -she was scooping them through her hands for about half an hour – luckily, she didn’t react and felt ok. Hour 7 and the real chop started up again – we could see Devon and we could see a lovely line of flat calm water – we kept saying one more choppy swim and we will be in the calm . little did we know that white horses would appear, and it got rougher!! A red admiral butterfly
kept flying around us and stayed with the boat for about 2 hours (that’s got a family meaning to me and meant we were being watched over!). All our shoulders were starting to ache, but everyone was starting to see the end in sight although it never seemed to get closer! We had hoped that we would finish in 10 hours but the current changed and wind made us battle to the coast. We were delighted to see the house on the cliff clearly at Glenthorne and at hour 12, I went in for the final swim – the water got warmer so you knew you were in the shallows but the current and waves persisted – I was looking for somewhere safe to land but they shouted from the boat to land on the rocks. The rocks were under the water ,as well out of the water , a wave smashed me into the rock on top. I realised I needed to be careful as these waves were strong, and the rocks were very slippery. I managed to get myself on top of the big rock that was out of the water and sat on top of it. We’d done it! I swam back to the boat very glad to be out of the waves. Lots of celebrations all round 12hours 28 mins – at 10pm we arrived back to Ilfracombe starving hungry but elated.

Thanks to our wonderful husbands Paul, Mark and Peter for everything that they did to look
after us, the crew and pilot of wild frontier and judicator.

Observers report:

observer log.jpg


On arrival to Ilfracombe harbour area, I was greeted by Sandra Claxton who introduced me to the team members and their husbands. Everyone was in good spirits, appreciative of the glorious weather & conditions and a mix of excitement and healthy apprehension. A mountain of kit and provisions lined up besides the harbour. Our transit vessel was still waiting to float on the rising tide prior to collecting us from the collection point on the harbour well.

Following some healthy banter and general conversation we were collected by the skipper and his crew, loaded kit and food onto the vessel and following a satisfactory safety brief set off across the Bristol Channel towards our departure point on Porthcawl Beach, South Wales. During the transit to Porthcawl we recapped and discussed the rules of relay swimming and confirmed the proposed swim order.

The relay team consisted of three ladies – Isobel Robson - 58, Sue Ventham - 56 and Sandra Claxton – 50. All three ladies are members of the North Norfolk Crawlers swimming group and are seasoned long distance open water swimmers.  All three ladies have previously completed the North channel swim and English Channel swim as part of a relay team.  They have also completed numerous other open water swims in UK waters and overseas.


Approx 0800hrs  

On arrival to Porthcawl beach bay our vessel held off by approximately 500m due to the swell/surf trying to push us onto the beach. The 1st nominated swimmer Isobel Robson is given directions towards Porthcawl beach as the designated starting point. At approximately 0800hrs Isobel enters the water and swims towards the starting point on Porthcawl Beach at approximately 51°28'41.12N and 3°41'28.752W.

Isobel swims towards the start point safely negotiating a group of surfers enjoying the early morning surf. 

Isobel exits the water, turns to face us and raises her arms, the boats horns are sounded signalling to Isobel to start however there is a slight delay as she is unable to hear anything from the boat, eventually, she sees our waving and screaming, enters the water and begins her swim at 0815hrs. Isobel maintains a consistent stroke rate (SR) of 75 to 77 per min (PM) swimming strongly throughout her first hour of swimming.

Three ladies then rotate through the swim, changing on the quarter past of every hour, until completion at approximately 2042hrs having covered over 30 miles of swimming between them.  Please see swim log.  The tide plays a huge part in determining our course through the water as can be seen from the track below.

As luck would have it the last swim falls to the very capable Isobel to complete, where the end can be clearly seen from our vessel position near the shoreline.  Isobel enters the water to relieve the previous swimmer - Sandra and she heads off towards the designated finish point where she safely negotiates some submerged rocks, exits the water to stand and face us standing on a small pebble beach, where she raises a Union Jack flag to indicate that the swim has been successfully completed.  Once satisfied that Isobel is clear of the water, I indicate for her to return to the vessel where she is embraced by all members of the team and they joyfully celebrate their fantastic achievement.





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