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Stephen Burke

Penarth to Weston-Super-Mare 8-10-23

Swim time: 6 hours 38 minutes

Start: Penarth Slipway (Wales)

Finish: Anchor Head Weston-Super-Mare (England)

Observer:     Ed Morgan

Swim Crew:  Leighton James

Pilot:             Ceri Davies

Tandem wetsuit solo with Chris Collins-Jones

Swimmers report:


It all started with a message from my cousin back in June 2022, enquiring if I still had a wetsuit, I still had it and thought he might want to borrow it. lt turned out that he had been thinking about swimming the Bristol Channel for some time and wondered I fancied a tandem swim? Up until this time I hadn't been near a pool or open water since lock down March 2O2O, so why not I thought any excuse to start swimming again. And so, the training began, my background was in Triathlon, completing lronman Wales in 2015 & 2016 after a long break from the sport since the late 90's due to injuries. Training began in earnest concentrating on improving my stroke and pool fitness, gradually building on my distance work as the weeks progressed. Once I was comfortable doing 2km I started to introduce one session of high intensity interval training per week gradually increasing the amount of sets as I progressed, this made a big difference to my speed and stamina. I also started to incorporate some weight training concentrating on the upper body and also daily press ups. I started to introduce one long swim on the weekends starting at 4km, increasing by a km per week until I got to 10km, then gradually increasing the recovery swim the following day until I was up to two 10km swims back-toback. On my final weeks training two weeks before my swim I totaled 50km. I had planned to do the 5km TenFoot swim in Tenby in July followed by 13km Mumbles to Aberavon swim in August. Unfortunately both were cancelled, luckily we were able last minute to enter the 13km Flat Holm swim to Barry on the same day in August. This turned out to be some introduction to the Bristol Channel as it was a rough crossing to say the least, it also turned into a 15km tough slog, just what I needed to boost my confidence for the big day in a month's time. At this point my cousin realised that he wasn't ready for the Channel and decided to pull out, living and working in Saudi Arabia didn't help matters. I then spoke to Chris who had also done the Flat Holm swim if he fancied it, and with just three weeks notice, said was up for it. As I completed my final long week, with two weeks to go, I got an email from my skipper informing me that he was unable to take us due to a knee injury, I was gutted to say the least. After some frantic phoning around I managed to secure a slot with Ceri from Bristol Channel Swimming on our original date of 27th September, this was not to be as it was cancelled three days before the off due to bad weather, even more stress. However there was one last opportunity on the next tide in two weeks time, the last weekend of the season. Keeping focussed due to the uncertainty was stressful to say the least, but by the skin of our teeth, it was on ! On the day of the swim the weather was perfect with virtually no wind, the sea was flat calm, we set off from Penarth slip, and set a steady pace, feeding every half hour with 250ml of water with 1 scoop of High five energy drink, with one Jaffa cake bar thrown in around half way for good measure. Considering I was a pool swimmer and Chris, an open water swimmer we were quite evenly matched. The feeding stops seemed to come around quite quickly, and we eventually started to turn right down towards Weston, the fatigue was slowly stating to kick in but we still managed a steady pace, then a nasty niggle in my left shoulder wiped the smile off my face. We finally rounded the disused pier at Weston and headed for the shore, my hand soon came into contact with the gloopy mud, and we attempted to stand up we both fell about like a pair of skittles so we dragged ourselves right up to the waters edge and stood up covered in mud on the nearest stone, job done! Luckily the mud washed off on the swim back to the boat. A big thanks to my trusty crew Leighton James and Ed Morgan for looking after us, and to the skipper and pilot Ceri Davies from Bristol Channel Swimming for the excellent job of guiding us across.

Observers report:


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