Glenthorne to Sandy Bay Porthcawl 7-9-23
Swim time: 10hours 32 minutes 17 seconds
Start: Glenthorne House Devon
Finish: Sandy Bay Porthcawl
Observer: Tom Chapman
Swim Crew: Lee Johnson
Pilot: Meuryn Hughes
Ratified by the BCSA.
In 2021 I swam the same route. There had been a disagreement with regards to the landing point of the previous swimmers. No one had officially swam the route since the 1970s. Anyway, I did the swim and completed it, and landed in between Ogmore and the Monk Nash lighthouse. Later finding out that this wasn’t enough [for the OTC]. Fast forward to 2022 and I decided to book to swim Swansea to Ilfracombe, things hadn’t gone to plan and I had set backs along the way, also the weather hasn’t been kind to any swimmer this year, so I decided to redo the route and land on the correct beach for this swim to qualify as the official Glenthorne to Porthcawl route!
I trained the same as I did for the previous Bristol and English Channel swims but due to injury, illness and family, sessions were missed and i had to grab every chance I could to train.
The night before the swim, Lee, my crew mentioned that one of the weather models wasn’t very good and to be prepared. This made me slightly anxious, because both of my other channel swims id been lucky and had fabulous weather. Anyway we met at Penarth Marina at 2am, got on the rib with Meuryn, Tom and Lee and cruised across the channel in pitch black but calm sea. I was greased up and slid off the rib and swam about 60 meters to shore in the pitch black. In a bit of panic i tried to get my breath and clambered onto some rocks stood up, and shouted to the boat that I was ready. The first hour I settled into some calmish sea took my first feed of carb drink and a solid (can’t remember what), and carried on the second hour and feed. Then the wind picked up and it carried on like that for about the next 6 hours. I swallowed so much water that I couldn’t take on any solids due to nausea. I won’t lie it was awful. I felt like I was getting battered, breathing in diesel fumes, swallowing water and stung by a jellyfish. I saw the lighthouse and that made me happy, but then it was still there for the next hour and a half I think, what felt like an eternity. The tide turned and the water flattened, sun came out and a feed a flat coke made me feel better. I swam a decent pace for the last 2 hours to Coney Beach in Porthcawl!
Things I’ve learnt - I need more night swim session, and work hard on bilateral breathing for the next swim. I’m now actually happy that I had a tough swim and feel happily battered by the Bristol Channel! Thank you team you were great! I couldn’t have done it without you.
I met Victoria and her swim crew Lee at Penarth Marina early on Thursday morning, we quickly transferred all of the kit to the pilot boat "Scorpio" piloted by Meuryn Hughes and made our way for an 0230 lock out. The channel was calm as we transited to Glenthorne.
We arrived at Glenthorne at around 0415. Vic got ready in standard swim costume, goggles and hat. Applied suncream, vasaline and lights and slipped into the water to swim ashore. It was incredibly dark on that section of coast but with all our lights on her we could just about make out her clearing the water, re-entering and starting the swim at 0442. She swam back to the boat and we made our way away from shore.
We were not very far out when the wind started picking up, through a force two into the threes. It was Easterly all day which normally isnt great in the Bristol Channel. Vic swam strongly with a fast turn over through the chop, feeding every hour to start mostly on carb drink but with the occasional solid added in too. The dawn soon broke revealing a hazy morning with a slightly annoying surface chop that occasionally hit her in the face as she attempted to breathe.
An hour or so into the swim the tide turned, meaning we now had wind over tide and worse chop. Vicky swam strongly though it feeding every hour and continuing to make great progress. Through the next six hours she swam strongly and consistently northward. Very little in terms of shipping or other vessels out in the channel. The chop hitting her in the face was taking its toll, she began to refuse solid feeds so her crew upped the carbs in her liquid with extra fructose.
As we approached Nash point, it was clear the Easterly wind had held us up somewhat with us never making it further East than the lighthouses. As it turned we began to pick up pace towards Porthcawl. Not having made it to the lighthouse, we now had to cross Nash Sands. As we made progress North, the Easterly wind began to work in our favour, effectively becoming "offshore" and flattening the water. Vic settled down and took on some flat coke and seemed much happier. When we made it to the sand bank we managed to slip through a gap, never seeing less than 7 meters of water or any particular surface chop.
We were now heading up the coast at between 5 and 6 KPH with the tide behind us and soon passed Witches point, where Vicky landed her first Bristol channel swim. She worked hard in the last hour to break the current and close down the gap to shore, swimming on the inside of Tusker rock and passing Newton and Rhynch points to finish on the beach at sandy bay, clearing the water and stopping the clock in 10 hours, 32 minutes and 17 seconds. Great swim!