Sunday, 28 July 2013

The danger

























Like anything that's worth doing. Swimming the English Channel is going to involve a lot of hard work. Not counting the actual swim - which will take anywhere between 10 and 15 hours to complete and because of the tide and strong currents will mean swimmers swimming anywhere between 21 and 28 miles - there is a lot of effort that goes into these challenges. A whole lifestyle overhaul, 12 months of hard training – including a compulsory 6 hour outdoor swim – fundraising and so much more.

And like all endurance events there is a certain amount of danger. I'm not at all fit at the moment but I'm (fairly) young and (reasonably) healthy and so with the right amount of training I should be able to get myself into good shape before I attempt this next summer. But there will be dangers that come with this.  

"(The) English Channel is a unique and demanding swim, considered by many to be the ultimate long distance challenge. It isn't just the distance that is the challenge, but more, the variable conditions that you are likely to encounter. These may vary for mirror like conditions to wind force 6 and wave heights in excess of 2 metres. The water is cold and you are strongly advised to acclimatise to it, there is a good chance of meeting jellyfish, seaweed and the occasional plank of wood. It is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers passing through and 200 ferries/seacats and other vessels going across daily."

However a lot of people (834 at the end of the 2011 season with around a further 20 to 30 successful crossing each year = 900ish) have successfully swum the channel after Matthew Webb was the first to do so on 25th August 1875. Some have crossed multiply times however, although it is a very small percentage, I can not completely ignore the fact that 7 people have died trying to make their crossing. A danger that was made all the more real to me two weeks ago (while I was trying to decide whether I really wanted to commit to doing this). I had just started telling family and friends that I was seriously considering making an attempt to swim the English Channel - after 23 years of wanting to do so but never doing anything more than a quick google search towards making it a reality – when the tragic news of Susan Taylor's death was all over the news.

"Susan Taylor, 34, from Barwell, Leicestershire, died in Boulogne on Sunday after she "suddenly collapsed" on the final part of the challenge. She was doing the 21-mile (34km) endurance test to raise money for Rainbows Hospice in Loughborough and Diabetes UK."

The one good thing that seems to have come from this tragedy is that since her death a lot of money has been raised for charity. After Susan lost her life on Sunday 14th July 2013 well wishers (including comedian and channel swimmer David Walliams) have helped raise over £70,000 in support of the charities Susan was supporting - Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People and Diabetes UK. This is probably of little comfort to Susan's family (who have lost a daughter, sister and wife) but hopefully a lot of good can be done with the money that has been raised in her honour.  

So I've done a lot of thinking about the dangers that I could face by taking on this challenge (and tried to keep them all from my hen like mother who doesn't want me to do it) but all things considered, there is no doubt that I really need to do this. 

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