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  • Darren Watson

What do you mean 'Weathered out'? It looks fine to me!


Now back home, earlier than expected, I write this after experiencing an interesting few days learning and understanding more about what it takes to be an English Channel swimmer.

Last week we set off on our long journey from Scotland down to Dover in preparation for my swim window starting on the 21st August. It was now four years since I had decided to Swim the English Channel, including the year delay, and now my time had finally come. A few days before heading down I had been keeping an eye on the wind state as it's been pretty unsettled throughout August and was wondering if I was going to get my chance or be 'weathered out'. Keeping positive, it was just a case of not thinking about it too much and seeing what happens.


I had bumped into a few swimmers who were in Dover who hadn't been able to swim because of the weather, including a few from America, which I could have only imagined how they felt at that time. At this point I started to understand that this was part of Channel Swimming. You spend a lot of time preparing and training, ensuring you are fit and ready in time for the window you have been allocated, but there is a chance that you may not get to go so have to be prepared for this.


For a solo swim attempt the pilots look for a good weather period, long enough for you to get across, where the wind force ideally needs to be F3 or below. This week, and much of August, it has been hovering around F4/5 which is seemingly ok for relay attempts. I guess when the time comes your pilot will likely ask what your average swim speed is so they can gauge the amount of time they need to get, but that's a guess at the moment. There is also the added complexity of the wind direction, I imagine if the wind was around 3 or above and it was blowing against you then it would hamper your attempt significantly.


Over the weekend we managed to get a few dips in Dover harbour, getting a feel for the sea water once again which was a nice 17.5 degrees. I spend about 20 minutes a time as I didn't want to pull anything last minute. The air temperature was about 21 degrees, and the water in the harbour was calm but looking beyond the harbour wall you could see the 'white horses', that are created by the waves. Clearly what was happening nearer land was not replicating out to sea. Which bought my attention to another point, I was always looking at the weather around Dover, but what about France? Well it was the same, if not slightly worse, so I guess there are a whole load of things the pilots have to look out for!


It was Sunday evening when I spoke to my pilot and was given the bad news. The weather wasn't looking good for the rest of the week so I'm not going to be able to swim. Bummer! Well, I kind of guessed it wasn't going to happen, so was prepared and didn't let it get to me. It is what it is!


We made the decision to head back home on the Monday as there was no real point in hanging about in Dover. It was another long 10 hour drive back up, swinging by my parents to pick up the dogs, and then getting in at around half eleven in the evening. It was a long 5 days, but at least we learnt a lot and I got to see one of my mates after such a long time so it wasn't a wasted journey.


I'm waiting to hear if I'll be able to get shifted into another week in September but one thing is for sure, I'll be keeping an eye on the wind and waiting until I get the go-ahead from the pilot before I head down.


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