On a sunny September morning, two weeks after the original swim was postponed, the eleven of us finally swam the Solent in a record-breaking one hour and forty five minutes.
We were accompanied by eleven kayakers – six from the Portsmouth and Southsea Voluntary Lifeguards who were amazing enough to help us with our swim, and five kayakers that I had found myself, by emailing all the canoe clubs in the South of England.
On top of that we had a safety boat large enough to recover all the swimmers and kayakers, and two smaller ribs on either side of us.
This small cavalry had gathered in the bright sunshine at Gilkicker point at 9am on the 9th of September to get our final safety briefing from Cy, head of the Portsmouth Lifeguards. It struck a fearful note with all of us when he mentioned the plan to stop before crossing the 100m wide deep water shipping channel, wait for a gap in the passenger ferries and oil tankers, then swim like mad!
It was also a concern that Cy had never done one of these swims without someone asking to be pulled out. Nonetheless, after eight months of training and one cancelled swim there was a determination amongst everyone at this point to just get it done.
So…what can I say about the swim itself? Getting into the water and swimming after my canoeist as he paddled off filled me with a sense of panic. I could not see the horizon. I could not see the other swimmers. I could not for the life of me swim in a straight line. I must have spent most of the swim heading for Normandy and being called back towards the Isle of Wight.
I also felt out of breath very quickly, as the spotting (looking ahead whilst doing front crawl) the gentle buffering of the waves and the disorientation stopped me from relaxing into a rhythm as I would do in the pool and I found myself doubting my ability to do 5km of this.
However, looking down into the green then up at the blue sky in an alternate fashion over one hour forty minutes eventually became quite relaxing. As I turned my head to the sky to breathe, seagulls would glide into the view provided by the small window of my swimming goggles. Looking into the sea I would view rushing water, bubbles, then darkness beneath. At this point I would reign in my already pretty active imagination.
At one point I found myself negotiating a series of very large waves. My canoeist told me not to worry about them, but it is only now the photos are developed that I see they were caused by the extremely large Wightlink ferry passing closely behind us.
At another point my canoeist shouted “we’ve lost a swimmer!” causing me to inhale half the Solent in panic, before saying “oh no, there he is.”
But that was it. After all the training, the swim was very easy, and when I found the sand beneath me and stood up, apart from a bit of leg cramp I felt fine.
We took some photos in the water, more on the beach, and then went to Bestival.
I would like to thank everyone on here again for their help. The kayakers, the Portsmouth Lifeguards, the guys in the safety boat for ensuring no one drowned, the Queen’s Harbourmaster for publishing a notice to mariners warning of the swim, the Wightlink ferry for diverting it’s course that day to take a longer route round.
I would also like to thank the swimmers who joined me. It was not easy to find eleven people willing to do this kind of thing and it would not have been possible without their adventurous spirits!
This is the end of my blog on the Isle of Wight swim. Anyone wanting to do this in the future please contact me.
The swim has been postponed to 9 September 2012 due to gusts of the gale force variety on the August Bank Holiday! It is still very much going ahead in September and thank you to everyone who reads this blog.
In the meantime, I am brushing up on my safety with some reading material. It comes highly recommended.
How To Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer. £235.28 on Amazon.
Last weekend five of us visited the Portsmouth and Southsea Voluntary Lifeguards at their beach hut in Portsmouth. They had an Olympic torch kicking about, so what do you do but take a photo?
We then went on to swim a couple of miles between Portsmouth pier and a clump of rocks. Sea swimming is tough. I have developed an aversion to putting salt in my food since.
Eleven of us are swimming the 2.4 mile stretch from Gosport to Ryde on August 25 in aid of charity. Please donate below!
Josie (Help for Heroes) http://www.bmycharity.com/solentswim
Jacqui Harris (Mind) http://www.justgiving.com/Jacqui-Harris-Swim
Jaime Minter-Green (Multiple Sclerosis Society) http://www.justgiving.com/JAIME-MINTER-GREEN
Lyn the Fin (Global Swim) www.justgving.com/theglobalswim
Jamie Tribe (Motor Neurone Disease) https://www.justgiving.com/Jamie-Tribe
The charity swim from Portsmouth (mainland) to Ryde (Isle of Wight) was organised by me, Josie1044, in January this year. I have written a longer account about why I decided to do this at the bottom of this blog.
The challenge I will write about here is how I found ten swimmers to join me. I am a financial journalist with a desk job, and when I am not at my desk I am wining and dining sources from the financial sector, in the hope of prising information out of them. None of this is conducive to physical fitness, but to add insult to injury I am not particularly sporty, have never held a gym membership, and consider going for a run to be a revolting way to spend your time.
Therefore, when I started to organise this I did not have a circle of friends who instinctively trusted me to a) organise the trip successfully b) survive.
The idea therefore took off when my childhood friend, Jen, expressed an interest in the idea over Christmas 2011. Jen, (unfortunately no longer doing the swim due to the commitments of being a busy doctor) was my first recruit. I then remembered three others who had made positive noises about the idea (which I have been mulling for over three years). My friend Fi, my other friend’s brother Jamie, and yet another friend’s boyfriend, Aaron. We were now five!
Alcohol appeared to be the way forward for the others. On a night out with some former colleagues I swooped on Fionn, an impressionable but ultimately reliable Irishman, who to this day appears to be confused about why he is doing the challenge. Another colleague, Jamie, got wind of the idea and thought that it could not be too different from a marathon, and another colleague, Selene, who I swing dance with, thought that it could not be too different from swing dancing either.
A South African named Marie-Louise got in contact but quickly ran away screaming when she realised the distance.
Jen, Fi and Marie-Louise dropped out leaving us with six, including me. Jamie looked ready to drop out when he realised it was actually different from a marathon, but then came back in when he realised again, that the marathon helped him swim. With the addition of Jacqui (supplied by the same friend who supplied Aaron) we were seven.
Now, here is where the panic started. We needed ten to swim and I could not find a damn person more. Facebook is not the recruiting ground for this endeavour (FYI six ‘likes’ of my appealing status updates does not a swimmer make). August Bank Holiday and “I’m more of a runner…” were unsurprisingly offered up very frequently. So I sent an email to my colleagues at Thomson Reuters, one of whom offered up her friend Andy, who emailed straight back and put up the deposit in my easiest recruit so far!
Then I struggled again – all the people who had shown an interest fell off the face of the earth so I resorted to spray and prey. I emailed all the London swimming societies, the Outdoor Swim Society, all former places of work, and then, as a last resort, the email list from a ski trip that I had been on two years previous. Enter Joss, swimmer number nine.
Then, two ex-Channel swimmers, Jaime (yes, everyone doing this swim has a name which is a variation on Jamie) and Lynn saw my advert in the H2O Open Water magazine and contacted me to do the swim. We had eleven!
Yes, eleven, not ten. I forgot at this point that I too am doing the swim, so I made a quick call to our lifeguards and a few more calls to canoeists to make sure I could find another kayaker, and it was done!
A few of the swimmers have been kind enough to provide a personal profile, below. I will add more as they trickle in!
Jaime is a PE teacher from North West London and has lived there all her life. In 2007 she started a charity called Mermaids for MS . Mermaids because of the swimming nature of most of her fund raising. Her Mum has MS and all funds raised go to the MS society for research into MS. She swam the channel in 2007 to raise funds for the charity and have completed other charity events to raise funds. She recently had a baby and wanted to raise more funds for my charity. She thought this would be a good way to do so.
Aaron moved to Southampton at a young age and has lived there now for 16 years. He studied construction at College and University and now work as a Quantity Surveyor for a National Housebuilder. He likes to give himself physical challenges to train towards, having completed the Great south run 3 times and several endurance assault courses. He always wanted to kayak to the IOW so when the swim came up, he agreed, just now there is nothing to keep me floating!
Lynn the fin
Jacqui runs the ticketing for a music promoter for events throughout the UK and Europe. She really wanted to support Mind in their campaign to spread awareness of the reality of what Mental Illness is, as it is often misunderstood and underestimated. As she has always loved to swim and always loved a good challenge she thought, if you are going to do a swim for a great charity, it has to be something pretty epic, so to the Isle of Wight we go! http://www.justgiving.com/Jacqui-Harris-Swim
Jamie T grew up in Isleworth, west London. He spends his summers working in a summer camp in Catalonia, teaching Spanish kids English. He has been making himself dizzy by trying to train in a 10m pool at camp whilst dodging the kids who dive bomb left, right and centre. This year he is studying his Legal Practice Course at BPP before moving to China for a year to teach English. He fancied this swim because I have a holiday house on the Isle of Wight and thought it would make a change from catching the ferry across. https://www.justgiving.com/Jamie-Tribe
Award-winning journalist, explorer and fighter-pilot Jamie S, 24, is aiming to become the first person in history to finish 237th in the Essex Marathon and swim the Solent in the same year.
Born into a poor family, S had to battle against the odds to achieve professional and sporting success, which culminated with a famous ‘double’ victory in 1990, when he triumphed in the Blackwater & Dengie U12s youth football league and the Jim Gothard Memorial Cup, as well as being voted Players’ Player of the Year by his peers.
Stewart revealed the secret of his famous drive: “I just won’t… be afraid,” he said, adding, “As long as I gaze on, Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.”
Jamie, or ‘big man’ to his friends, is swimming the Solent in the hope that any money raised can be put towards his privately-funded mission to halt climate change whilst stamping out dysfunctional dictatorships the world over. He speaks 19 languages.
I have come into contact with many an interesting person during my quest to organise this cross-Solent swim, and this includes a number of former swimmers. One was Gordon Osborne OBE, who first swam from the UK to the Isle of Wight as a young man in 1958. He has gone on to make an invaluable contribution to future cross-Solent swimmers by publishing a guide which I have posted on this blog.
Another is Fred Taylor, a systems engineer with Rolls Royce, who made the crossing a few years ago. Below is the account of his journey. Enjoy!
Fred Taylor’s story
From an early age I had a fascination for the IOW and I knew that one day I would sail, canoe, or swim there. The swim was the last one of the three.
I sailed there in 1982, on Jack’s boat, an electrician from Vospers.
In 1985 my brother and I canoed from H
hamble to Cowes, this has been followed by many more trips in many types of kayak.
When I originally thought of swimming to the IOW, I checked an OS map for the shortest route. The shortest is also the most treacherous, the 1 kilometre stretch of water between Hurst Castle and the IOW. This stretch is notorious for its fast current and whirlpools. It was a colleague that made me aware of the recognised route from Ryde to Southsea, almost six times that of the Hurst spit passage. This required a rethink.
In order to arrange a crossing without putting life at risk you would be required to take a rescue/support craft with you. Also, due to the busy shipping lane you would need to notify the correct ship authorities. And to do the recognised route I would need to train. The original 1km route would have been achievable without training and the 20minutes immersion would not be a risk from hypothermia. But to do the recognised route would require training and acclimatisation.
The way in
Its was uncanny that a good friend of mine had got an entry into a race across the Solent. It was an annual race run by the police force. The entry is limited to 25 with the Police having priority, Adi being a fireman had a 2nd priority place. To add to my frustration, Adi asked me to be his support canoeist. Adi is a very good swimmer and I had little to do with his training, I did however spend one very windy evening kayaking along side him to practice prior to the event. How close to paddle, to the side or in front? We sorted out these questions
Adi swam the race on a very calm day, it was soon clear that he had under estimated the challenge. Before ½ way he asked how far and was not happy with the answer. At 2/3rds distance Adi was keen to call it a day, if I had been willing to go close enough to let him grab hold. He completed the coarse in 2 hours but vowed never again
I had swum a mile in 1974 but since then I had only trained for the odd 500-mtr swim for Triathlons.
After watching Adi, a very good swimmer, totally under estimate the task the previous year, I decided to put a little more training into the Schedule.
I started training with 6 weeks to go, with my first Sea swim a week later on the 8july. This was with an unsuitable wetsuit as I was not sure of the water temperature.
A work colleague, Gary Doherty, who swam the Solent as a solo swimmer a few years previous, guided my training. He also persuaded me that a wetsuit was not necessary.
A lot of my training was done with Joe a WPC who although a very good pool swimmer, she is scared of almost all the aspects of the Sea.
On the 18th July I met with the police at GAFERS for a training session, this was an eye opener as there were only two others and they swam like fishes leaving me in their wake. We all swam for 40mins in a moderate sea. I was worried when I went to get out of the water as I could not walk straight and was suffering the effect similar to, drinking a load of sangria then putting your head on the top of a stick and running round 10 times. This was a big hit to morel, as if I was like this after just 45 mins, what was I going to be like at 3hrs. Was it the cold, was it the waves or was I coming down with something.
There was a sea swim at Calshot 3weeks prior to the event and there were two options, a 2500km race and a 5000km race. Gary persuade me to do the further distance as it would give me an estimated time for the big event and would see how I would be effected by the cold for the extra duration.
It was the 12/8/01 and after a disturbed nights sleep I woke to a howling gale. I was driving to pick up my brother, who was to be my support kayaker, when it was announced on the radio that a Swiss channel swimmer had gone missing one kilometre from Calais, it was sobering news.
When we arrived at GAFERS the Car Park attendant told us, the race was off, but we carried on regardless. At 12 noon it was announced that due to the weather, a Force 5/6 S/W, the cross Solent race was cancelled but in order to enable the sponsorship to be collected an alternative race was to be held across Stokes bay and back plus a half lap. I was disappointed but Joe had people travelling from all over the country to watch. Some competitors just turned and left, but it wasn’t for us it was for the people we were raising money for. I knew we had to do it but is was not appealing
It was safer because it was an onshore breeze but the conditions were horrendous, with large waves hitting you from the side.
I swam with Joe, as she was scared. She did not swim straight and we had many collisions in the first leg. Mike was finding the condition trying and we collided once.
It seamed forever till the first turn.
I completed the race in 2hours and was given a cross Solent T Shirt.
Although the race was probably tougher than previous Solent swims, I had still not fulfilled my wish to swim the Solent. I felt that before I could collect the money, I would have to swim the distance.
Preparation for a solo
To try to do a solo race seemed an up hill struggle, I was running out of time, I was running out of training partners, I had to try to maintain training with worsening weather and darkening evenings.
Locating a boat was providing difficult. The police organisers had no leads, Gafers had a boat for such tasks but it was out of action for the foreseeable future. Ryde rescue provided the cover for most of the solo swims but they were fully booked till the end of the season. Hamble rescue were not interested.
I had a date set but I was down to leaning on some friends with a boat on the IOW, they were keen but unfortunately they were unavailable for the time required, and the chance was missed.
The harbour master at Warsash gave me the brake through I needed, with a leaflet that listed the local rescue service, which included Portsea rescue. A phone call to Cy and I was in business. Doubts were raised when my first two dates not available, but it did allow me the chance of entering the Portsmouth pier to pier 1 ¼ miles against the tide, a good 45-min training run.
We finally agreed on the 16/9 with the 22/9 as a fall back date.
The 2nd Attempt
Sunday 16th September (Sea Temp 16oC)
I woke to a very windy day, 20mph N/E, a bit of desarvios. I phoned Cy at Portsea rescue, he was quite confident that all would be well.
JR took me down to Southsea for the off, they said the winds were high but it was a goer. I had a cup of coffee and helped prepare the 10ft inflatable with a 15hp outboard. We launched down the shingle and we were off, as we got a mile off shore the Sea State worsened. The main Portsea rib came after us to take me off the 10ft boat, as it was not safe to operate 3 up, in these conditions. In the 120 HP rib it was like a bad fun fair ride, we flew more than floating. At Ryde I prepared myself as the skipper tried to convince me I was insane. The small inflatable finally caught up but head quarters recalled it due to conditions. Cy convinced them that it was ok to continue.
Jumping over the side I was still not convinced that I could swim in such conditions. I also had never swum in open sea without a shore to navigate from, nor had I swam with a boat to follow.
The swim Cap was good, Ear plugs seamed solid and goggles fitted well. Within the first hundred meters I had a close call with the inflatable and all I could think of was the unprotected blades of the propeller.
The first 20mins, or my perception of 20mins, were extremely rough and it was difficult for the support boat to keep a heading let alone me to follow it. Although it was rough I was full of energy and could twist with the waves and breathe when they would allow. I started with bilateral breathing but found that if I was forced to miss one due to the conditions it could be 6-9 stokes before I saw my support boat, and by this time we could be heading in totally different directions. So from this point on I breathed to the left with a very occasional breath to the right for navigation and self-preservation.
After 20mins, I started to settle down and tried to work out my position from the short glimpses to either side. The Ryde Catamarans where still passing in front of me. Ryde spire was over my left shoulder, from these images I tried to fix my position on my imaginary map. It’s annoying when you think your going the wrong way and you know its going to be hard anyway and you cant do anything about it.
The cats finally start to pass behind me but the ferries were still in front I was in a rhythm but that bloody spire was still hovering on my left shoulder, in my mind this was wrong and I thought I was swimming in a massive circle.
I noticed the waves started getting smarter and were catching me out more regularly, I think it was partly I was getting slightly tiered and partly that the sea was getting more confused by traffic. My senses were woken a few times when I touched clumps of seaweed; the mind plays funny games.
This was a peaceful section of the trip I was still feeling fresh and to take my mind off the task, I done a piece of people watching. The only problem was, there was only two of them. They were busy chatting and taking the odd swig from a bottle of water, which looked like nectar. After swimming for yey long just blowing bubbles out and breathing a mixture of air and seaspray in, your throat feels sore salty and dying for a mouth wash. They also took the occasional photo and seemed to be continuously swapping drivers. This was continuously dispersed by a straight arm signal pointing the direction I should be travelling.
The swim is more of a mental challenge than a physical and your mind wanders. You feel a bit cold and try to calculate the temp decline to remaining distance, an impossible mental task. You think what is you wife is thinking, what are your supporters thinking. You’re next challenge. About the funeral of Lessets 2day old baby. The devastation in New York. And HOW MUCH F******* FURTHER.
You get brought back from your day dreams by Whining high speed props, the deep pounding from a container ship, or the noise of the rescue helicopter passing overhead.
I was also pleased to sea the Porsea rib comes flying up and stand off a number of times during the swim.
Well into it and I could still sea Ryde spire but also Portsmouth, definitely not correct by my mental map.
The sun is a powerful thing. It started to break through from time to time. As it broke through, I could feel the warmth and my morel rose, and the loneliness also seemed to disappear.
At about what I think was about 2/3rds distance the sea began to calm, part due to the obating wind and part due to the lee of the land.
The beach could be seen from a long way off (further than I first thought) it looked close, but when you can see yachts sailing between you and the beach you know its not just 10 mins away.
I think the distance was more deceptive than usual as it was a high beach when I finally got close.
The final peace of excitement was I looked up to see my 10 foot rubber friend inches in front of me and Cy shouting grab hold, looking to my left there was a 40ft yacht bearing down on me and as I was just about to grab for the safety rope the yacht began to veer away.
The final strokes were amazing. As I was landing a fair distance from my desired point, I was not expecting a welcoming party but in my last few strokes I looked up to see a mass of people coming down the steep shingle banks of gillkicker point.
My first touch of land, and I could stand up straight, I was not to cold. I looked at my watch to calculate the time, was I over or under the 2-hr mark, it took time to rationally work it out, because it was over 3hrs. 3hours and 3 minutes to be precisely.
I had done it. We had a quick photo shoot and I made sure I got a photo of my support crew, whom without I could not have done it.
I remember looking back at Ryde and being extremely disappointed as the sea look so calm with the off shore breeze and yet it started like hell, my only hope is that Cy took some pictures early on in the trip.
The Portsea Rescue boys offered me a boat trip to GAFIRS, as we set off I dived into one of my bags for a top to put on against the wind chill. As we were nearing the slipway I was greeted by a man with a blanket who escorted me to a warm shower and supplied a hot mug of sweat coffee. I did take sugar that day.
Tales of the supporters.
The yellow boy and the fishing boat
The free entry to the car park
Arriving at Lee on Solent it became increasingly obvious that this was not an ideal day. It was not an ideal day for anything but being at home by the fire. North winds drove across the shore and flattened a sea darkened by the refection of an overcast sky. Intermittent rain fell and disturbed the surface of the water: it looked like autumn, like the start of winter, like bad day – a bad for swimming the Solent …against a north wind.
Buffeted by an increasingly strong wind we decided we could stay in the car no longer. We considered the level of winter clothing necessary to protect us against the environment and decided to send out an exploratory volunteer. Although only eight years old she battled against the exposed elements, she quickly returned to an small opening in the car window to announce that there was no way she was going to stand on the shore for hours while her uncle swam from the Isle of Wight. After a short family discussion it was clear that we had no choice, we were here, Fred, although clearly certifiable was a member of our family and at times like this it was time for families – and if something went wrong, it was possible we may get on the telly and our chance for our 15 minutes of fame.
Standing huddled together on the shore it was soon evident that the Solent was larger than suggested on the map. What looked like a small stretch of light blue water separating two beautiful sandy beaches was in fact a massive divide of darkened sea – a shipping channel dotted with small vessels. What remained of any weekend sailing craft that was not sent back to their moorings by the elements was dwarfed by passing tankers and super tankers on their very own equivalent of a nautical M25. No breakdown services here, no lanes neatly marked with an opportunity to move over into a slower lane. When any sizeable vessel appeared, every small craft, ferry and boat darted to one side while the larger ship passed imperially past. Even in waters protected by the lee of the lsle of Wight the ships moved at considerable speed, their wake crashing through the water as they move impatiently towards safe harbour and economic transaction. The thought of crossing the Solent in a car ferry seemed folly, the thought of trying to swim it seemed out of the question.
Fred, had a faulty gene, a history of risky pursuits, there was a pattern: canoeing, climbing, white water rafting, getting married, there was a pattern. A genetic fault. It was when we were recently holidaying with Fred and his long suffering wife Julie and their children Max and Poppy that his latest challenge became clear. He was going to swim the Solent. Madness. During the holiday his practice became earnest and entailed two beach swims requiring Fred to swim out from the shore and remain unseen for an hour or more, just a small yellow dot in the distance (his rather gay swimming hat).
More recently we’d felt the frustration of Fred not being able to complete the IOW crossing on the planned day and knew he would seek another way. Watching Fred do a practice race at Southsea (from the hovercraft case to the pier) we realised that he was competent enough to achieve his challenge as long as the weather was good and he didn’t get too cold and he cheated.
Fred had estimated that the crossing would be two hours, so we arrived at the shore at about 3:00 we thought he would be half way across. We scanned the murky waters. Water so murky that the sea swimmers drink a whole can a coke to kill any bacteria after a swim!! At last a sighting. A small boat; we watched him bobbing around for about half an hour –happy that he was in sight (even if the boat was a different one than the one that had taken him across to the island – this should have given us a clue) – hang on, one of the men in the boat was fishing! A work mate of Fred who had braved the elements stood with us and after looking though binoculars announced that the boat hadn’t moved far because it was anchored and we were cheering a buoy! Anxiety turned in to worry until a very small black dot was seen on the horizon with a splash of white water to starboard. He was there, he was safe – well as safe as you can be whilst swinging in the middle of the Solent. He was going well but such a long way off and heading much further east than expected. We all began the run along the shore pressed onwards by the wind to where we thought he would find land.
As he moved closer to the shore we saw his support dinghy circle Fred in the water as a large yacht seemed dangerously near, only to swerve at the last minute – was Fred in trouble? The dinghy moved away again and the swim continued.
The wait on the shore took on all the emotion of support. Unable to help but proud, but so far away if anything went wrong. Watching through binoculars was difficult as the wind buffeted our movement and ripped at our clothes. As he drew closer to the shore we could see the regularity of his stroke. He was still swimming well. Black humour spread amongst the crowd: was his life assurance up to date, could he outswim the advancing Isle of Wight ferry, was the wind so strong that he was in fact going backwards and may be intercepted by the French authorities as an illegal immigrant – or had he forgotten his towel and in fact turned back to get it …..
As Fred came close to the shore we cheered; cheered partly due to the excitement and the enormity of his effort and partly to keep warm. We were relieved, proud. This was something very special, something that none waiting on the shore could contemplate. Was this bravery, or was it just well planned and successful. Perhaps both, an amazing feat of determination and pride. Pride for Fred that he had completed another of his life challenges – pride for the rest of us that he had succeeded and was safe. Even the weather acknowledged his goal as the sun broke through the cloud cover to stream down in shafts of light and shimmer across the sea in the distance – a feat that even the Gods had braved the weather to see.
Well done Fred!
During my training I covered 40miles at Hill Head, Calshot, Hamble Mouth, Lee on Solent, Portsmouth Seafront, and two venues in Cornwall, with out a hint of a stomach upset. Things must have improved.
A number of the eleven swimmers now have their charity pages up and running on the interweb! Please click on the links below to view:
Mine (Help for Heroes) http://www.bmycharity.com/solentswim
Jacqui Harris (Mind) http://www.justgiving.com/Jacqui-Harris-Swim
Jaime Minter-Green www.justgiving.com/JAIME-MINTER-GREEN
Lyn the Fin Www.justgving.com/theglobalswim
Please visit and donate!
I have been contacted by a number of people interested in organising their own cross-Solent swim. This guide, written by Ryde Inshore Rescue’s Gordon Osborne MBE, has been of invaluable help to me during my planning. Enjoy!
The traditional cross Solent swim in the eastern Solent is from Ryde sands to Southsea war memorial and to minimise the effect of currents is usually started at low water Portsmouth. At this time the sand is exposed at Ryde to the end of the Pier and beyond to the east of it. The distance to Southsea at this time starting at the waters edge is approximately 3 ¼ miles. The fastest time for the swim ever recorded is about 1 hr 10 mins. But most competent swimmers will achieve it sometime between 1 ½ hrs to 2 hrs provided they have a good pilot. As a guide the swim time will be close to that achieved for a 5 km swim in the pool.
The reverse swim from Southsea (Clarence Pier) to Ryde sands is much harder because of adverse currents whatever time the swim is contemplated. Times for this swim are usually 30 – 45 minutes longer than for the Ryde Southsea swim. If a double crossing is the goal, normally the start is from Southsea timing the swim to arrive at Ryde about an hour before low water and making the return as soon as possible.
On both of these swims the Southampton shipping channel has to be crossed as well as the Bar channel at the entrance of Portsmouth harbour.
The shortest and easiest crossing in the eastern Solent is from Fort Gilkicker at Gosport to Ryde sands a distance of 2 ½ miles.
In the central Solent the tides are very complex and cross Solent swims in this area are very rarely undertaken. In the western Solent the only practical cross Solent swim is from Hurst Castle to Colwell Bay on the Island. Here the distance is only just over a mile but the tide is critical with only about a 30 min stand of when the current is sufficiently low to allow the swim. Consulting a reliable tide chart is a must if this swim is contemplated.
A 3-4 mile sea swim is no mean achievement and for most swimmers demands some training. For stamina at least one 5 km swim in the pool should be accomplished as part of the preparations for the swim. The average sea temperature in the Solent in July and August is 18 deg C; ten degrees colder than most indoor swimming pools. To acclimatise to this and the choppier conditions of the sea, some sea swimming of at least a mile should be undertaken.
Except for a smear of vasilene under the armpits to avoid chaffing, few swimmers these days bother to grease up for a Solent swim. Some do prefer to wear a body suit or even a lightweight wet suit but the choice is best made during the training swims.
For all swims reference to a chart of the Solent and the Solent Tide Charts is strongly recommended. For the traditional Ryde to Southsea swim starting at low water, the current is eastwards down the Solent towards the forts. To combat this, the start of the swim should be about 600 m east of Ryde Pier and begin with a heading to Stokes Bay using the church just west of Fort Gilkicker as an aiming point i.e. due North (true). If this heading is maintained the course should take the swimmer close to the North Sturbridge buoy which is approximately 1 mile into the swim, and then to Southsea. Avoid the temptation to swim directly towards the Southsea war memorial until the Portsmouth Bar channel is reached. On this course the swim will get close to the Isle of Wight ferries in the Swashway on the approach to Southsea. They are in a restricted channel and must be given room to manoeuvre so keep to the east of the Swashway line and cross the Bar channel just west of number 2 Bar Buoy. Avoid the wooden breakwater complex below the war memorial on landing.
The start of the Swim from Southsea to Ryde normally starts to the west side of Clarence Pier and after crossing the Bar channel running parallel to the shore on the Gosport side until level with Fort Gilkicker. At 3 hrs before high water the current, although slight is in the direction of the swim. On reaching Fort Gilkicker head towards the tall church spire (Ryde Parish Church) just to the west of Ryde Pier. Maintain this heading until level with the North Sturbridge buoy which will be on the left hand side and then head for the Hovertravel terminal just to the east of Ryde pier. Avoid fighting the current over the last ¼ mile and land on Ryde sands.
The swim from Fort Gilkicker to Ryde Sands should start at about 2 hours before low water and follow the same course as above. On both of these swims avoid landing at Ryde Pier. The sand is firm on either side of the pier but avoid being forced too far to the west of the pier as from about 200 m west the sand becomes mixed with blue slipper (a wet sticky clay) which is very difficult to walk on especially after a gruelling swim!
The wind and visibility are the main criteria governing whether a swim can take place although it might be unwise to set off if the forecast is for thunderstorms. The limiting wind condition depends on the ability of the swimmer and their experience. As a general rule the accepted limit is force 4 which is the onset of white horses on the water. The direction of the wind also plays a part and the swim becomes more difficult if the winds, and the waves, are in the face of the swimmer.
In terms of visibility, the swim is not to be started if land on the opposite side of the Solent cannot be seen or if the forecast is for deteriorating visibility. On no account, should a swim be attempted during the hours of darkness.
As mentioned earlier the average sea temperature in the Solent is 18 deg C in July and August and this is when most swims are undertaken. In May and June the air temperature might be higher but the sea is still warming up. Not a problem for a short dip but might cause hypothermia on a long swim.
Dependent on the kind of summer, the sea temperature does not drop by much in early September but by mid September we are approaching the equinox when storms might be expected so this generally rules out any swims for the reminder of the year.
The 2.4 miles of open water between Fort Gilkicker in the UK and Ryde Sands in the Isle of Wight is no mean feat. To train, you should be able to swim double this distance in an indoor pool, according to outdoor swim experts.
I am writing this after having swum 4 kilometres (2.4 miles) in the 20 metre pool in my gym. That’s 200 lengths. I feel shaky, heavy limbed and sick. Up until now, I have swum a mile on two separate occasions, and 1.8km on another. All of those swims were fine compared to this. Swimming a mile in an indoor pool is a breeze, but swimming a second one feels like a survival exercise.
Among the things I had to contend with were these:
Dry mouth. You simply cannot underestimate how much chlorinated water you swallow when your face is in the water for 2.5 hours.
Sore little finger. Keeping your fingers together as you push through the water seems to cause particular strain to your little finger.
Likewise, eyes. And attractive ring marks around my eyes that remain there as I type.
Boredom, crushing, boredom.
…replaced by hallucination. Fogged up goggles and a wandering mind meant I thought a face right in front of me in the water, causing me to breathe in yet more water and smack my head on the side of the pool.
This was not even in cold water, not even with waves, currents, disorientation etc.
I had planned to swim a mile in the upstream Thames on June 25, and two miles in the Serpentine on another occasion during the summer to boost my open water swimming experience.
This no longer seems sufficient. I am a little scared about this swim now…
This website, the humble josie1044, has been an abysmal excuse for a blog, chaps. In it’s whole lifespan the poor site has had but 14 views. It’s material is a hotch potch of dreadful financial journalism articles that were never published (so I thought I would show them to the world, all 14 of them, here), a dark and angry little short story, and thinly-veiled attacks on my former employers.
But no more. Josie1044 is doing something amazing for charity, and will use this under viewed little bloglet to publicise this. In the summer, on August 25 2012, Josie1044 is going to get her two arms and legs to swim her across the Solent (the little bit of water between the UK and the Isle of Wight) in aid of Help for Heroes, and has even roped in some gullible chaps to help her!
Where did this come from?
June 2007 (or maybe 2006) – Kate Spicer (award-winning journalist) swims the Solent.
I read her article in The Times/Observer/Independent. Swimming the Solent seemed like such fun. Kate trawled across on the Bestival weekend, arriving in time to have a beer on the stage in the evening sunlight, the sea drops drying in her hair. I become aware of the existence of the Solent at around this time.
February 2010, en route to the Isle of Wight by ferry with friends
There it is again. The Solent.
A charitable wave appears to engulf most of my friends. They are running marathons all over the shop – one even did one in Loch Ness. I’m no runner, I’m a swimmer. The light of realisation begins to dawn…
Long time childhood friend Jennifer Brook says “I’ll swim the Solent.” Well, that’s that sorted.
Help for Heroes
Running parallel to all this is a huge respect for what the armed forces do for this country. I can’t trace my support for the British Army back to any one single event. It is more the great sense of injustice I feel about the lack of recognition that men and women who have risked their lives for this country often face.
I also know that many young men and women join the army because it gives them a routine and sense of belonging when perhaps family, the education system, and the social system in the UK has failed them. To be discharged from this world, due to injury, and to not have a family or social network to go back to must be a kind of hell. If I can raise money to allow someone to carry on being physically active, and give them that sense of worth then I have made a contribution.