Monday, June 14, 2010

Adventurous Experiences supports BallaAfrica Big Swim

A massive well done to the whole BallaAfrica Big Swim team who successfully crossed the Irish Sea from Barrow in Furness to Laxey last weekend 05th - 06th June.
An amazing feat, not just the 47 miles taking 30 hours to swim, but also the thick fog, jelly fish, changes in sea conditions, tide and open water. The 9 swimmers captained by Brett Cullin were supported alongside by kayakers paddling at all times, providing direction and motivation through day and night.

Janet Taylor (a Senior Coach at Adventurous Experiences) was in charge of kayak support, working alongside fellow staff member Lauren Roberts, seasoned Adventure Club member Chris Gledhill and kayaker Carl Faragher. 

"Hi Keirron,

... it would be difficult to exagerate the importance of the safety Kayakers to the Team's success.
They really were the shepherd's who got us through the dark and brought us out the other side.
Even those decorated in Bacofoil to improve their radar signature, happily sacrificed all traces of dignity and street cred to the cause. :) "

Brett Cullen

Balla Africa Big Swim Organiser

"I have to say that we would not have done nearly so well without the amazing support from the kayakers – both in the water for morale boosts and jelly fish watch to out of the water with hot food and drinks.
They really did keep the spirits of the whole team up both day and through the long night, which it was the most comfort to have someone close by – it was a very still night with loads of sea mist calm waters and just being out there in the middle of the sea would have been like a scene from a horror movie had it not been for the kayakers.

I am sure living on a boat with us lot moaning about cold wet wetsuit every 5 mins was like a horror movie for them but they never let it show once – what a great team to have with us – thank guys!"

Heather Mattocks

A Kayakers perspective...

" When I heard about the BallaAfrica Big Swim, I thought it was a great

idea and half wished I'd known about it sooner so I could volunteer to

swim. I can do a few lengths in the pool and so I thought the 30 minute

stints the swimmers had planned would be fine! They had requested kayak

support though, so we happily offered, pleased to be given the chance to

be part of such a great adventure. We would set the course for the

swimmers and be there for them if they needed anything on the water.

The swimmers were a great and varied bunch from an Ironman contestant to

someone who was scared of the sea, but all of them were up for the

challenge, had trained hard and were raring to go. We set off at 05:25

on Saturday 5th June and I was the first kayaker on the water, perfect

conditions, flat calm sea and the sun was rising in the sky. What a

great start! It remained calm and swimmer followed swimmer as the

morning progressed. The sea picked up for a while and then calmed again

in the late afternoon, before a thick fog descended just in time for

night! The kayakers took it upon themselves to encourage the swimmers

and the night must have been the hardest time to be jumping into the

water and starting again... Especially through fields of jellyfish,

where we tried to bat them away with our paddles, but there were too

many to get every one and inevitably people got stung. A jellyfish

sting is no ginny smarts and leaves your whole body tingling

and stinging in waves. Almost all the swimmers got stung at one point

or another, but they carried on jumping into the water in spite of

this. Our encouraging cries of; "it's only a sting, it won't kill you"

were undoubtedly not much appreciated, but instead of turning the air

blue in our faces, the swimmers turned themselves blue by jumping into

the cold stinging minefield and carrying on. And without naming names,

yes, they did try the old urine trick and no, it didn't work!

From our side, we mainly stuck to 2 hour stints and the trickiest part

of the whole thing was getting out of the kayak and onto the support

boat in a big sea but with some help from kayakers and swimmers alike we

developed a reasonably successful system...well none of the kayakers got

wet so it must have been OK.

When we weren't on the water, we cooked, ate, slept and helped on deck

with the transitions between swimmers. It can't have been easy throwing

yourself into the murky waters time after time and so we used various

techniques to motivate the team which even included singing on the

water. Apparently, the middle of the Irish Sea is the one place I am

allowed to belt out a tune at the top of my voice without being called

an X-Factor reject and so I am grateful to the swimmers for allowing me

that concession. In fact I was so good, Eleanor did try and join in

with me, but I wanted to be centre stage and firmly told her, "you swim,

I'll sing".

Lights of Douglas Harbour appeared during Janet's stint at about 3:30am

which brought excitement at first, but it was still going to be about 9

hours before we got to Laxey. We finally approached Laxey beach around

11:30 and the swimmers nominated Ironman Andy to swim the final stint to

the beach and they would follow behind. With 4 kayakers and only 2

boats, we wanted to finish with the swimmers and so Heather and Trav

very kindly lent us spare wetsuits so Janet and I could swim the final

stretch to the beach with them with Carl and Chris alongside in the

kayaks. Here was our chance to experience a very small part of what the

swimmers had been going through for the last 30 hours. Each swimmer

jumped off the brilliant Pelagos Adventure support boat to a honk of the

ship's horn from Declan, the skipper, followed by Janet and I.

(Incidentally, the camera officially does lie, because my graceful,

gazelle like leap into the water, actually appeared ina photo to be a

wonky tumble accompanied by a look of horror on my face). And so we set

off for the beach. I put my face in the water and it was so cold, it

stung my skin. I lifted my head to breath and got a mouth full of salt

water. I started to kick my legs but within 5 metres I was exhausted.

Suddenly, I knew what the swimmers had gone through; not only during the

30 hours at sea, but also during the months of training and it occurred

to me that my motivational speeches, nagging to keep going and demands

for more swimming minutes must have been a right royal pain in the

backside when you're the one in the water, surrounded by jellyfish,

tired, cold and miles from home. Fair play to all the swimmers, they

bloomin' well did it! "

Lauren Roberts

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