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.
"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!"
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 nettle...it 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,
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! "