What a weekend – What a ride!
Absolutely spectacular and rather emotional.
This weekend saw the culmination of our efforts and I’m writing this (possibly last post) blog filled with euphoria and tinged with a little sadness, still riding an endorphin high but anticipating an anticlimactic low tomorrow.
This weekend is something we collectively (in varying degree’s) have been working towards for almost 6 months and so yesterday the happy band piled into the happy van to complete our challenge. The plan for the weekend was to attend a final safety brief on Saturday evening on the island and then wait for the final go ahead. As this challenge was so weather dependent, the organisers were delaying that call until 6am on Sunday leaving us with a 30 minute window between that final call and registration. Our weather watch started about a week ago but experience told us (and we knew in our hearts) that weather forecasting is not an exact science, so while the signs looked good we wouldn’t know until we were all lubed up if we were in a “go” situation.
We decided to make a weekend of it and so early on Saturday morning we boarded the ferry casting our inexperienced and inexpert opinions on the swell and wind speeds, hoping, but knowing that the decision would be in the hands of proper seafarers. We had picked our hotel purely on the grounds of its last-minute cancellation policy, thinking at the time that we might get a bit more than 30 minutes notice of the swim and so we were committed.
Saturday afternoon disappeared in a flurry of eating and stockpiling.The early start that the swim demanded meant we would need to check out well before breakfast, but the physical effort required also meant that we needed some nourishment before starting. The ensuing run on ready mix porridge took the local spar (other stores are available) completely by surprise and when we left their stock of porridge, bananas and Mars bars was completely depleted. (we did go back for a second round to clear them out of chocolate biscuits and pork pies later).
The Saturday evening safety brief filled in the gaps for us. We learned that we had to stick with our swim partners or risk being pulled from the swim, We heard about the safety precautions in place and how we would be entering the water in waves (pun intended). Then it was back to Newport for (as advised at the briefing) a good meal plenty of water and an early night.
We strayed slightly off piste (Two beers Honest!) but we did get an early night, our hotel was half an hour from the registration point and so we needed to be ready to leave by 6am, the designated time for confirming the swim and so after another trip to the Spar shop (more sweet goodies) we all went our separate ways to bed.
The excitement proved too much for me and I was awake from around 3:30 am and so when the alarm finally arrived at 5am I was ready for it. I probably wasn’t ready for the ready mix porridge which had both the consistency and taste of wallpaper paste but I guess it did the job. At 5:59 ( minute ahead of schedule) most of us (Dan, no names, no pack drill) were in the car, engine running and ready to go. Internet connectivity was patchy to say the least and so we set off for the RV, still unsure if were going to be swimming or not. As we rounded the bend to the harbour though all of our prayers were answered. The sun was coming up the sea was like a millpond and a message was posted to the website saying that the swim was on! (someone in the car visibly paled at that point).
All of a sudden it was all a bit real. We would all have been hugely disappointed had the swim been rescheduled to the reserve date but how the day panned out exceeded all of our hopes.
First up we had a thrilling trip across the bay to the start point, some of us got to go by RIB, bouncing across the calm waters at hair raising speeds, some of us (not me) got the club class option, a free upgrade to motor yacht travelling in the kind of boats that we often see in Poole quay but never dreamed of setting boat shoe on. All of these boats were crewed by volunteers the RIB I was on was owned by a couple of real party people who had been out all night and clearly needed to blow some cobwebs away.
The beach at Hurst point was painfully pebbly and I was glad that we were only there for a very short walk/stay while we lined up two by two for the off.
And then it was go, within a few strokes I knew this was going to be good. The water was clear the swell was practically zero and we started gliding towards the Island. My kayak was probably the only two man one of the day. The Kayakers were great, friendly and helpful and even took my go pro to film the swim for me. Despite the fact that 65 swimmers launched within about 10 minutes there was absolutely no congestion and Hurst point rapidly faded behind us as Colwell bay raced into view. The swim was the best one I’ve had in the whole project, all the swimmers made it comfortably and the reception at Colwell was fantastic. Hardly had we stepped ashore and someone was thrusting a cup of hot tea into my hands swiftly followed by a bacon bap and a souvenir T Shirt. It absolutely, simply couldn’t have been better.
I am so grateful to the organisers for their efforts. It has been a really uplifting day filled with camaraderie and being in the company of so many people united by the common cause of the swim, raising money for good causes was simply inspirational. To be honest this last week has brought me into contact with some people who challenged my faith. Today has restored my faith in humanity. I feel truly blessed to have mixed with the friends and relations I have, who rallied round and supported this insanity. This particular journey has reached its conclusion in spectacular style, my swim today was superb.We were so close to nature, the sun was glorious, even the jellyfish floating beneath us were beautiful, all of the group succeeded, achieving personal goals, some may never speak to me again (They’ll get over it).
Quite simply today was fantastic. I will revisit this blog when the final count shows how much we raised for the charities. In the meantime its time to sign of by saying a huge thank you to the Solent 7 and its honorary members.
Whats next? – Watch this spaceThank you so much