We're Swimming The English Channel!

Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome and seven other members of our Perth squads have been busy training to swim the English Channel this northern hemisphere summer. In fact last Sunday the entire team successfully completed their six hour qualification swim in 15°C water and are now officially qualified for this tough 34km solo crossing - fantastic job guys!
L-R: Andrew, Geoff, Paul D, Ceinwen, Paul N and Wayne
still smiling after their 6 hour qualification swim!

The combination of the long distance, strong tides, potentially rough conditions and the cold water make the English Channel one of the hardest swims in the world. So hard in fact that fewer people have swum the English Channel than climbed Everest! Today on the blog we're going to let the Channel Team members update you on their preparations, find out how the qualification swim went and hear about their fund raising for a very important cause.

To find out even more, the team have a dedicated website here: www.channeldare.com

Wayne, Ceinwen, Paul N and Paul D
The Channel Team Swimmers

Andrew: "Our team of eight swimmers are Paul Newsome, Paul Downie, Wayne Morris, Ceinwen Williams, Lisa Delaurentis, Geoff Wilson, Carrol Wannell and me. There's a range of speeds in the group (Paul N and Ceinwen being the super-fish!) but it's well known that depending on conditions on the day, stamina and mental strength can greatly outweigh pure speed!

Every one of us has our own boat and skipper (known as a "pilot") who will guide us through the strong channel tides from England to France some time in our 5-7 day tidal windows. When the weather conditions are set fair for the following day we'll receive a call from our pilot telling us we're off in the morning (cue big rush of adrenaline!).

Paul N and Ceinwen
training hard!
Each of us will make the long journey from Australia to England for our slot this northern hemisphere summer:

Geoff: 21st to 29th July 2011
Lisa: 25th to 31st July 2011
Ceinwen: 6th to 13th August 2011
Wayne: 6th to 13th August 2011
Carrol: 20th to 26th August 2011
Andrew: 5th to 10th September 2011
Paul D: 5th to 10th September 2011
Paul N: 5th to 10th September 2011

Cold Water Adaptation

Andrew getting a hot drink down during training
Paul D: "A large part of the challenge of swimming the English Channel is the cold conditions with water temperatures in the 15-17°C range. The Channel Swim Association's rules are very strict and we're only allowed to wear normal bathers and a swim cap - strictly no speedsuits or wetsuits!

Swimmers often take 12 to 16 hours to complete their crossing and obviously this is a very long time in such cold water.

Adapting to the cold and deliberately adding a few kilograms of insulation to our muscular physiques (!) are a major part of the preparation to swim this mighty event. We've been swimming regularly in the Swan River here in Perth which is a perfect 15°C for training and we've been rewarding ourselves with plenty of (ahem) "high quality nutrition" to make sure we have enough insulation for our crossings. Trying to gain weight can be a real challenge when you're swimming 50km per week!"

Training... And Yet More Training!
Training in the Swan River, Perth

Ceinwen: "The great thing about having eight of us training as a team is the shared camaraderie to get through the long and challenging sessions. Each of our training weeks will peak in the 50-60km range, with at least 25 to 30km of that in cold open water.

Our staple training has become long endurance swims but we've kept some threshold sets to maintain speed together with some technique sets to keep our stroke form. Open water techniques are key to a successful swim so we're doing lots of sighting and navigation practise. Being able to breathe bilaterally is important too as our support boats will move around us depending on the direction of the swell and good communication needs to be maintained with the boat at all times.

Andrew and Paul D in action
"Due to the tides, many English Channel swims start before dawn in total darkness so night swims have been part of our preparation as well. Swimming in total darkness is extremely disorientating as you lose perception of where the water ends and air begins - very freaky at first but thankfully you do get used to this!

Experience and expertise of this event is so important that we've employed the services of 7-times World Marathon Swimming Champion Shelley Taylor Smith, herself a channel veteran. We're very lucky to have Shelley local to us in Perth, thanks for all your help Shelley!"

Geoff getting greased up by Shelley before
his qualification swim

A Six Hour Qualification Swim

To even attempt a channel swim crossing you must have completed a six hour qualification swim in 16°C water or colder. Last Sunday the entire team completed this swim in the Swan River here in Perth using a 2km loop - perfect for the support crews to keep a close eye on them in case of hypothermia. The jetty was also the perfect as a feed station.

Geoff and Andrew coming in for a feed
Paul Newsome: "I swam with my trusty Garmin GPS monitor which showed that in 5h 59'09" that I had swum a total distance of 24.52km at an average pace of 14'38"/km (including drink stops). My actual swim speed was just under 13'40"/km, or the equivalent of doing 245x 100m intervals, hitting 1'22" for every 100m, leaving every 1'27" - now that would be a proper threshold / CSS set!

The conditions whilst cold were perfectly flat and with no obvious current so it's hard to draw comparisons accurately against my previous Rottnest Channel swims but I went through 19.7km in exactly 4:45 or 37 minutes faster than I have ever swum the race. This is a massive confidence boost and a good sign that all the hard work has been paying off. I certainly felt good and held a stroke rate of 80±2 SPM (strokes per minute) throughout.

Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome
was stoked with his qualification swim
I'm not even going to hypothesise what I could do across to France if I held this pace, as this has been the pitfall of many a previous swimmer, ignoring just how much the elements can play against you. However, I am confident that I have found my rhythm and that I have been doing everything I possibly can to get myself in the best possible shape for this challenge - and yes, that includes the 12kg I've put on to keep myself warm - I'm now a hefty 78kg!! I used to race triathlon at 62.5kg if you can imagine that, LOL!

Now I'm just looking forward to another good block of training and getting on with the task at hand."

Raising Money For Breast Cancer Care
Shelley and Leith keep things organised on the jetty

Lisa: "We are swimming for Breast Cancer Care WA who provide financial and emotional support to breast cancer victims and their families. In case we were not taking this part seriously enough, not long ago a member of our group told us of a beautiful 35 year old mother of two who is facing terminal cancer after breast cancer has returned to haunt her for the second time. I can only imagine what she and her family are experiencing.

It saddens me to think about my selfishness of complaining about the cold water when there are people like this in our community fighting to live. Whilst I can not guarantee the success of making it to France I know I will fight with such spirit. I'm sure you have all experienced something very close to this in your lives and watched others hurt, so please help and donate to Breast Cancer Care. Please give generously here:


So far we've raised over $25,000 dollars but we know we can raise a lot more with your help - please show your support for what we're doing!"

The Support Crews

Wayne: "It's truly amazing just how many people need to be involved in the preparation for an English Channel crossing. A special thanks from us to all the family, friends and coaches who have given up their time, energy and beauty sleep to help us qualify.

Over thirty people were involved in supporting the qualification swim and many of them will be travelling to the UK to support us during our attempts. Thanks so much - we simply couldn't do it without you guys regardless of how much training we put in!"

Here on the blog we'll keep you up to date with the team's training and how each crossing goes, including special coverage of Paul Newsome's swim on the day he crosses in September. We hope you enjoyed the update and perhaps feel a little inspired yourself!

In the meantime, if you have any messages or questions for the team then please post them in the comments sections on the bottom of the blog here.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

Good luck to each and every one of you.

I've had a rough time this week with a virus Mike Tyson could have nurtured and this blog cheered me up no end - thanks guys

Francis Riley UK

Mike Kay said...

Thanks for sharing this experience. In seeing a significant challenger personally in preparing for a 10K race with expected 20 degree water temprerature, I can't imagine taking this on. Lots of luck, and enjoy the journey.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I am so inpsired by this story, I am training for my first Ironman (Canada) in August. This makes me think positvie thoughts and very motivated! thanks for a great story

The Kiwi said...

You guys rock. Have a great swim. And most of all ENJOY.

NorthKites said...

...A truly inspiring story. I applaud your efforts and wish you all the best of luck. I will be donating to the cause as well.

Margot King said...

Cape Town Masters squad send you their best wishes and are very motivated by you guys!Hope to see some video coverage of your swimming styles and training techniques!

Anonymous said...

Wish you guys all the best! Will be following here from Brazil your quest for a succesfull crossing of English Channel. Hip, hip, hurrah!

Barbara said...

Hi, I attended one of your UK courses & will be following your website closely to see if I can come & cheer at least one of you on. Do you leave from St. Margaret's bay?
Also for those of you in the Kent, UK on 28th August, there is an open water 3.8km race from Joss Bay (this is just on the NE tip of Kent, by the North Forland lighthouse & nearest thing Kent has to a "surf beach" ha ha). It should be fun for a warm up for the Channel! Run by Royal National Lifeboats (RNLI website),
best wishes,

Richard said...

Thanks for the great Post!
Very Inspiring!
All the best to all you guys with your preparations.
Hope to follow your swims online.
Wishing you all flat conditions and clear weather.

Unknown said...

Hi Guys
have a great swim, i hope the weather gods are on your side.
Swim Smooth

Paul said...

Hi Barbara

Great seeing you again today! Hope you enjoyed those conditions - pretty extreme I'd say! ;-)

Hopefully see you again soon.



Barbara said...

...and that was just the Thames Estuary - think what the Channel can do! Hope the North Sea has had its Aussie-chucking fun for now and is kind to you for the rest of your trip,

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