Experience the welcoming nature of the Channel swimming community, says SwimTrek founder Simon Murie
A few days ago I joined the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation’s (CSPF) Annual Dinner celebrating the accomplishments of last year’s crop of English Channel swimmers. There were tales of obstacles overcome and dreams realised as well as a fair share of disappointment and better-luck-next-time stories. I joined SwimTrek’s own office relay team, the SwimTrek Spartans, at the dinner. They successfully got across at the tail end of September after overcoming challenging conditions in an admirable time of 14 hours and 7 minutes.
I have been going to these dinners (both ones organised by the Channel Swimming Association and the CSPF) for many years now. They are a mix of catching up with old friends who you met training on the beach in Dover as well as a large dose of last year’s successful swimmers and a smaller smattering of this year’s wannabees.
English Channel swimming can seem a bit like a closed shop. Common perceptions are that the swimmers are all built like the proverbial brick outhouse with a layer of blubber that a seal would be proud of! Other perceptions are that those who have swum these legendary 21 miles are completely obsessed with the sport and are at an unattainable level of superhuman fitness with laser-like mental focus.
But in fact, the perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Swimmers are all shapes and sizes and from many backgrounds. The whole experience in Dover Harbour, which is the main training site for hopeful Channel swimmers, is one of compassion and encouragement. This fantastically positive attitude, where everyone is willing to give up their time and advice at no recompense, is a wonderfully enlightening gesture for all of us to see. When I was training for my own Channel crossing back in the early 2000s, I spent many weekends with the Dover Channel Group, benefiting no end from the sense of companionship and unconditional support from the volunteers and swimmers alike and I successfully completed my Channel crossing attempt on 4 September 2002.
So inspired from the evening’s positivity was fellow attendee and SwimTrek Spartan Cat Murray, she said: “Training for the Channel relay was so different to training for pool events and gave me the open water swimming ‘itch’! Attending the wonderful evening and hearing the inspiring stories of all the soloists was the last push I needed; I’ve now started the process to get my own solo attempt booked in!”
So why not come along and attend one of these wonderful evenings of either organisation or come and join us in Dover Harbour? I promise that Channel swimmers won’t bite…