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Everything and Nothing Left to Chance for our Mermaid Channel Relay

While the Mermaids have had lots of media coverage across the UK & Ireland over the past while, a blog post with an update from our team is long overdue, so here goes!!

Well, COVID19 has been both a blessing and a curse for the Mermaids channel relay, which was scheduled to happen between June 1st & 10th. Lockdown restrictions on team sports and international travel (which swimming to France is!) has meant that we are all somewhat in limbo. Like expectant mothers, our kit bags are (almost) packed to go at short notice, but unfortunately, we are patiently awaiting for restrictions to ease a bit more, and we desperately await for that elusive call from our boat pilot, Eddie Spelling to say that The Henley Mermaids need to swiftly get themselves to Dover!

The Mermaids have been training for over a year now…. Our wetsuits have been long ditched, and we have been training with just swimsuits, hats and goggles in the river Thames all over the winter, in all weathers, in darkness as well as in daylight. While lockdown initially meant that our team sessions at Wycombe Lido and the river Thames were knocked on the head, the Mermaids resorted to cycling, spinning, pilates, yoga and walking to maintain fitness, until such point as we were permitted to start swimming in small groups of two or three again. With further easing of restrictions in the last month, we have been able to go to Dover as a team, to acclimatise ourselves to swimming in both hot sun, as well as very windy and choppy conditions.

It’s now approaching mid-July, and we are back into the treasured routine of our early Saturday morning team swim sessions in the river Thames. Just this Saturday, we had a very impromptu photo of the Mermaids on the pontoon at The Flowerpot, in Aston. When I saw the photo, it reminded me of The Spice Girls, and how they swept the world with their music, with their infectious girl power inspiring millions of girls across the globe to achieve the seemingly unachievable… While some of us unfortunately don’t have the shapely bodies of The Spice Girls (or their bank balances!!), the journey of the Henley Mermaids seems to have caught the imagination of people far and wide, and hopefully will inspire people of all ages and abilities, that it’s never too late to take up swimming, whether the ultimate goal is to swim to France, or just to pootle in the river with some kindred spirits.

In our after swim coffee and chat this Saturday, we were struck by a comment that Mermaid Jo Robb made, which was “Girls, when we have swum the Channel, why don’t we….” – the certainty and assured confidence of Jo’s comment that we will achieve our goal was very palpable, despite our nerves and reservations many months ago. When this was pointed out to Jo, she mentioned the quote from Napoleon Hill, which is “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”, and this inner belief is most definitely inherent in every one of our five Mermaids…

While in theory, the Channel Relay could be undertaken right now, it would mean losing one, or possibly two of our five Mermaids… Such is our Mermaid girl power, this possibility has been unanimously and swiftly discounted – our team is all for one, and one for all!! We just need the restrictions to ease a little bit more, so that the combined numbers of our team and the boat crew are legally allowed to be in the confined space of the boat.

The only other thing that is down to fate is a run of good weather. In this regard we are taking all measures to help bring this about… In our post swim coffee and chat this Saturday, Mermaid Joan enlightened us all about the ancient Irish tradition of putting “The Child of Prague” statue on the window sill – this apparently (and hopefully) is auspicious for a run of good weather… Suffice to say, Joan’s Child of Prague is now in a prominent position on her sitting room windowsill, so let’s hope it works its magic, in tandem with all the white feathers that the Mermaids are collecting!

Finally, in learning from the experiences of swimmers who have conquered the channel, it has been said by Kevin Murphy, ‘The King of the Channel’, who has swum it no less than 38 times, “The Channel is all about being patient”…. The Mermaids are all swimming 4-5 times a week to maintain optimal fitness, and our optimism and team spirit is stronger than ever, thankfully. In line with another Napolean Hill quote, “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success”… Let’s hope so for the Mermaids, and that luck will be on our side for the restrictions to ease a bit more and the conditions to be right, so we can achieve our much desired goal of doing our Channel Relay Swim. Stay tuned, and watch this space!


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