We have done it! in 17 hours 43 minutes we swam from England to France with our pilot Eddy Spelling, and the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation.
Eddy called us on Sunday 19th July saying we are on for a swim start of July 21st 11:00pm. We arrived in Dover, checked into the Premier Inn, all very nervous, found a pasta restaurant and tried to eat dinner.
All got ready, and boarded the Anastasia, our pilot boat with it's crew led by Eddy Spelling of the CS&PF, pulled out of Dover harbour, and took a hard right turn to Shakespeare Beach. Eddy navigated us as closely as he could to the beach, which was still a long way from shore. Laura was first out - Eddy told us strongest swimmer first.
We attached our adventure lights onto hat and costume of each night swimmer, they'd flash throughout in order that the observer wouldn't lose us amongst the waves.
Laura said " It was utterly terrifying, I had to jump into the pitch black sea, swim to shore all on my own. Getting out onto the beach, then swim back through the breakers, with no light back to the boat. It was horrific, and by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I had to have a firm word with myself & just get on with it. I did think that this was it I wouldn't make it and they'd never find my body."
Next up was Jo, and quite used to big waves having grown up by the Ocean in Sydney took it in her stride. The observers light on us beside the boat to keep us straight & light our way.
Then was Joan, and after her Susan. Once we had all swam once, that was our relay, and the order couldn't be changed, if anyone had to stop, touch the boat, or couldn't continue that was it - our attempt was over.
The sun was beginning to come up, and the Channel took a totally different look - the water very slowly turned from pitch black, to an aqua, duck egg blue colour. As the sun came up, so did the jellyfish!
We all thoroughly loved our second and third swims, got into our stride, more comfortable. We sadly saw immigrant dinghy's, we were battered by massive bow-waves from supertankers, and Eddy cleverly piloted us through the busiest shipping lane in the world!
Our hearts sank a little when we looked back towards Dover, and the white cliffs seemed as close as they'd ever been! The 4 hours on the boat when we weren't swimming felt like an hour, and the hours swim felt like 4 hours!
When we were resting on the boat, we tried to sleep, ate, tried to warm up and kept the swimmer in the water going with cheery waves and shouts of encouragement.
Next Eddy popped his head out of the cabin and told that this 4th swim (Laura's 4th swim) was the toughest, we had an hour to make it across where two tides clash, and if we didn't do it in that hour, our channel attempt would be just that - an attempt. In this section your whole swimming style goes out of the window, it is all about survival, and self preservation.
We made it through. Jo was in next, we thought she might land the swim, but the tide was strong, and it took Joan to land on Wissant beach. We knew the end was in sight when Eddy launched the Tender to chug alongside Joan to shore. In any normal times we would all have been able to swim to shore, but due to Covid regulations, the other 4 of us had to wait on Anastasia, and view Joan landing in the far distance. Joan was greeted by sunbathers, and visitors to Wissant beach, she felt like a superstar! Luckily she was wearing her lucky swimming cossie - Saggy Baggy, now framed for prosperity (just as well, because it had no elastic left in it!).
We'd done it - the most amazing feeling! 5 slightly podgy, middle-aged women had become Channel Swimmers. Not the fastest crossing, not the prettiest track, but we were (and still are) elated. It was our worst and best day all rolled into one.
Exhausted, we then hoped to motor back to Dover, but another pilot boat had got into trouble, and was stuck on a sand bar. In order for their swimmers to be able to complete their crossing, we helped out by escorting them to shore.
So after 17 hours 43 mins swimming from 11:30pm we then didn't get back to Dover until 11pm. Our lovely friends & families came to cheer us off the boat. What a fantastic day, we were now all firmly joined by the greatest day, and shared experience.