Conquering the Channel
I arrived in Dover on the 16-August the weather was great. Got settled into a flat just across the road from Dover harbour and rang Ray Cooper the skipper of Sea Venture 2. We organised to meet down at the boat the next day at 2pm to discuss some options regarding weather conditions and possible windows open for me to be able to make a successful channel crossing.
17th August – Woke up after a really poor night sleep, feeling fully jet lagged and then made my way down to the boat to catch up with Ray. Sitting on the boat, Ray shows me all the technical gear he has on board and plots my course on a computer program he has using my swim speed, tides and dates. After we discussed some options Ray informs me there was a window on the morning of Monday the 20th starting at 01:30. I explained to Ray how I was not feeling good after the flight over so having a few more days to get back to 100% was really good news. The plan was to leave on the 20th when my support crew arrive and the weather was right! Speaking with Ray made me even more confident about getting across because he was very technical and really fussy about the weather on the day. Paul Newsome was going to be very pushed for time to make it down to Dover from a place called Loughborough as it was about 5 hours drive but after I called him and explained what was going on he was going to leave straight after work on Sunday the 19th.
18th August – Woke up and went straight down to Dover harbor to have a swim, still feeling jet lagged. Spoke to Paul Downie in Perth, he was due to arrive in London on the 19th at 1:30pm.
19th August – Went down to the harbour to have a swim, really just to turn the arms over in preparation for the following mornings attempt to cross the channel. After speaking with Ray at 6pm I found out that the swim was on for the following morning starting at 01:30. As if on cue, just after I spoke to Ray, Paul D arrived. For those of you who know Paul, it doesn’t matter where he is he has the knack of lifting everyone’s spirit and is always the life of the party and when your in Dover everyone needs a dose of Paul! If you have been to Dover it is pretty boring…. NOT ANYMORE, CAPTAIN DOWNIE’S IN TOWN. 7pm Ray rings back and tells me that the wind gusts are going to get quite strong and weather is not looking good. He said his gut feeling is telling him not to leave. Paul and I spoke about it and made the decision not to go, so the swim was off. I called Paul Newsome letting him know about the decision and told him Ray was talking about going the following morning, giving Paul a bit more time to get organised.
20th August – The fog is really thick in Dover today so I went for a swim in the harbour just to turn the arms over again as Ray said we might leave early the following morning, the only thing that might stop us would be the fog. After Paul D went for a jog and mean a jog we have some breky back at the flat and then get all the gear organized for the impending swim. Ray calls telling me that the swim is on, we are to meet at the mariner at 01:15. Paul D rings Paul N to let him know the swim was back on. Paul D and myself get all the final things sorted and then try and get some sleep. Paul N arrives just after 12am, at last I feel like everything is coming together. I’ve got both my support crew with me and I feel like I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m really nervous but confident that I will make the crossing, third time lucky!! One last thing before leaving the flat, I had to read a letter my wife had written. I was under strict instruction not to read it until I was leaving to board the boat, so I sat on the bed and opened it. I have to admit, it brought a tear to my eye. I didn’t know it at the time but this letter would play a big part on getting me across the channel
21st August – We load Paul N’s car and head down to meet the skipper, Ray Cooper, First Mate Bob and Peter the Official that works for The Channel Association. 01:15 we load the boat. I asked Ray if I could put this little green dolphin on the dash of the boat, my mum had bought for me, for good luck. We headed around to Samphire Hoe beach. On the way around, Paul N gets me prepared with sunscreen and wool fat, great fun! Thanks Lisa I love that wool fat….. just joking!
What a start, 02:25 on Tuesday morning the 21-AUG-2012. It is pitch black I am ready
I climb down the ladder at the back of the boat, both Paul’s are really firing me up. I lower my self into the water I don’t really feel the cold I’ve got so much
adrenaline going through my body. Bob has got the big spot light shining on the shore. I start to swim toward the beach, as I get close the light from the spotty is
shining on the pebbles on the bottom. I walk up the pebbles, it’s like a ramp but every step you take you slide backwards a little. I get up and turn towards the boat I’m about 4 feet away from the water, my hands go up in the air to single to the boat I’m ready to go, they sound the horn. It’s all on now, I walk back into the water and start swimming for France.
I have a plan, I’ve already told my self I’m going to be in the water for 15 hours.
I broke the 15 hours up into 5*3 hour blocks so every 3 hours I would start the clock ticking in my head again. At that stage I was thinking about Geoff Wilson and his massive crossing last year that took him 15 hours plus, it was actually a bit off putting that I might be in the channel for that long in the cold.
Unexpectily I went into a real flat spot after my first drink, I was feeling really negative I did not say anything to both of the Paul’s it was dark and cold I just kept on pushing forward towards France.
That’s where the letter comes in! I just started thinking about my lovely wife, Darlene and my two beautiful kids Taylor and Harriet. I just seemed to snap out of the flat spot and really started to dig in. After that, I felt like I did when I got off the boat at the start when both the Paul’s were firing me up, I was in a good head space my support team were running like clock work and everything just started to full into place.
It was starting to get light, I was waiting for the sun to hit my back and warm me up a bit. That did not happen as the fog was in and you could not see that far out in front of the boat.
Both the Paul’s were keeping me fired up and getting messages off of the live tweeter on Paul N’s ipad, that was really good. Paul N was writing the messages up on the marker board
and every time I would breath to my right I would read a couple of words at a time until I got the whole message, it was really motivational
Paul D came to the edge of the boat and yelled “Dolphins, dolphins it’s an omen!” next thing they went straight underneath me and disappeared. I could hear them talking or squeaking to each other for about five minutes it was unbelievable.
It was the green dolphin which mum gave me for good luck that was now on the dash of the boat that bought them here, well that’s what I thought at the time.
The further we got the stronger I was feeling. Paul D had the drink ,date slice and pain med stops down pat and Paul N was giving me technique advise at different points while we were crossing, that must have been the MR SMOOTH coming out in him what a bonus that was! I think he might have to double cross my ‘pay as you go’ card next time I’m down at squad training, not only did I have the best swim coach on board but he was snapping away with his camera.
Paul D did not stop he was always at the edge of the boat cheering me on in between his other jobs.
I made a point when I left England not to look back and not to look forward. Every time I stopped for a feed I just focused on the boat and both the Paul’s but I knew in my head that we had to be close. I was into my fourth 3 hour block and I had been swimming really strong. The sun broke through the clouds, I could feel my back warm up and then I couldn’t help myself I had a little peak to my left, there was France. We still had a fair way to go, no more looking! The skies were blue, the sun was out and we were close. I knew at that point nothing was going to stop me from getting to France!
The water temp was a bit warmer and I felt like I had heaps of energy, I just kept swimming. It felt as if hours had passed since I first took a peak at France and then Paul N leaned over the edge of the boat and shouted you have 1 mile to go. I thought to myself that’s 1.6kms. I stopped and asked where the Cape was but I didn’t get an answer as Paul D shouted, “Just keep swimming!” so off I went. About a half hour later Paul N shouts out “You have 1km to go”, I stopped in the water again to ask Paul D to ring Ceinwen and tell her the 12hrs 55mins that she had done last year is not looking good…. YOU MACHINE Ceinee! I don’t know how you swam in the DARK for over 6hrs into France, unbelievable. Paul’s reply was a little more abrupt this time, he really shouted ‘Just keep F*@#ing swimming”, that’s when I thought I better not stop again.
I did not realize at that time but we were right in the flood tide turning, the current was pulling us towards the Cape really fast. The crew where worried that we would be washed past the Cape which would have meant swimming for a few more hours.
At that stage I put in a bit of a surge, I couldn’t help myself.
I didn’t realise both Paul’s had jumped in behind me,
next thing I was right near the rocks and Paul N appeared.
I was looking for the easiest way out because I knew my legs were not going to work that well. It was a bit of a mission to get up the rocks,
I sat there for a minute before I got to my feet and then slowly straightened up. I nearly fell backwards but I got it together and
raised my hands in the air. My throat was so sore that I couldn’t yell out so I just stood there thinking….. I have finally made it! It was like this weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Tuesday the 21-Aug-12 a bit past 2pm I smashed into the shores just west of Cap Gris Nez, France in 11 hours 34 minutes. Paul D made his way over to the rock that we were on, it was the best feeling, we were only metres away from were Paul D landed in 2011. I asked Paul N if he could get me a rock so I could take a piece of France back with me,
he was standing behind me at that stage and he just yelled out at the top of his voice. I thought, “Yes that’s what I wanted to do” but my throat was too sore. There was I lot of joy in the air, to say the least.
We then had to get off the rocks to get back to the boat, which was only about 100m away.
Once we were back at the boat it was pretty hard getting up the ladder because my legs were really stiff and not moving as I had wanted
but once aboard I tried to get as much of the wool fat off me as possible
with Mr Downie’s help.
Paul N showed me the rock that he got from the beach, it was pretty heavy ,I’m surprised he was able to swim with it. Finally I had all my warm clothes on.
Paul D had made a whole heap of ham and cheese sandwiches before we left in the morning and all I kept on thinking as we approached France was, I hope they have saved me one. Luckily there was one left, Paul passed it to me and I sat there and ate the best ham & cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Looking back at France, I thought, “Shit that was a long way”.
I was starting to feel pretty sore by then but Paul D thought we should give the date cake a ceremony at sea, not before we all grabbed a piece to eat, so into the channel he tipped it, it was pretty funny.
Ray stopped the boat about 25 minutes out of Dover where Bob pulled the cover back off the motor, as it didn’t sound right, the gear box had blown. That could have easily have happened as we were coming towards France meaning we would’ve had to have called the swim off. Ray called the Sea Rescue boat to come and tow us but by the time they got to us half an hour had past and it then took us about one and a half hours to get back to Dover. All of the Rescue men and women on board were all volunteer’s what a job, were would have we drifted to without them. We finally made it back to Dover. God must have been watching over me that day.
What a Team
I would just like to thank -
My lovely wife Darlene – what can I say, you have stuck by me and have been there every step of the way. I know it wouldn’t have been easy. To think it has been nearly two and half years of training. You, Taylor and Harriet were with me all the way riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear ‘We are here and together nothing is impossible’ all the way across, ‘You can do it Wayne you can do it dad’. You all gave me so much drive to make it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it with out you. Love you Forever Wayno
Skipper Ray Cooper – when I met you for the first time you showed me all the stuff on board your boat. I knew I had the best skipper in town. I walked away from
the boat that day feeling really relaxed that you would pick the best day for me, what a champion you are. It is such a shame that a man with your knowledge and experience of the channel is retiring. I wish you well in your retirement, have a great one mate. First mate Bob, when Ray was not at the helm and you were I knew you had full control thanks mate.
Paul Newsome – well mate months out from the swim you braved the freezing cold river, weekend after weekend, your coaching is second to none. The program you put together for me aimed at getting me in peak shape to swim the channel it was the biggest bonus anyone could have ask for. To drive all that way from Loughborough, have no sleep and come on the boat for 15 hours was a super human effort. The technical advise on my stroke while I was crossing, photographic work and messaging on tweeter was fantastic. It was truly amazing having you on board. Michelle thank you all for being so understanding about Paul’s time he spent away from you, Jackson and Isla while coaching me.
Paul Downie – what can I say mate! Like Paul N you were there months out from the swim. If you were not there paddling next to me in some of the roughest conditions I’ve ever swam in, in the river, you were skippering your boat on some swims that would be 3 to 4 hours long and to make a commitment to come to Dover to be part of my support crew before you started your holiday in Turkey with Didi, Legend. Having you on board the boat was unbelievable, you did not stop, you were right there the whole time, even when we got there you jumped in and got dragged along with me towards the Cape in that strong current, however you still managed to get some photo’s of the finish, you are a champion mate. Thank you to Didi.
Ceinwen & Andy Roberts – you were there for the first & second attempt and in spirit for my third one. Ceinwen my master date slice maker! You both paddled for me on numerous occasions and in-between clients you walked Rio along the river next to me sacrificing your spare time together to support me on those long training sessions we did on weekends. You were both incredible support thanks to you both you are legends.
Adam Young – getting the Channeldare website back up and running and the ‘My Cause’ site working, thanks heaps.
Andrew Hunt – months out from the swim you either braved the cold river next to me on the long training swims I did or you were paddling next to me. The technical man behind the map and the little white dot crossing the channel on the website, he was my dietary adviser as well. Just three weeks out from leaving to go to Dover Andrew told me that he thought it would be a good idea to raise the level of carbohydrates I was taking. I think if we had not changed the carbs it would have been a different day in the channel when I crossed thanks mate.
Mal Day – you supported me through sponsoring my flights for my first two attempts in 2011 and you didn’t hesitate to back me again for my third attempt this year. Your generosity is unbelievable, thank you very much.
Simon Norriss you have paddled for me since 2005 before my first attempt at Rotto in 2006 and you have been their helping me train whenever you can. To come on them freezing mornings leading up to my channel crossing was much appreciated, thanks mate.
Damon Brown you paddled and swam in the cold next to me on some of the longest training sessions I did thank you very much mate.
Amanda Nitschke thank you very much for paddling next to me on them cold mornings at the river, taking time out of your day and all the times you offered to help much appreciated.
Physiotherapist Prue Newnham well two years since I first hobbled in to see you, you put a strengthening program together for me to get my body back on track. And after my unsuccessful crossings in 2011, back to the drawing board we went what a great Physiotherapist you are thanks a million.
John Edwards Paddling on them cold mornings taking time out of your day away from your family much appreciated.
Rory Thompson & Simon Bedbrook paddling them days got pretty rough in the river thanks for all your support.
Lisa Delaurentis I know how much you love the cold water! you still come down and swam with me in the freezing river and for getting me the wool fat this train has terminated thanks for all your support.
Geoff Wilson I don’t know about that guinness, bowl of yogurt fresh raspberries for a channel crossing sore throat. I did not even get to the yogurt and raspberries after Paul D had bought me one to many half pints of Guinness.
Thanks for all your support since my unsuccessful crossings in 2011 you are a champion.
Swim Smooth Squad to all of you, great photo that Paul D took and sent to me, your support leading up to the channel was unbelievable and how you all got behind me, just a bunch of great people to be around see you all soon.
And to all the people who donated money to Breast Cancer Care WA thank you very much
Thanks to you all