English Channel relay swim

English Channel relay swim

Update 2022-11-22: Unfortunately our swim ended up as a DQ due to the a failed changeover at 04:52. According to the observer log, Ingrid missed the deadline and entered the water at 04:55, making my 1st shift overrun by 3 minutes. As a result the swim was declared invalid by the CS&PF committee. We hope to try again in 2023.

All times in this article are in British Summer Time (UTC+1). Photo credit to my crew Paul Cribb unless otherwise specified.

On 3 October, I and Ingrid Chow swam from England to France as a relay team of 2 people, “Hongkongers in the UK”, in 16 hours and 50 minutes (02:52 – 19:42, pending ratification). This was my final major swimming challenge of the year (the previous 2 being races, Vidösternsimmet and BLDSA Windermere)

Our swim track. The blue sections were by me and the red sections were by my partner Ingrid.

TL;DR if you are considering doing a 2-person English Channel relay – don’t listen to loneswimmer’s advice below if you are not a strong swimmer.

My opinion on a 2 person relay is you might as well solo. The big challenge is rewarming when on the boat. If it’s an open deck and the weather is bad, it’ll be that much harder.

loneswimmer, Marathon Swimmers Forum

Swimming 15-18 hours straight, having to break through the tide towards the end of it when your body is urging you to stop, is a completely different level of challenge compared to swimming 2 hours at a time. The Channel isn’t that cold, especially in August and September. I would say that only strong swimmers should go for a solo, while a 2-person relay, like all other relays, is accessible to a much wider range of swimming ability.

Motivation

My idea of doing an English Channel relay swim started when mass emigration from Hong Kong to the UK started, as a result of the destruction of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa scheme. It would be a great idea if we could form a team of swimmers emigrated from Hong Kong to the UK to do an English Channel relay swim, which is one of the most British challenge we can do.

As I had already planned a solo in 2021, and I would need time to find team members and pilot availability, I hoped to do the relay in 2022, the next year after my solo. However, my solo eventually went bad. I couldn’t recover from it at all and it has since then permanently destroyed my swimming confidence that I no longer have a plan to try it again unless I become a much stronger swimmer. It didn’t affect my relay plan as I treated them as completely separate challenges. I emailed the pilots again in November 2021 for availability in late season 2022, and only Mike Oram replied me with availabilities (8 September – 15 September, spring position 4; 16 September – 23 September, neap position 3; 24 September – 1 October, spring position 2). As my life returned to normal after my failed Channel swim, swimming races took priority so I picked the last one after the Windermere race on 17 September, with a one-week rest after the race.

Cost

Channel swimming is an expensive sport (although not as expensive as climbing the Everest), with our cost breakdown for 2022 as follows:

  • Pilot fee: £3500 (£2000 deposit + £1500 remainder)
  • Administration fee: £350
  • CS&PF membership: £20 per person per year
  • Medical: depends on your provider, typically in the range around £75 per person

The above are the only compulsory direct cost, and also travel & accommodation (if needed), which can be as little as a train ticket to Dover depending on you and your crew’s requirements. The above add up to approximately £4000 which I use as the budget, but you are likely to spend another substantial sum depending on how you get your training done.

Team members

At that time, only Ingrid Chow had agreed to form a team with me. Our target was to have a team with as many people as possible – the more people the merrier the team is. Any experienced open water swimmers who are Hongkongers living in the UK (including British expats who returned to the UK after residence in Hong Kong) could join the team until the team was full, with would mean 8 people in the team.

I posted in various community groups for interest and the replies I got, apart from Ingrid Chow, didn’t meet my criteria of being an experienced open water swimmer (one 10 km or longer open water swim result, or a few middle-distance results like 3 to 5 km swims, triathlon swims, etc., would suffice). A few people only did pool swimming in the past, and I had brought someone who claimed who was an open water swimmer without any racing experience to the beach and he turned out not a competent swimmer at all.

As a result, Ingrid was my only teammate so we ended up doing a 2-person relay. She is a triathlete who had a working holiday in the UK in 2019, and did a 10 km swim in the wetsuit category. In 2020 after she returned to Hong Kong, we swam for a few times together as well. Therefore, she was clearly experienced enough to do a Channel relay swim.

Training

As my focus this year was the 2 races mentioned above, Vidösternsimmet and BLDSA Windermere, my training was mainly for a solo long-distance lake swim. After my failure in the solo Channel attempt last year, I realised that my endurance and speed were my major limiter so this year I did nearly all training in pools in form of interval training.

My volume was approximately 13 km per week in summer, and 15 km per week early autumn, spread out 4 times per week, all in the pool. They were all interval trainings of various lengths per interval, from 1 length of the Parliament Hill Field Lido (61 m) to 16 lengths of it (976 m), nothing else.

I had very little open water training since I moved away from the coast on 9 June. Those very little training was also done in lakes as well instead of the sea as I was training for lake races. I had no open water swimming at all in the first month after moving away apart from the races, and in the following month, I did a few long lake swims up to 4 hours in order to prepare for the race in August. After racing in August I no longer had open water training again. Apart from racing I had only 2 very short sea swims in the nearly 4 months between my relocation and the Channel relay.

Despite the above, I still signed up for 2 events specifically for relay training purpose – BLDSA Champion of Champions (Dover) in June and the 3 km race in the East Region Open Water Swimming Championships (in addition to the 5 km national qualifier) in July. They allowed me to compared performance when I did multiple races on the same day. I couldn’t complete the BLDSA one after wind blew up in the middle of race hampering my progress and bringing me into hypothermia, which was held on a cold day, and the recovery time between the races wasn’t enough for me to get back in race shape. I did finish the East Region races which were held on a warm day, with a much longer time (about 3 hours) between the races, although I ran out of endurance on the final part of the 5 km race (1:01:42 in the morning 3 km, but 1:55:50 in the afternoon 5 km).

Dovercoaster

The whole tide of 24 Sep to 1 Oct was blown out, except a small window on 29 Sep when 4 boats (not including ours) went out. We reported our swim speed to be 2.3 km/h (1.2 knots) and the pilot estimated we would need about 18 hours to get across so we would need a weather window of at least this long. We then looked into the upcoming weather forecast. I suggested possible dates but my partner Ingrid had a problem getting leaves from work for some of these dates.

Eventually the forecast on 3 Oct became clear and I received an email from the pilot on 1 Oct morning telling me availability to meet at 01:30, while I was out for orienteering on that day. I had successfully persuaded my partner to swim the relay on that date.

I was planning to sign up another orienteering race in Kent on 2 Oct with the deadline being afternoon 1 Oct. I was still thinking about racing for a while after the confirmation of the relay, as the orienteering race venue was half way between my home and Dover, but finally, after careful consideration, I decided to skip it this time as the timing of the race wasn’t good to schedule rest before the relay, and I ended up sleeping late into afternoon on 2 Oct. I cooked my lunch at home, then tried to sleep again, and in the evening I bought a 12″ pizza for dinner. Not long after the dinner, on my way to Dover, I bought fast food to eat on the train as well to get me the energy I would need for swimming.

The forecast half a day before showed a calm condition in the morning, and up to Force 3 (13-19 km/h) later on the day. It would be ideal if the swim was conducted half a day earlier at night, but the forecast was always changing and there was also a possibility that the reality would change as well.

Our support crew

As we had only 2 people in the team, we needed a support crew member to take care of the team member on the boat while the other one is swimming. I asked nearly everyone experienced I knew in the UK but none were available – either they were working or they had a family to take care of. Fortunately Paul Cribb from my triathlon club came to our rescue. He was available on most days in the period while he was waiting for a new job to start, except the few days when he needed to have party with his son.

Logistics

The most common way to get to Dover from London is by high-speed train. Our meeting time and place were 01:30 3 Oct at Dover Marina so the last train to Dover, arriving 00:34 would be perfect for our need. However, that train was a low-speed train from London Charing Cross instead, that if we took a high-speed train from London St Pancras we would need to change at Ashford. Therefore we took that low-speed train all the way from London to avoid any additional risk of anything going wrong on the high-speed train. Despite having only 1 day of advance notice, I could still bought a cheap Advance train ticket for my journey from London to Dover, costing me only £12.70 with railcard discount compared to £19.80 for a walk up ticket. I also bought an Advance ticket at £12.60 for my return journey on the first train back from Dover the day after the relay, not willing to pay the walk-up peak fare which could be up to £33.25 (high-speed) or £28.60 (low-speed), as it was unlikely that we could make the last train back on our swim day unless we could swim really fast.

Ingrid lives in Reading so she took the high-speed train to Paddington, then boarded the train to Dover at Charing Cross after crossing London by Bakerloo line. As my home in Cricklewood is close to the Jubilee line and Thameslink, the only convenient station for me on the main line to Dover is London Bridge so I joined her there, 2 stops after she boarded.

Waiting for my partner to come

We would need to arrange the crew member, Paul, to come as well but he would drive his own van from Poole (which unfortunately prevented our travel to be completely eco-friendly and car-free) and he would need a hotel room on the day before and after as well (where a hotel room wasn’t in our plan and we would only book one on the spot if we ended up returning at some inconvenient hours after the swim). Therefore we booked a hotel room next to the train station for him with parking included.

When our train arrived Dover, he would then drive us down to the marina. However, we had completely no idea about parking there at all (as we hadn’t done any research on it while planning a car-free journey) and the signposted parking codes there didn’t work, and we ended up needing to find the marina office to ask for that, and the office gave us a special code which I could enter to pay the parking fee.

The swim

Mike Oram is the captain of a fleet with 3 pilot boats under the name of Pedro Boats / Dover Sea School: Gallivant (on which he is the skipper), West Wind (skipper Lance Oram) and Sea Satin (skipper Tanya Harding), and our team was assigned to be on Sea Satin. The boat crew is an all-female crew, with the skipper Tanya Harding an open water swim coach. Our official observer was Bel Lavers, who is a Channel swimmer and also a coach as well.

We decided our relay team order to be:

  1. Michael Tsang (me)
  2. Ingrid Chow

Therefore I would be the one to start the swim. The boat carried us to Abbot Cliff but as it couldn’t get onto the beach, I would need to jump off the boat, swim to the shore, clear the water completely and return to the water to start the swim.

It was already late in the season and the water was no longer warm. The Sandettie weather buoy recorded 16.2°C air, 17.5°C water, and 3.1 m/s (11.2 km/h) wind at 03:00.

1st shift

My first shift was in complete darkness. I started at 02:52. Our agreement was to swim to the port side but when I started I could only see the starboard side. I felt confused at that point and looked up the boat, and I was told to swim past the stern while the boat turned.

My goddess Edie Hu (who has done both a 2-person relay and a solo) had advised me to treat each swim as a race, and swim as fast as possible. For me, 2 hours is the approximate time needed for a 5 km race, so I swam in the same way as I would in a 5 km race. (Also I would need to swim at race pace in this temperature to prevent getting too cold.) Although each shift was only 2 hours, it actually felt forever to me considering that there were absolutely nothing I could see to judge distances. My mind was absolutely empty while I swam for that 2 hours. I was desperately waiting to see my partner Ingrid jumping off the boat to mark the end of my shift while swimming at 5 km effort.

After 2 hours of swimming, I finally saw Ingrid jump off the boat. According to the rules, the changeover was only complete at the point she overtook me from behind so I had to look at her and let her pass me closely before I could get back onto the boat.

My first shift took me half way in the England inshore zone.

When I got back on the boat, my crew Paul helped me to put on my clothes (including another dry swim trunk) to get me warm as soon as possible, then we moved into the cabin where I had some food and he would get me some warm water. I had a little bit of shivering which was expected in such temperature – a process which I enjoy in cool water swimming. I ate 4 burger buns in this rest period while Ingrid was swimming her 1st shift, however, maybe because I didn’t drink enough water before my swim (I forgot to carry water), it was a bit hard for me to eat buns and I could only eat them slowly while drinking water.

The 2-hour rest period wasn’t that much time as the act of dressing myself and eating food had already taken a good proportion of it, and not long after I finished the buns I was told half an hour left. I then needed to get back to the deck, and prepare myself such that I could complete the changeover on time.

During the rest I already had self doubt as I knew I still had 3 shifts of forever coming, and I was afraid I would eventually run out of endurance at some point as happened in the East Region 5 km race. Also I had bad memory from my failure last year as well.

2nd shift

Ingrid’s first shift brought us to the boundary of the English shipping lane. 1 minute before the changeover, I was instructed to get down the ladder, such that when the siren rang I could immediately jump overboard. The boat would be positioned such that Ingrid would be next to it, allowing me to overtake from the behind immediately. The thought of jumping back into the cold sea and swim for another 2 hours at race speed was tough to my mind despite I really love being in the sea, although in reality once the initial few minutes were passed, it wasn’t that cold at all at 17.5°C, which was an appropriate temperature for race-speed swimming.

My shift started just before the sunrise and the weather was gorgeous. However, it was not perfectly calm with the wind speed reported to be 2.6 m/s (9.4 km/h) by Sandettie at 07:00. Although the sea tasted good I didn’t want to drink too much mixture of air and seawater as it had resulted in diarrhoea in my past swims.

My mind couldn’t stay empty in my second shift as it would make me feel the swim was forever, and I started counting numbers in my head. Eventually I settled into counting strokes in the manner of every 8 strokes would add 1/9 (one-ninth) into the counter, and I counted from 0 to 60 then back to 0.

In other words, I started from 0, 1⁄9, 2⁄9, 3⁄9, etc., until I reach 59 7⁄9, 59 8⁄9, 60, then back to 59 8⁄9, 59 7⁄9, etc., and if I was keeping my stroke rate at 72 per minute, the changeover would happen when I counted back to 0.

however, as I started counting some time after my shift, it wasn’t accurate and could only serve as a reference to help me get through the hours. It still seemed a long way to count from 0 to 60 then back to 0 when each increment / decrement was only 1⁄9, but at least it helped my patience that I could expect changeover when the counter ran out, and not when the counter was still a large number.

I counted to 10 on the way back to 0 when I saw Ingrid jumped overboard again, and climbed back on board after the changeover. As usual Paul helped me to put on clothes again and we got back into the cabin. This time I decided to ate 3 buns only and 1 Pot Noodles as I would like something warm to eat, it would be easier to eat soup noodles compared to buns and and it provided more energy compared to 4 buns. However, it turned out to be a mistake. Although I had already been used to the exact same flavour of Pot Noodles at home, it was so salty that it would not be nice to eat after drinking so much sea water in my swim (that would mean it would be a good thing to have for fresh water relay swims), and I felt a bit uncomfortable afterwards. Fortunately by the time I had to swim again the discomfort was gone.

In addition, I also farted a lot as a result of swallowing wind, however, I didn’t have any ill effects like diarrhoea unlike my previous solo swims, because the swim was not long.

I still had huge self doubt as I couldn’t wipe the memory of my failure away and chatted about it with the observer about every bad thing happened in that swim (training, weather, pilot, etc.) and she convinced me that this swim was so different in every aspect and I would smash it. I was hoping that we could complete the swim in 16 hours, i.e. 4 shifts by each team member, and my mind at that point was that I was half-way that stuff and I hoped that Ingrid would carry us past the separation zone by the end of her 2nd shift. I asked Paul if we was in the separation zone but he didn’t have knowledge of the marine rules, so I rephrased the question to ask him if the all the ships in front of us were moving from right (starboard) to left (port) while the ships behind us were all in the opposite direction, and it turned out to be true. The pilot told me, just before the changeover, that we were 2/3 across the separation zone. At that time my mood started to go down as the French shipping lane was wider than the English shipping lane and we had to get past the separation zone completely to make it half-way across.

3rd shift

I jumped overboard again to start the 3rd shift as instructed at 10:52. At that time the wind had already increased as per forecast, with Sandettie reporting 3.6 m/s (13 km/h) at 11:00. It was increasing choppy that I drank sea water again immediately on entry.

In this shift I counted numbers from the beginning in the manner described above. The wind became stronger but I really didn’t want to drink so much sea water to the extent that I would get sick, therefore I ended up swimming in a less-efficient position, rolling my head so much to the sky to breathe. Sandettie reported 4.6 m/s (16.6 km/h) at 12:00 – a proper Force 3 condition consistent with the observation by my eyes.

My shift ended with a near-perfect count – my count was very close to 0 when the changeover was done, indicating that I was keeping my stroke rate at 72 per minute in the shift, my usual count for swimming races.

After I got out, Paul helped me to put on clothes as usual and I returned to eating 4 buns only. My appetite wasn’t good at all but I had to force myself to complete the buns as I would need the energy to swim for another 2 hours.

Although I knew perfectly that my body was capable to do a Channel relay, my mind wasn’t at all, and I actually cried thinking why the heck I was doing this suffering. In the last few shifts I had to scream to give me courage to jump back into the “cold” sea water.

4th shift

We were nearly out of the French shipping lane at that moment. I hoped that it would be my last shift. In fact I told the crew that I hope it would be my last swim ever in the sea in this year. I really enjoy being in the sea and love sea swimming but this relay was giving me a great pressure to the extent that I couldn’t enjoy it in the summer, as every time I went to the sea I was thinking about training rather than enjoyment.

I jumped back into the sea and started the shift. I really wanted to get as far as possible in my 2 hours to allow Ingrid to land our relay, however, I didn’t feel I had much strength left. I couldn’t push as hard as before, however, I could still keep a steady pace without getting extreme fatigue as happened in the East Region 5 km swim. My stroke count had dropped to the extend that my counting, described above, was still at 3 when the changeover to complete my shift took place afterwards.

I saw a jellyfish at about the middle of the swim, the only one I saw during the whole course, fortunately I didn’t swim into it.

There were 2 reasons I really hoped that we could complete the matter within 16 hours:

  • If I needed to have the 5th shift it would be past sunset and in darkness.
  • We would probably not make the last train home on the same night if our swim went past 16 hours.

After I got out, I was told the devastating fact that I would probably need to get wet again afterwards. The good thing was that it would be a short swim and I was going to land the relay. I still had self-doubt at that point as, although land looked close, it might be a false impression as land 5 km away, or even 13 km away, would also look close in an open sea, and the view was nearly the same when my solo attempt was aborted last year with the land looked so close.

I got dressed again, but at this time, I ran out of dry swim trunks as I expected that my 1st one would already had been dried at that point, but it didn’t happen as my crew put it under a chair not exposed to the air. Therefore I didn’t put on a trunk until I had to get ready for the changeover. I got back to the cabin and ate 4 more buns again, and waited for the inevitable to happen.

Final shift

It was already beyond sunset and I was swimming into darkness. Although I was totally used to night swimming and there was nothing I would worry about it, it was so demoralising knowing that nearly everyone else had already completed the challenge in daytime and heading home already. I was told that I would probably land the swim in about 40-50 minutes but even such a short time felt so long to me when I just wanted to finish the matter as soon as possible and get home.

I was instructed to stay close to the boat until it couldn’t go further, by that point I would be told to swim straight into shore and they would send someone to follow me. I suddenly felt a sense of strength and I swam like I was racing 1.5 km (which normally take me 29 minutes) despite that I had already swum for 8 hours on the day before. The sea was as calm as a lake there as the wind died. I started counting again like I previously did and hoped that the boat would stop moving. I counted to 10, 20, 30 and 40 and the boat was still moving. My speed wasn’t really sustainable at that point and I would have trouble keeping it over an hour. At about 45, the boat stopped and the siren rang, which meant I was on the final approach to shore and I would head straight into shore. However as it was already in darkness I couldn’t see clearly which way was perpendicular to the shoreline, and could only aim for a hill top. The observer reported afterwards that I was swimming straight in the beginning, but turned a bit in the middle.

I continued swimming while keeping the count. I still had no idea how far I was from shore apart from the fact that the boat couldn’t go further. It was nearly complete darkness already and the place was deserted. There were no signs of civilisation, no buildings, no cars, etc. I kept swimming at race speed desperate to end this bloody thing. A few minutes later my hand touched sand at the bottom, but I still needed to swim until I totally cleared the water to finish the thing. As it was complete darkness I couldn’t really judge how far away the cliff in front of me was, and even a minute was a long time by then. My counter went to 48, 49, and I was still swimming, barely touching the sand under me, and when I counted to 50, the water was no longer deep enough to swim any more and I ran straight onto the beach. It was a very nice sandy beach in the middle of nowhere, not even a sign written in French welcoming me. I ran and ran and ran until my feet were on dry sand, then I raised my arms to signify my finish. It was already 19:41 on the day, more than an hour after sunset. I expected the siren to ring but I couldn’t hear anything. A while afterwards I saw the observer, Bel, emerging from the water as well confirming my finish. It was such a lonely place and I didn’t get excited at all as I didn’t see anything French there, unlike some daytime finishes when people on the beach congratulated the swimmer. There was no glory at the finish moment.

The only thing left was to swim back to the boat with the observer, which would take me another few minutes. Although the swim was officially ended, I still swam at race speed back ahead of the observer because I started to feel cold when I was exposed to the air on the beach, and had to look back to see if she was following me closely, instead of enjoying the remaining time in the water with the observer.

The way back

I climbed back onto the boat for the final time, followed by Bel. I got dressed and could finally pack my swim trunks, and ate another 2 buns on the way back. After everyone made it safely on board, the boat started its full-speed journey back to Dover, by then the wind picked up again. At 21:00 Sandettie weather buoy reported 7.2 m/s (25.9 km/h) wind, which corresponded to Force 4 on the Beaufort scale. We were so lucky that we just made it in time before the conditions turned worse. It made the journey back a rough ride, however my crew Paul felt asleep on the whole way back after taking care of us for 17 hours. The ride back to Dover took approximately 2.5 hours, an eternity to me.

We talked about our swimming on the way back with the pilot and crew, who are both open water swim coaches. They mentioned that I wiggled a lot and my pull was ineffective when I swam, and also mentioned something to my partner Ingrid as well. They told me that I would need a lot of stroke work and another 2 years if I wanted to do a solo, and suggested us to get a coach. I also asked them if they only saw good swimmers doing solos, and they said “decent swimmers” instead. I have thought myself as a weak swimmer since I failed the solo attempt last year – more to follow below.

We returned to Dover marina but unfortunately, the last train back to London had just gone. Had we done our stuff in 16 hours we would have made it back home the same night. We, including our crew Paul, went back to the hotel. We invited Paul to have dinner together but he drove straight away, leaving the hotel room to us. We then head to the only fast food restaurant opening at that time in Dover to have dinner.

Our plan was to take the first train back to London at 04:30, which I bought myself an Advance ticket valid only on that train. However, when Ingrid was packing her stuff, I saw her bought an Off-Peak Return which wasn’t valid in the morning peak! In such case if she wanted to take that train back she would need to excess the ticket to one which was valid to travel in peak hours. I told her she had bought a wrong ticket, and finally after getting back to the hotel room she decided that she would sleep until the first off-peak train after 09:30 as she was so tired and she needed to return to work in the afternoon, so I finally returned home without her. I arrived London Bridge and entered the tube gate at 06:25, 5 minutes before PAYG peak fares entered effect, and she returned home on the first off-peak train.

Conclusion

I completed my final swim challenge in the year and I was proud to be in the first Channel relay team formed by the Hong Kong’s diaspora in the UK, and the second Hong Kong relay team overall after a lawyers’ team got across in 2020.

Compared to my failed solo attempt last year, we had better pilot, better weather, and also better training this year. However, I still have to admit that I am still a weak swimmer. There were 9 boats out on the day and all the other 8 were solo swimmers (2 of them in non-standard costume), with 7 of them getting across and 6 of them faster than us as a relay team, with the remaining one having already run from London to Dover as part of the Arch2Arc challenge.

Because I failed Windermere last month, I don’t think I am ready for another solo attempt in 2023. My focus in swimming will be to get my times down in 5 km in order to qualify for the England nationals, and after I become a stronger swimmer I will consider doing a solo again, but I don’t have any schedule for that at the moment, which will mainly depend on when I can get into the nationals.

My body was totally capable for relay swims. I was still going strong in my 5th shift after 8 hours of swimming on the day. I would say that it will be possible for me to do a 2-person 2-way if I can train my mind for that, but I don’t have a particular interest to do that. However, it was very tough in my mind. After my first shift, thinking that I still had at least 3 shifts ahead, I was condemning myself why I was here to suffer. I was filled with negative thoughts in all my rest periods and by saying them out I would become more comfortable. I also had to rely on mental tricks to keep me going as well. Despite my negative thoughts, there wasn’t a single second I would consider giving up as I knew that my body was totally capable for this challenge and I wouldn’t let my mind fail before my body.

In contrast, the problem on long solo swims was the exact opposite. No matter how strong my mind was, my body wasn’t simply ready for them as I was a weak swimmer. My speed dropped like a cliff after a few hours of continuous swimming as fatigue built up, making every stroke a great pain in my back. In the Windermere race, my body failed me, forcing me to stop under unbearable pain possibly leading to injury, while in the last year’s solo attempt, I was reported making no progress in the final hours despite I was still swimming, as my back was extremely fatigue that I no longer had any pull strength and my legs already failed that I couldn’t kick at all. This was likely because my swimming form was bad and I would need technique coaching to correct it.

My partner Ingrid also had her problems. She frequently got shoulder pain after long distance swimming, e.g. after a 10 km swim. Edie advised us to treat every swim in a relay like a race, but she told me she would get injury if she did that. She also told me that she was at a hypothermic confused state when she completed her 4th shift despite the water not truly cold (17.5°C) for me. She told me that she had no memory seeing me jumping to start my final shift and she asked the observer if she got disqualified after she was ordered out. She was pushed to her limit already.

Having a good crew member and choosing 2 hours as the rotation period were essential to our success – we wouldn’t have managed our recovery without a good crew, and it would not be possible for me to recover, eat, and get prepared again within 1 hour.

I still feel that, at this moment, I am still missing the whole experience, as despite I started and finished this swim, I took breaks every two hours with my partner swimming in between. The whole experience, that is walking into the water at an English beach and emerge at a French beach, is itself a unique and rewarding one, but since last year I have already known that I am too weak to have this experience despite I really love sea swimming. My body simply can’t work properly despite me wanting to swim on, as evidenced in last year.

I no longer have any long distance swimming challenges planned any more. I hope I can have a break in long distance swimming as it gave me a great pressure that it prevented me enjoying the feel being immersed in sea water. Without the pressure I can just get into the sea, swim out, relax and let my body sink to the depth, get out when I feel cold without the fear of missing valuable training time, while doing my regular training for races for non-insane people like 5 or 10 km in form of interval training in a swimming pool. My swimming ability is too weak for me to be successful in long distance swimming at this moment.

9 thoughts on “English Channel relay swim

  1. With perseverance and determination, you two made it. This is incredible! Thank you for taking on this challenge. I’m so proud of you!

  2. Great job Michael & Ingrid👍👍Proud of you two guys👏👏 Thanks Paul & Bel for helping this hongkonger challenge comes sucessfully🥰

  3. great to have read this story . thanks to both of you for such an encouraging story . congratulations to the success of your challenge & a great experience !!! really happy for you , and to us HongKongers ! thank you !!! ❤️

    恭喜!!!多謝!!!🙂

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