What a difference a tide makes by Stuart Hacker
10th October 2018
All of the best stories have more than one chapter!
I have been searching for a quote to sum up my feelings after finally becoming a Channel swimmer… Look no further than Chuck Norris :
“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish”
Chuck had the right idea. To swim the channel you need determination in spades, but you also need a little bit of good old fashioned luck! There are so many uncontrollable variables with a swim like this and my journey to achieving this dream certainly demonstrates that.
At the tail end of last September I finally got a ‘chance’ to swim the Channel. I would have taken any opportunity at that point and in hindsight it was a mistake to go. A big spring tide combined with some pretty horrible conditions conspired to stop me (and the relay that also took a chance on the same day). I swam well – I felt strong – I felt confident – I didn’t think that anything could stop me ….. Until it did!
I made almost no progress against this tide despite strong swimming throughout my 10.5 hours of effort. The picture below shows the same swimmer (me) – Swimming the same pace – trying his hardest on two different tides in the English Channel:
I actually covered a similar distance in these two swims and conditions were similar with winds reaching over 20 Knots (force four and five at times). When my 2017 swim ended, I had absolutely no doubt that I would be back to settle this score with the English Channel… Luckily for me, she decided to let me pass after handing out a harsh lesson last year.
I also had the honour of crewing for a fantastic Australian swimmer this season (Kelly Lowndes) who was attempting a very rare backstroke channel swim. Unfortunately, her swim ended in similar circumstances to my first swim and for similar reasons. I know that Kelly will be back collecting her well-deserved pebble and I cannot wait to see her do this!
What lessons did I learn from 2017 ‘failure’ to 2018 ‘Success’ …?
PLANNING – Think carefully about the tide and the date when booking your swim. Horrible weather can strike at any time, but if your swim is booked earlier in the season, you may well get another opportunity to go.
THE WAITING GAME – This is easily the worst part of a channel swim. Waiting and watching your phone, checking weather forecasts every five minutes hoping for some dramatic break in weather. Relax – Speak to friends, watch movies and try to stay calm. It really is more testing than it sounds when you are waiting on something you have worked so hard for.
DON’T BE THE ONLY BOAT – Simple rule of thumb. If you rock up at the harbour and you are the only boat going for a solo that day, there is probably a good reason. Do not be afraid to turn the swim down!
I did not change anything else in my preparation and swim. I followed exactly the same training plan, I swam the same way and at the same pace, my feeding plan was the same (hourly feeds of UCAN), I even wore the same pair of jammers for both swims.
There is a very fine line between success and failure in channel swimming and it can be a very cruel game at times.
The Moral of this story is … Do not give up! Success tastes even sweeter after overcoming setbacks. I am very proud to be the 1919th person to swim the Channel and I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Having my Dad alongside me in the boat is a memory that will last forever.
You can also find a video of my swim here:
What’s next for me – Well, it’s a blue planet and there are so many swims I want to accomplish. Next up for me is Manhattan! I am also starting a swim business locally and will be coaching others to follow their Swim Dreams (whatever they might be). I can’t wait to get started on this chapter of my life.