95% of this iconic & unique swim was an absolute hoot. You could sense the assisting tidal tow for ca. 75% of it and I was fortunate enough to have favourable weather/sea conditions. Some people turn up for this swim and get weathered out (more than once in some cases). Must say that despite much cold water training, the water temperature never felt totally comfortable given it's the Atlantic @ 17c at best. Therefore had to ensure to keep moving to keep warm but managed to thump out a reasonable time of 10hours 21mins (one of the faster times on the course). The Pilot is ultimate professional and I had marathon-swimming royalty for crew & observer.
We raised over £8k for Macmillan: Just Giving Page
This was the 148th swim Round Jersey in history - got my name on the board here: Roll of honour
Now for a quick geography refresher (a subject I failed at GCSE btw!):
According to Wikipedia, Jersey is an island which measures 118.2 square kilometres or 45.6 square miles. It lies about 14 miles west of the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, France and about 100 miles due south of Great Britain. It's the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands and part of the British Isles with a maximum land elevation of 143m above sea level:
After a champion night's sleep, both Swimmer and crew rendezvoused with the pilot at La Collette Yacht Basin at 06:15am (none of this swimming through the night nonsense with this one)!
Only the best for me with proper open-water swim royalty in attendance on this occasion.
L>R: Kate Robarts (Observer (previously one of my Geneva solo crew)), Cliff Golding (crew/greaser), Sam Jones (crew/reserve pilot). Only 5 English Channel swims and 4 Round Jersey swims between these three...no pressure Shezza - better bring yer A-game geezer!!
Cliffy (on right below) discussing the finer points of 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' with horizontal chilled-out pilot Matt (on left) below. If not sure what to ask a pilot to strike up a conversation, ask him something about boats!
After a decent layer of sun cream & vaseline (thanks Cliffy) time to drop one's warm self into the freezing cold briny for a very civilised start (no scrambling up beach required). Thanks to Jamie Nettleton for 'The Rugby Pod' budgie smugglers. Episode 50. Go to minute 60 for shout out on Spotify
Had to touch the eastern side of Elizabeth Castle breakwater and wait for boat horn to start:
First ca. 2 hour spent being guided by pilot Richard in 'Lioncub' (on right below) as despite being near high-tide not much draught for larger boat 'Lionheart' (on left). (Can pick me out just aft starboard side of lion cub).
For some of these first 2 hours from the start (6 o'clock to 4 o'clock on the south east corner at La Rocque) could sometimes see the sea bed with the odd piece of rock sticking up submerged but almost protruding the surface at high tide - I almost swam into one of them which would have been rather uncomfortable!
I then had my first feed (hourly thereafter) and for the first half the menu comprised of a carb-loader type drink with the odd flapjack to munch on (switching to flat Fevertree Cola for 2nd half).
We then proceeded to blast up the eastern side past St Catherine's breakwater (I took some footage the day before of how the water moves. This really would be impossible to swim against it and realised just how treacherous these waters are).
The northern leg was tough with a very confused wind against tide. Yet more rocks to dodge (Paternosters in the background) and again some brilliant piloting skills to find the most direct route.
I got a massive lift as at 4 hours 37 mins into the swim I was 1/2 way (even started to entertain the idea that I was on for a new record given a simple doubling putting me ahead of Ross Wisby's 2015 record of 9 hours 26 mins....). We were travelling in this run of tide at 5 knots (8km per hour!). Feeling good and much more in the tank to 'ave it' for the 2nd half. Jersey’s version of the Eiffel Tower to mark 1/2 way:
Soon approaching the north-west corner with Grosnez castle in ca. 6 hours and my feeds switched to flat Fevertree Cola (other brands are available) with more nutritious flapjacks which get properly stuck in your teeth therefore providing lasting hit!
Then we rounded the corner and found ourselves in the enormous horse-shoe shaped bay at St. Ouen with Corbiere lighthouse at the end representing the gateway to the homestraight. Was warned about the fact this western side would take 2 hours so didn't look up and grafted hard opting to look just to the side or slightly behind. You could make out aircraft taking off so I knew I was over half way past the bay once the ascending aircraft were then behind me.
Just after 8 hours we rounded the majestic Corbiere lighthouse and I switched momentarily to the port side of the boat for the ‘money shot’ photo opportunity:
The stretch from this landmark past St Brelade's Bay to the Noirmont representing the entrance to final St. Aubin's bay was very tough and I was running on fumes having given it too much beans during the prior 9 hours in the cold! Then great skills from crewperson Sam who unbeknownst to me subtly dunked a scoop of carb powder into my next flat coke feed for the final 40 minute push to the finish and the Western wall at Elizabeth castle breakwater. The end was now in sight across St. Aubin's bay and I was giving it everything I had.
Reached out, lunged for the wall like GB's Duncan Scott at the olympics.....Observer Kate stopped the watch at 10 hours 21mins. My own olympic event and one of the faster times in history (would have bitten your arm off for that time before starting). Not bad for an old geezer! Plenty of claps and cheering from the boat - all wrapped up before dinner!!
Feeling of relief and wondering how many Big Mac meals I was going to eat guilt-free for dinner (easiest thing to get down given swollen salt-water tongue). Smashed it - get in! :
Recommendations if you're planning this swim
1. Accommodation - We stayed at SACO serviced apartments on Pier Road in St. Helier. A walk to harbour and many nice restaurants. Had a pull-down double murphy bed in sitting room (for the daughter who came with) and kitchen for sorting all swim kit. Clean with loads of hot water, washing machine and tumble drier. Much nicer we thought than a hotel. Could have cooked in the kitchen but with so many nice restaurants on offer we never bothered! Cost £1365 for the week.
2. Flights/Car - Flew BA from London Heathrow and hired a car (Toyota Aygo) via Avis. Flights were 30mins out, 40mins return and car was perfect for parking, touring and for girls to follow the swim. Automatic car cost £661.50 with all the insurances zero excess.
3. Pilot - I used professional pilot Matt Clarke who runs Lionheart Pilotage . He's a very talented individual - man of few words and so relaxed almost horizontal. Was £1450 for piloting swim (1/2 price of the English Channel!) plus £125 to Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club (JLDSA) to ratify/observe the swim. JLDSC also offers piloting services: http://www.jerseyseaswims.org
4. JLDSC club swims - Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings. This was an ideal way to relax post-travel and get to know more about swimming in/around the island. Jersey probably boasts more English Channel swimmers per capita than anywhere else in the world. A charming bunch who made us feel so welcome. Even presented us with Bacon sarnie after Sunday 7am session. Many thanks Jenny and Chantelle.
5. Training - I spent the coldest weeks of the summer leading to a 6 hour swim in 13.2c on 5th June '21 with the Dover Channel Training (DCT) group every Saturday morning. Once complete I then switched to fresh water and loads of 1 hour sessions with the odd 10km sessions thrown in with very specific rep times to keep intensity (and speed) up. Seb Coe was always an advocate of quality over quantity and that certainly works for me. The lap of St Andrews Lakes is 600m and we'd do 16 of those in 11min reps (including rest) - I actually felt more tired after that 10km Saturday session than I did after this Round Jersey as the lake if fresh water with less buoyancy. Thanks to Adrian Rotchell for completing most of the sessions with me although had no major swim booked himself (other than swimming on holiday). LOL
Mark Sheridan Round Jersey
11th August 2021
Lionheart Pilotage - Matthew Clarke
Start - Elizabeth Castle east wall Finish – Elizabeth Castle west wall
Start time – 06:57 Finish time – 17:18
Swim time – 10 hours 21 minutes 19 seconds
PoB – Matt Clarke, Sam Jones, Cliff Golding, Kate Robarts
We arrive at Lionheart at 6.15am and begin unloading the trolley. Shezza helpfully unloads his own bag but this results in the other end of the trolley landing on Sam’s foot.
Much banter onboard the boat. Matt says he’s still trying to get used to sharing his boat with semi-naked men. Meanwhile, Shezza is wondering if one new tub of Vaseline will be enough. He’s slathered with Kids’ Factor 50 sun lotion and greased up by Cliffy, whilst the rest of the crew clamour to book therapy as a result of his new Budgie Smugglers.
At 6.47 Lionheart is underway for the brief journey from the marina to the wall for the start. Shezza reminds the crew not to forget to put Lucky Duck where he can be seen and points out the pack of Velcro pads.
The weather is sunny and calm with mirror-like conditions.
Shezza climbs down the ladder and swims to the wall for the start, to be accompanied by Richard in Lion Cub for the first two hours through the Gutters.
He touches the wall, waits for the signal and starts. It is 6:57am.
For the next two hours he will be quite a distance away from Lionheart, so crew will see him only through binoculars from deeper water. Richard will report progress via radio.
As Shezza gets underway and settles into his swim, Cliff may be seen wandering around forlornly, carrying Lucky Duck upside down. The morning dew prevents him from attaching LD to the bow so it’s a waiting game.
Around 8am, Richard reports that Shezza has swum over a rock, just below the surface, shallow enough to touch it with his hands. He’s stopped to have a laugh about it and have a pee break. Richard jovially blames Matt for the rock incident because he missed it when checking position.
Meanwhile, Cliffy goes to recce the possibility of attaching Lucky Duck. Nope, still too much dew.
Ten minutes later, Cliff can be seen disappearing to the bow with a cloth to see if he can solve the problem. Still no luck.
It appears from radio reports that Sea Swimmer II, the JLDSC club boat, actually made contact with that particular rock and called for possible assistance….but it transpires that all is well and it continues with the two man wetsuit relay, about 800m ahead of Shezza.
Cliff has a brainwave and attaches LD to the bow with a piece of string. He’s happy now.
At 8:20 Sam prepares the first feed of 350ml Maxim and summer fruits. Shezza will be fed after the breakwater at La Rocque.
Shezza arrives at La Rocque at 8:46, where Sal and a few others are waiting to cheer him on.
He stops swimming for a few minutes, allowing the tide to carry him along, smiling broadly and exclaiming,
“This is brilliant… it’s just so much fun!”
He swims on past and into the harbour, where he has his feed from Sam and Cliff. It’s 8:58. Sam tells him not to swim on just yet because Matt isn’t at the wheel. Shez replies, “Good, gives me time for a piss.”
He and his crew discuss the possibility of overtaking the relay. Richard takes his leave and Shez thanks him and shouts that they need to arrange a beer later in the week. Richard waves and heads back to La Collette in Lion Cub.
Shezza is a very contented swimmer. Over the next hour, he gives Sam a thumbs up. The crew is outside, chatting, watching him and exclaiming over the huge swathes of seaweed he’s swimming through.
At 9:58, Shezza feeds well and takes a bit of flapjack from contortionist, Sam, who’s flat out with one arm through the railings. He’s loving it, (‘avin’ it). Matt teases him and offers to let Shez do it all again tomorrow. “I’ll hold you to that”, is the response.
Sea Swimmer II is about half a mile ahead. Lionheart passes St Cath’s b/w at around 3 hrs 15. The water is like glass and the sun is blazing. The crew have bacon rolls. (egg for Cliff).
At 10:30, Sam takes the helm to give Matt a break. There are slight ripples on the water and a little more breeze at 5- 9 kts. The wind is turning westerly. Water temperature is 17.9c and the air is 18.4.
Shezza is maintaining a stroke count of 47.
10:58 Cliff feeds Shez. He’s very happy and takes all his feed, requesting the same, but with another small piece of flapjack, at the next feed. Cliff explains that Lionheart was a little too far off the b/w at St Cath’s for Mark to see Em and Issie, but that they were there and they could see him. Shez has a pee and says, “This is all rather nice!”
11:27 It’s getting a little choppy now, Wind is at 8kts from WNW and is creating waves head on. He extends his glide slightly and looks very relaxed in the choppier water.
11:57 A feed with flapjack from Sam. Cliff reminds Shezza of the halfway mast and tells him he’s already past it. That was at 4 hrs 37 minutes. Sam points out Grosnez and Shez has a pee and says he can’t believe he can see Grosnez already. The crew tell him he’s doing a fabulous job and Cliff exclaims that he’s going to hang up his Speedos because he can’t swim like Shezza.
10 minutes later, Shezza stops to unwind a large swathe of seaweed, wrapped round his neck. In the next 15 minutes, the sea flattens out a little and Mark asks for a cookie with his next feed.
At this next feed, (12:56) the crew point out that a small seabird, probably a fulmar, has started following Shezza. It flies close to his feet, lands near him and bobs around, looking at him. Mark flicks water at it but it doesn’t want to leave.
Cliff confirms with Shez that he now wants to switch to flat coke for the rest of his feeds. He also tells him that Em can see him from Grosnez. S/c 43.
13:37 the water has calmed down. Mark is swimming across St Ouen’s Bay. Cliff is watching from the bow.
Just before his next feed, Mark asks for some flapjack with it. He says,
“It’s lovely here……apart from the company”
Cliff points out that he has a woman either side of him so it’s a bit dangerous to respond.
Shezza grins and says, “Hangin’ with yer biatches!”
After the feed of flat coke and flapjack, Cliff points out how close Shezza is to the Lighthouse at Corbiere and that Emily and Issie will be there. Shez asks how far he has to there and Matt tells him about 15 minutes.
Cliff says, “Sorry conditions aren’t better”, as he surveys the totally calm water and Shez quips, “Yeah, can I have a glassy sea, please?”
After a warning from Sam, Matt manoeuvres Lionheart around to put Shezza to port, for the money shot with Corbiere as a backdrop. He plays to the camera with a wave and Sam gets the shot.
By 15:27 Lionheart is back on the other side and Shezza continues to swim in flat calm water. Five or six jetskis hug the coast towards the lighthouse.
Mark is very appreciative of the flat coke at his next feed and says, “That was long overdue!” Sam has added a scoop of Maxim to the coke as a boost.
Cliff points out Noirmont ahead and tells Shezza that once he’s passed that, he can go head down and reel it in.
Shez is relaxed and enjoying it. There is no pressure, fabulous scenery, calm water and a peaceful, happy boat. He has, as ever, maintained his technique superbly throughout. Crew bitch happily about how good he looks and what perfect conditions he has. The air is very warm now, at 21-24C and the wind is negligible. Stroke count is 42.
At around 16:20, the wash from a passing motorboat hits and Shezza is riding the waves. There is much more boat traffic around as we near the finish.
At 16:30, Shez has a final feed, a little early, as Cliff and Sam decide a booster is a good idea so he can head off and bring it home. Sam has again added a scoop of Maxim for this final leg. Shez accepts the early feed, says, “Okay”, has a quick pee and heads off. The passengers on the Wetwheels boat , (Disability Access organisation), applaud Mark as they go by.
Shezza flies past Noirmont and heads towards the west side of the wall at Elizabeth Castle. His stroke rate increases again and he looks strong and determined.
Meanwhile, the club boat with the relay swim seems to have overshot the wall and has to head back around to pick up their swimmers.
At 17:10 the crew head to the bow with stopwatch and camera. There is lots of vocal encouragement. Cliff films the finish with commentary.
Shezza hits the wall at 17:18, after 10 hours, 21 minutes and 19 seconds.
“’Avin it!” (Shez decides not to take Matt up on the offer to do it again on Thursday.)