Cook Strait Swim, New Zealand

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pat's picks for 2013......

I start each day by reading the global news of open water swimming.  I love reading about marathon swimmers worldwide. It's exciting! It's thrilling! And, it's inspiration at its very best.

I thought it would be fun to let my friends know who has inspired me during the 2013 swim season.  It was very difficult to decide who would be my number one pick for top male swim, top female swim, top supporter of open water swimming, and top host of marathon swimmers.  But, here goes....

The # 1 male swim of the year goes to Fergal Somerville of Dublin, Ireland. Fergal set a record for the earliest solo swim of the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland.  He completed his grueling swim on June 16 in a time of 12 hours and 21 minutes.  Water temperature was on average 49 F. degrees. He set the record for oldest swimmer at the age of 49.  Fergal's swim was determination at its very best.

The # 1 female swim of the year goes to Wendy Trehiou from the island of Jersey. She completed an epic two-way crossing of the English Channel in 39 hours. Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Shortly after her diagnosis, she underwent radiation and chemotherapy.  After completion of her treatment, she was medically cleared to resume her marathon swim training. I was awe- struck with Wendy's inspirational swim.

The # 1 relay swim goes to the Bering Strait swim relay team. Swimmers were from several countries. Their swim started from Siberia, Russia and finished in Alaska, USA.  They swam in near-freezing water and treacherous conditions for three days. It was absolutely exciting and thrilling to watch their day by day progress in the Bering Strait. The relay team exhibited great strength, superb team work, and perseverance.

The # 1 supporter of Open Water Swimming goes to Steven Munatones. Steven supports swimmers of all levels in swimming. His passion of our sport is legendary. Steven's drive and determination to boost open water swimming is to be commended. Steve has inspired swimmers to go beyond the shoreline and pursue an adventure of a lifetime. (He inspired me to attempt the Oceans Seven that he founded).

The # 1 host to swimmers goes to David and Evelyn Frantzeskou of Varne Ridge Channel Swim Park in England. Their caravan park offers a wonderful community of support for channel swimmers. Their unending words of encouragement and support for all swimmers is to be applauded.

And finally, I am asking all friends and visitors to my blog to go to the website: World Open Water Swimming Association worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com/vote-here and read all nominations for the 2013 global swim awards. I know you will be inspired by their contributions in the marathon swim world.  And, vote for your favorite nominee in four categories.  Thank you.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Go Vote! WOWSA 2013 Nominations

You will be inspired!  You will be in awe of their accomplishments! They are all incredible athletes.  You can take part in the online voting.  Please read all the remarkable nominations for 2013. The Daily News of Open Water Swimming: 2013 WOWSA Online Voting Begins: The nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year , World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year , World Open Water Swimming P...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tips for planning a North Channel swim

If you are thinking of swimming the North Channel known as one of the most difficult channels in the world, planning months ahead of time is essential.   Currently, there are two very experienced boat pilots to escort swimmers from Ireland to Scotland.  My boat pilot was Quinton Nelson. His boat is moored in a quaint little harbor in Donaghadee, Ireland. I found Quinton to be a very honest and highly experienced pilot. His email address is quinton@nelsonsboats.co.uk   Due to increase in popularity of swimming the North Channel, book early. There may be a two year wait list.  If you have a problem with getting sick from diesel fumes from your escort boat (I get very sick from the smell of diesel), I would recommend hiring a local experienced kayaker. Quinton arranged for a kayaker to accompany me at a very reasonable price. The kayaker will keep you away from the diesel fumes from the escort boat.  If you need a place to stay in Donaghadee I would recommend staying at Pier 36, a bed and breakfast, located at the harbor. www.pier36.co.uk The price for my two week stay was very reasonable and the food was fantastic. It is a family-run business. They made our stay a very enjoyable one. Pier 36 overlooks the harbor. There is a swim zone within walking distance and Quinton's boat is located within a two minute walk of Pier 36.    
If you decide to stay in the town of Bangor (approximately a 30 minute drive north of Donaghadee)and near Belfast, you will enjoy this very busy seaside resort.  There are many restaurants and bed and breakfast to choose from.   Boat pilot Brian Meharg of Bangor Boat is another experience boat pilot. His email address is bangorboatman@aol.com .   Again, book early to secure a slot due to the high demand.
  A year before your booked swim, you will need to register with the Irish Long Distance Swim Association. They will book an observer for your swim. I found the ILDSA to be very friendly and helpful.
  And, now for my tips on swimming the North Channel.  Cold acclimation is crucial. Some swimmers will arrive a few weeks early and become acclimated to the cold water of the North Channel. Water temperature in July and August is usually in the mid 50's Fahrenheit ( 12 to 15 degrees Celsius)  I am fortunate to live in Maine (USA) and our water temperature is very similar.  Next, be prepared for jellyfish stings.  I was very concerned about the Lion's Mane jellyfish stings. I did my research and I found many frightening articles about these jellyfish being the size of a small car. However, when I arrived in Donaghadee, my boat pilot said that the sting would be minor discomfort.  And, I was relieved to find out that these jellyfish are usually the size of a dinner plate and their tentacles are between three to five feet in length. I was stung nearly every inch of my body and I found the sting to be minor. On a pain scale of 0 to 10, I rated their sting as a # 1 being minor discomfort. I did not have any toxic reactions. I would like to caution that everyone is different and some swimmers may find the sting to be excruciating and get a reaction to the sting.  The cold water of the North Channel soothed my stings.  I saw thousands of jellyfish.  The following day I felt like I had a bad sunburn from these stings. I purchased "Jellyfish sting relief" to soothe my stings after my swim. I purchased it from Amazon.com   It was very effective. By the second day, I had no effect from the stings.
Most swims are held during the daytime due to the proliferation of jellyfish at night.  Jellyfish on a sunny day will float a few feet under the surface of the water. On an overcast day, jellyfish will be within a few inches of the surface of the water.  And, during the night these jellyfish will be at the surface of the water. The locals call it "jellyfish soup".
  The weather in the North Channel is very unpredictable. Three weather reports are viewed before a swim can take place....North Ireland, Scotland, and mid-channel reports are carefully monitored by the boat pilots.  Safety of swimmer and crew is always the priority.  Please be aware that these reports are only a guideline and weather can change abruptly without warning in the North Channel.
  Currents off the coast of Scotland can be very strong especially with the outgoing tide.  In my case, after swimming for 16 hours and 43 minutes and within a mile of the finish line the current changed and I was starting to be pulled away from Scotland. My swim was stopped. Mother Nature wins every time. However, I plan to attempt the North Channel again in 2015.
  I would recommend for swimmers to attempt other marathon swims like the English Channel or Catalina before attempting to swim the North Channel.  And, once a swimmer has completed a few marathon swim, I would highly recommend a swim attempt of the North Channel. It's an adventure of a lifetime.  Good luck!  If you have any questions, please email me at patgallant.charette@gmail.com  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Overcoming fear in the open water.

I hate to admit it but several years ago I avoided swimming in the ocean due to fear.  My 34 year old brother Robbie was an outstanding swimmer and open water enthusiast.  I remember asking him about facing the uncertainty of what was in the ocean water beneath him.  "Aren't you afraid of sharks? Aren't you afraid of something lurking beneath you waiting to grab you?"  He looked at me and said, "Pat, how many car accidents do you hear about in the state of Maine (my home state)? And, how many times have you heard about someone getting tragically killed in a car accident?   But, you still get in a car and drive to work everyday, go shopping, and live your life."  Then he said, "How many times have you heard of a swimmer being attacked by a shark in Maine? Put your fear on the back burner and live your life."  It made me think!  Every month I read in the newspaper about some tragic accident...yet, I still got in my car.   I never heard of anyone getting attacked by a shark in Maine, yet I was hesitant to try open water swimming.  The following month my brother Robbie died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack (he was unaware that he had heart disease). A few weeks after his passing, my sixteen year old son Tom said he was going to swim the Peaks to Portland, a 2.4 ocean mile swim, as a tribute to his Uncle Robbie who won it twice. I was deeply touched by my son's thoughtfulness.  He encouraged me to try to swim it.  So, at the the age of 46 I was faced with this challenge of swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean and to overcome my fear of the creatures lurking below the surface.  During my very first swim of the Peaks to Portland,  I fell in love with the sport of open water swimming and overcame my fear. I am grateful to my son for encouraging me to attempt my very first open water swim.  It's been sixteen years since my brother Robbie died, his words inspired me many years ago to face my fear of creatures lurking in the depths. At the age of 62, I have enjoyed swimming in many iconic swim locations worldwide. And, now the most welcoming and enjoyable encounters I have had during my swim career has been with dolphins, seals, flying fish,  sea lions, and whales.  These sea creatures haven't changed but I have.   I hope Robbie's words will inspire you.