Trent Grimsey’s English Channel World Record – Part 1 – From close-up

As some of you know, I was fortunate enough to be crewing aboard Mike Oram’s Gallivant for FINA Grand Prix 2012 Winner Trent Grimsey‘s English Channel Record. And I know you want the details. How did that happen and what did I (we, Owen O’Keefe, Ireland’s youngest English Channel Soloist, aka the Fermoy Fish was with me) see and learn? Yes, I will talk about feeding!

*

So how does an ordinary swimmer in the middle who talks crap of nowhere end up on the boat of the World Number 1 on his English Channel record-breaking attempt?

In the spring, Channel Junkies became aware that FINA Grand Prix circuit swimmer and Australian Trent Grimsey announced his intention to attempt to claim the most hallowed record in marathon and Channel swimming, the English Channel. I was intrigued, it seemed both an audacious and even arrogant statement to make, given the fickleness of the Channel, its notoriously unpredictable weather and how most of us Channel swimmers take the weather we are given, if we are lucky. Many go home without a swim. As Irish Channel two times Soloist Jim Boucher said to me in relation to something else, “if The White Horse had a wall for fast swimmers who didn’t make it, it would be a very long and full wall“.

A record attempt, well, that requires not only a great swimmer, a world-class open water swimmer, but the weather and tide to line up also and the right pilot. And courage, audacity, self-belief and preparation.

The record holder was Bulgarian Petar Stoychev, a force in open water swimming for more than ten years. Olympian, multiple FINA world champion, with an astonishing time of six hours fifty-seven minutes and fifty-five seconds, the first to go under seven hours. The story of his swim and of other almost swims of Christof Wandratch and Yuri Kudinov are the stuff of Channel legends. To put it in context, the average Channel crossing time is fourteen hours, and under twelve hours is considered very fast.

I was following Trent on Twitter and I made direct contact with him in June, asking him for a guest article for here, and Trent agreed. Trent’s hectic global travel and racing schedule made it difficult for him to get it finished (Hey swimmers, have a look at that lead-in schedule). And of course now he’s promised me a different one! He emailed me a couple of weeks ago to say he was Dover-bound and maybe we’d meet. A friend of mine said to me “less blogging, more swimming” recently. The same friend texted me when I was on the boat, “lucky b*stard“. I think it’s safe to say, the blog is working out, when I consider all the swimmers I’ve talked to or met.

As it turned out, Trent and his coach Harley Connolly were staying in Varne Ridge when Alan Clack, Owen and I arrived for Alan’s Solo Attempt. And Varne Ridge is home-from-home for me. Once I heard he was there I went over for a chat, and we had a few chats over the following days. Trent was training twice daily on Dover pool, with a sea swim every three of four days, so different than most of us. That made me nervous. Trent signed my marathon swimmer’s book. {Yeah, I’ve never mentioned the book before. Some of you know about it, and I’ll come back to it at a future date}. Trent and Harley had their first meeting with Mike Oram on Wednesday, and we spoke afterwards. In fact Owen and I parked the car right behind them on Dover Prom, not realising it was them, it looked like a serious stalking attempt. Afterwards I had a look at the weather for them and told them, based on my moderate experience, that Saturday the 8th of September would likely be best of their visible window for a record attempt, Mike having also indicated Friday as a possibility. After that Trent asked if I would consider joining the crew and I said I would, but only dependent on me not being busy with Alan, either in preparation or crewing , as he was my primary responsibility. On Wednesday night Trent’s support swimmer, FINA 2012 Grand Prix four-times Runner-Up Damién Blaum from Argentina, arrived and their team was complete.

You ever wonder what the World’s Top Two FINA marathons swimmers are like? Like me have you heard the stories of overpaid football players with no decorum or respect for others and wondered if a consequence of being elite among elite sportspeople? It certainly not the case with Trent, Damien or Harley, a world-class elite coach. Outgoing, friendly, respectful of others, and happy to talk. No sense of being too good to talk to ordinary Channel swimmers or the Aspirants around Varne Ridge. Varne Ridge is for Channel swimmers, Aspirants, Soloist and unsuccessful, and is very much part of  the Channel journey for everyone.

Trent, Owen & Donal in Varne Ridge

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Alan, Owen and I met with the legendary CSA pilot Reg Brickell, Alan’s pilot, who immediately indicated we would be swimming on Friday, (with excellent conditions forecast by my view).

After some humming and hawing, on Thursday evening the final decision was made by Reg and Alan to swim Friday and we were busy with preparation.

We left Varne at 2.30am on Friday morning  and returned successful about 6.30pm Friday evening, after a tough day at sea for the crew as well as Alan, Viking Princess being a boat for experienced crew only, causing me to liken our return journey, with Jim Boucher & I literally tied to the wheelhouse, to an episode of Deadliest Catch.

A discussion with the team confirmed the start time on Saturday morning, Trent and crew had been following Alan’s swim via the Sandycove GPS Spot tracker and mine and Owen’s updates, and were sufficiently intrigued by the various mentions of shipping lanes, Separation Zone, feeds and finish so they repeated their offer for me to come out, and I asked if Owen could join, given he also has significant Channel crew experience, more than me this year, and the team agreed without hesitation. We were to meet at 3am on Saturday morning.

Only a couple of hours of sleep were had, and twenty-four hours later at about 3.30am, Owen and I were once again filling a Thermos with hot water and loading a car and heading for Dover marina.

 

About these ads

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s