Tag Archives: Alan Clack

Favourite LoneSwimmer photos of 2012 – Part 1

Last year on New Year’s day I wrote about my thoughts of the coming year. I’m haven’t done a retrospective, if you follow the blog, you have a good idea of what happened. I originally just thought I might just round-up some of my favourite photos that I took during the year which then led to this series of My Swimming Life 2012. This is the end of that series, with the first of two parts, of my favourite photos from the year.

This site has meant I have gradually become more concerned with getting appropriate and useful images. This year I was fortunate to capture a few that I really like. There are black and white versions of a few of these in the Kindle Screensaver post, but here are medium resolution colour images, (good enough for screen-savers). Some of these I haven’t shared at all previously. I did discover over the course of this series that I’d taken more good shots than I’d realised and discovered a couple I hadn’t realised at the time, which was why I did my 2012 swimming locations, some faces of 2012, and the two posts on my Almost favourites of 2012.

I have high-resolution versions of all of these suitable for printing at larger sizes. This isn’t a commercial site, but should you like a high-resolution printed print of any of these,  contact me directly and you can purchase any and we’ll out how to get prints to you.

I’ll start with dawn in the English Channel, leaving Dover and Shakespeare beach.

Channel_Dawn_(cropped_USM)-resized

Next of course is Trent Grimsey, on the way to setting the new English Channel world record. I doubt I’ll ever take a better swimming photo. Everything was right, the position, the light, the sense of motion,and of course, Trent helped with that Mona Lisa smile! I’m proud of this photo.

The record-setter
The record-setter

Lisa came over for one weekend of horrible summer weather, and I took that one great shot with my Kodak PlaySport, swimming out to Brown’s Island, rain on calm water.

Brown's Island in the rain
Brown’s Island in the rain

Alan Clack was here twice this year, in preparation for his English Channel solo. The weekend before we left for Dover, we climbed up to Coumshingaun for some cold water training beneath the 1000 foot tall cliffs. Since then I’ve noticed that Coumshingaun is being used as the backdrop for one of The Gathering advertising posters.

Swimming Coumshingaun
Swimming Coumshingaun

Another I took that day in Coumshingaun I was also pleased with, that will make any swimmer want to take a dip there, t he blue sky reflected across the glacial corrie.

Coumshingaun
Coumshingaun

And of course I went to Manhattan for MIMS 2012 where I took possibly one of the best photos I’ve captured. And without having a tripod. So we’ll pause here and return with the last seven in the next post.

Manhattan night
Manhattan night

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Swimming 2012 – the pictorial tour continues – Almosts

This follows the 2012 Swim Locations post. I was considering calling it the My Swimming Life series. These photos were almost but not quite amongst my favourites for 2012, which will be coming soon. Like anyone with a camera, you notice that you sometimes take more photos on those really good days than you get to share. So here’s a chance to see some new ones, and revisit some others. Not all are chosen because they are good photographs, as some aren’t great, but they capture something relevant or interesting to me.

Also, I’ve been trying to improve my post-processing skills as well as my camera skills, the two in inextricable in the digital age, and I found a few that I didn’t take much notice of the first time around that have benefited from a run through the bit-machine.

Also, for a variety of reasons I’m struggling to write at the moment, so we’ll continue on this pictorial tour of 2012.

Alan Clack in the English Channel
Alan Clack in the English Channel

The day before Trent’s swim, I crewed for Alan. Despite all I’ve written about Trent, Alan’s solo was personally more important.  Alan first made in contact in 2010 after my solo and I guess we were on the Channel journey together ever since, (me in a supporting role of course). Alan travelled to Ireland three times, swum two full Distance weeks, (more than I’ve done). The risk of bad weather during his window was bigger for him considering the lack of travel availability from Canada. On the day, conditions were very choppy and not conducive to great photography, but I managed what has become a traditional Channel image for many swimmers. Alan swam a fantastic Solo, in a great time of eleven and a half hours.

Swimmers and crew.
Swimmers on the right, crew on the left.

One of the undoubted highlights of my 2012 swimming year was being on Sandycove Island for the final day of qualification swims. I was on crew on Saturday for the Total Brain and Body Confusion “torture” swim, as I was previously in 2011. However the last couple of years I’d swum on the final qualification day. This was my first time on the island, with Finbarr, Ned, Riana, and Andrew Hunt. It was an extraordinary day, to see from land-side what we put ourselves through. I know what it’s like to suffer unending hypothermia around Sandycove, to not be able to stand straight or talk clearly or use my muscles fully. To see it first-hand and up close was another thing again and to be able to help the swimmers was nothing less than a privilege with the level of marathon and Channel swimming knowledge and competence rising each year.

Tramore beach
Tramore beach

Just another day in Tramore. The photo looks black and white, but isn’t. These are the colours of late winter in Ireland.

Tramore pier
Tramore pier

Another wintery almost colourless shot, this was taken looking around the corner of Tramore pier out toward the Guillamenes, fractions of a second before the wave reflected back off the wall.

Blackwater morning
Blackwater morning

Some much-needed colour, motoring up a calm Blackwater on the late-summer morning with Owen for his swim from Cappaquin back down to Youghal.

Climbing to Coumshigaun
Climbing to Coumshigaun

Long-suffering Dee, accompanying me up the Comeragh Mountains so that I could swim Coumshingaun. Look carefully, the doglet is at her feet.

Simple pink.
Simple pink.

April is pinks (sea-thrift) month. I love pinks.

Trent
Trent

My other favourite of Trent, taken by hanging off the bow. I was sorry I didn’t take more from this angle.

Scout flying.
Scout flying.

Scout regularly accompanies us to the coast along with my older dogs. He refuses to demonstrate his flying ability for others publicly though. The Pomeranian breed’s tendency to go ballistic with excitement has earned them the term berserking. And there’s nowhere more exciting than the coast.

Huge Newtown Cove breaking wave
Huge Newtown Cove breaking wave

The post of the south-easterly summer storm was one of the more popular during the year.

Owen in the Blackwater
Owen in the Blackwater

Speaking of the Fermoy Fish, there were a few minutes early in his Blackwater swim that couldn’t have been better for photos. You’ll recognise this as his banner picture.

Inside the Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral

Looking out from inside St. John’s Island. I seem to have become a cave-swimmer over the past couple of years.

Near. Far away.
Near. Far away.

Now, I’ll explain again Dougal.

Please welcome, the Purple Stinger
Please welcome, the Purple Stinger

2012’s special guest appearance, at every swimming location.

More to come …

Summer in Ireland – Mountain lake swimming 2

Recently, Alan Clack & I hiked up to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains, as part of his Channel taper in Ireland, and because we were looking for some cold water. The silence from Alan as we hiked upward was deafening. “What the hell are we doing”, I could imagine, and worse, going through his head.

Coumshingaun is another corrie, but one, (according to geology sources), of the best examples in Europe. I have no idea what makes it supposedly better. Apart from being stunningly beautiful.

The best way to approach is from the left ridge and from slightly above, a little bit of extra climbing that is then rewarded by a fairly level approach from above the lake’s picturesque outlet stream. The lake and the surrounding cliffs gradually coming in spectacular view.

The cliffs around the lake reach to 360 metres (1200 feet) high, the lake is about 800 metres long from the outlet stream to under the cliffs. The tiny white specks are sheep, seemingly capable of any climbing feat.

We circled the lake, to right under the cliffs, the steps of the cliff wall meaning probably the  top third was invisible from underneath and continued around back to where we started with Alan staying in for another 10 minutes for some further cold water acclimatisation while I dried and grabbed the camera.

It was my second visit in a week and the water was a fresh 12 to 13 degrees Celsius and perfectly clear unlike Bay Lough’s peaty black water. The lake floor gradually drops away instead of disappearing immediately and precipitously like Bay Lough. All around the edge underwater are huge boulders that the mountain has sloughed. And having previously swum across the centre, it doesn’t seem as dark as Bay Lough. Of course, you need to be at the lake before early afternoon as even in late summer the sun drops beyond the mountain and the lake falls into shadow, in the winter it only catches early morning light.

As Alan and I passed climbed on the ridge and into view of the lake on the ascent, the wind suddenly rose with our exposure, and I caught a glimpse of a water-spout, a shi gaoithe, (“water devil”) collapse over the exit of the outlet stream, the first time I’ve ever seen one, dying too quickly to be caught on camera.

Click for larger resolution

Done and dried, but chilly in the wind, we headed back down, passing above the lower small pool, leaving Coumshingaun behind, the clear day providing a vista of Ireland’s rolling countryside, the counties of Waterford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Carlow all visible.

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Alan Clack, Iceman Contender!

The ice broke on the lake at Alan’s home outside Montreal this week. So he waited not at all, for immersion.

Here he is doing his Lewis Pugh impression.

Swimming right by the ice.

And then, unveiling the temperature. Yes folks, that looks like 2 to 2.5 deg Celsius to me. ( 35 F in old money). And please remember, that’s fresh water, which feels colder than the same temperature in sea water.

My friend Alan & the Wall Street Journal

My American friend Alan Clack is signed up for the Channel in 2012 with the CSA, another person to tackle that lifelong dream. (Alan is one of the three Soloists I’m crewing for in 2012).

We got to know each other after a comment I made on an unrelated item on a website I visit regularly.

Alan, like others, asked me about it and what was involved. I always approach these questions from people the same, as I get them occasionally.

I give the basic details, write it in such a way that it illuminates the difficulties, and see what their response is. Some people have told me that I’m exaggerating. Some disappear after the first contact. Alan came back for more information. I gave it to him. He asked what to do now (at that time).

Alan was a former US national level swimmer. A far better swimmer than me. So I gave him some challenges, and over a short period, he met all of them and rose above them. I quickly realised Alan that the drive and focus necessary for the Channel.

I don’t know what it is about Channel swimmers, but almost all I know have similar obsessive traits and willingness to push themselves to achieve the goal.

Anyway, within a few months Alan was booked with the CSA for 2012.  He met with Ned in New Hampshire, swam with CIBBOWS in New York and met some of the San Francisco Channel group, quickly discovering the bond of Channel swimmers and how we try to help others who ask.

We talked on the phone, email all the time, discuss stuff on that same website. I became convinced early on that Alan was one of us, like all my Channel friends. Taking everything seriously, treating the project with the respect it deserves.

One day I got an email from him about an article he read in the WSJ on Steve Munatone’s proposed (and great) Ocean’s Seven idea.

From the point of a view of a Channel Aspirant, the article almost dismisses the English Channel. Alan was dismayed by this portrayal of the Channel as now mundane.

We discussed it and I told him to ignore it. One of the key lessons I’ve mentioned before about the Channel for me, was how some people want you to fail. I told Alan, that only those who have attempted it understand.

So let’s be clear.  No-one has yet done the Ocean 7. When someone does they will be rightly idolized amongst the OW swimming community.

In the meantime, and even afterwards, the English Channel will remain one of the most difficult challenges in swimming.

Even a world record swimmer who swims the Channel in under 10 hours, has little understanding of what Jackie Cobell, Philipe Croizon, Rob, Lisa, or myself go through. No two swims are the same. And some are a nightmare.

I repeatedly quote Lisa on this: the Channel is a mental battlefield. It’s not just that 21 miles. It’s the waiting, the weather and winds, the stress and worry after all the cost and training and preparation. It’s hopes and aspirations and an unknown outcome. It’s six to eight knot currents of the Cap in cold water.  We’ve been there. We know it.  And only those who have are fit to judge. I know Soloist who think it’s not that difficult. I listen to them, They have earned the right to comment.

I wasn’t angry about the article myself, since like many of you I know. I was annoyed for Alan and the future Aspirants and, as always for my friends who have done it. Annoyed that less than 1200 people in 135 years is something to be dismissed. But paper never refused ink ,and the web can always rearrange electrons.

So Alan moved on.  But I wanted to make these points as part of the ongoing subject I’m chasing this week.