Tag Archives: FINA

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.


Former GB International swimmer and EC soloist, Nuala Muir-Cochrane, on a life swimming & changing to open water

From Pool to Open Water

I started swimming before I started school, in fact I can’t remember not being able to swim. I swam competitively in Leeds reaching a high level, 1977: achieving English record -1500 free, 1978:  representing GB at the European Juniors – 400 free , 1979-1981: GB senior international – 400 & 800 free……….all in a pool !!! 

I rarely swam outdoors and never in lakes. I really hated anything touching my feet and wasn’t that keen on cold water! After a long break from any swimming, I began swimming masters in 1997  and once again started to compete in a pool, sometimes outdoors, but still in a pool. The FINA world Masters in 2000 were in Munich and my roommate was doing the 5K open water so I decided I would give it a go ….well I managed to win my age group and thought “hey this is OK!” (the course was a rowing venue). At the next two FINA world masters (2002 and 2004), I again did pool events and also the open water event, which I won on both occasions – they were both sea swims but very calm! I treated these races like pool races and raced straight to the front of the pack and hung on there for dear life. They were only 3K, but they definitely gave me a feel for open water swimming.

In 2006, I was still racing in the pool but started to get bored, many of my goals had been reached and I needed a new challenge. A chance conversation with Lucy Roper (a seasoned open water swimmer) while waiting for a 1500 race in Swansea’s 50m pool got me interested in the Channel. I had long debates with myself about the Channel but didn’t think I would ever be able to do it as I hated swimming in the sea, hated slimey things touching me, hated the dark and got really bad sea-sickness ……. However, another part of me was fascinated with the journey it would take me on and I thought if not now…………when??

800 free FINA World Masters Riccioni 2004 9.34 Gold Masters Euro Record

The 2006 FINA World Masters in Stanford was a mixture of amazing racing in the pool and a superb 3K open water swim in San Francisco bay – it was a great course…… silky smooth at the start, then into waves and then a wind pushing you in at the finish. It was exhilarating and that was when I said to myself “I want to swim to France”.

I was invited to swim in the Lough Erne Relay in June 2007. This was to be my first real open water experience and it involved swimming in the dark – so I had to conquer one of my fears! It was great to be amongst seasoned open water swimmers – but I was such a novice! At this early stage, I realised how different open water swimming was from pool swimming. Everyone was so encouraging – it was never about how fast you swam, it was all about COMPLETION …this was all very different for me . I had numerous years of pool swimming, when I always swam to win – no matter what. 

During 2007, I was Middlesex County President and I presented an award to Kevin Murphy, who is a member of a Middlesex club. We got talking about swimming, as you do, and I mentioned my plans to swim 2-way Windermere. After he enquired about my swimming history, he said open water is very different, harder than you can imagine, pool swimmers find the transition very hard…etc etc. I got the feeling he didn’t think I could do it…..andthat was like  red rag to a bull ……!

In August 2007, I took part in the BLDSA 2-way Windermere (21 miles). This was to be my biggest test so far. In the months leading up to this swim I had been training in the pool (to keep some speed) and also doing long, continuous swims in the open-air Lido at Parliament Hill. It is an amazing Lido – unheated, open all year round, 60 metres long and 27 metres wide. This training served me well – after 10 hours 34 minutes, I completed the gruelling 21 mile swim. It was hard in so many ways – the darkness, the mind games I had to deal with, the cold, and the doubts and of course the fear. My crew was great as the conditions for them were tough (it poured all night) and only five out of twelve swimmers finished. I can honestly say I was so scared during the whole swim, never before had I been scared whilst swimming and the unknown whether I would actually finish the swim was very alien to me. In the pool I had always known that I would be able complete the race whether it be a 1500m  free, 400IM or even 200 fly – all these events I had swum as a youngster and also as a masters swimmer – but this was so very different.

At this point, it dawned on me that I was actually OK at this open water swimming thing and that I would swim the channel and I would reach France. 

It's gonna be a long swim

On July 26th 2008, I landed on the beach at Wissant, France. I had done what I had set out to do. The time didn’t matter. I had completed the task in hand. Some aspects of the swim hadn’t gone to plan, but that rarely happens in open water swims. 

How does this compare to my pool swimming accomplishments? In my eyes, you simply can’t compare the two. Since the Channel, I have completed Lake Zurich and numerous other lake and sea swims. I continue to train in the Lido and the indoor pool. I have gone back to pool racing during the winter months, but am struggling to feel the same sense of accomplishment. In the pool I have achieved some great times and set some great Masters records…….but there are so many great open water swims for me to complete….so I think my heart is still in open water swimming ………for the moment anyway!

They say that mastering the channel is 20% swimming ability and 80% psychological. Never a truer statement has been made and I believe this also applies to the majority of open water swims. 

“Success or failure is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacity” – Walter Scott 

You’ll find more details of some of my open water swims at http://swimnualaswim.blogspot.com/

Nuala is also on Twitter where you can pick up some great coaching tips or really tough sets from her! Thanks for a great article Nuala.

Celebration Pint

Experienced Open Water swimmer dies during FINA Event

From Swimming World

“FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates, October 23. SHORTLY after the FINA Open Water 10K World Cup swim today in the UAE, United States swimmer Fran Crippen, 26, passed away after falling unconscious during the race.

With the water in the mid-to-high 80s, the competitors all finished and noticed that Crippen had not crossed the finish line. Meet management brought in deep sea divers, who found Crippen unconscious just before the final buoy nearly two hours later. He was transported to the Fujairah Hospital and later died according to information provided to Swimming World. Conflicting reports state that he was found dead on the course.

Crippen had shown signs of slowing down during the third lap of the five-lap race. When Crippen did not immediately finish, a fact noticed by teammate Alex Meyer who screamed for help, the competing swimmers rushed back into the water to help with the search.

Information provided to Swimming World demonstrates that the water was likely too hot for the event as several swimmers were treated for heat exhaustion after the race.

This was the last open water swim of the year for Crippen, and he had planned to take a vacation to Italy.

Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Crippen was a member of the illustrious Crippen family who grew up at the Germantown Academy in Fort Washington. Crippen’s top finish in the sport came at the 2009 World Championships when he finished third in the 10K swim in Rome. He also won a pair of Pan Pacific silver medals in the 10K at both the 2006 and 2010 editions. In the pool, he won two silver medals at the 2003 Pan American Games in the 400 and 1500 freestyle events. Overall, he has won six U.S. national titles with two in the 800 free, two in the 5K and two in the 10K.

After prepping at Germantown, Crippen swam for the University of Virginia and was an 11-time All-American and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year. More recently, Crippen swam for the Mission Viejo Nadadores.

All three of his sisters have had their own success within the swimming community. Maddy was a 2000 Olympian who swam for Villanova, while Claire in an NCAA All-American for the University of Virginia. Teresa is an NCAA finalist who currently swims for the University of Florida. “