Tag Archives: Gabor Molnar

Sylvain Estadieu’s English Channel Butterfly – Part 1

This story started in different places and at different times, like all stories. For me, it started in a mobile home in Varne Ridge park in Capel-le-ferne, Folkestone, home of so many Channel adventures, in October 2010. It was a couple of days after my Hungarian “stepson” Gábor Molnar had completed his English Channel solo and Sylvain Estadieu and I had been on crew. The remainder of the crew were asleep and Gábor, Sylvain and I pursued a late not-entirely-sober night, talking Channel, swimming, Sandycove and future plans and dreams. Sylvain was raving about I.M. (individual medley, a combination of backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and front crawl). We agreed that whatever Sylvain decided, Gábor and I would be crew.

Gábor, David, Donal, Eve, Sylle in 2010
Gábor, David, Donal, Evelyn & Sylle in 2010. Hatching plans.

For Sylvain, I think it started even earlier.

After his previous English Channel Solo in 2009, on the same tide as Owen O’Keeffe and Lisa Cummins, he had decided in early 2010 to do four laps of Sandycove by I.M. Sandycove is about 1700 metres around (average), so that was about a mile of each stroke. He’d done it with Gábor as company and the seed was sown for the later grander adventure, though over the course of the following three years, we were party to some of his ideas. He finally settled on a butterfly crossing, as no man had crossed the Channel by butterfly, though both Julie Bradshaw and Vicki Keith had previously crossed the Channel using that stroke.

Booked for September 2013, in September of 2012, Sylvain, committed to transparent rules like most marathon swimmers, engaged in a discussion on the marathonswimmers.org/forum about what extra rules could or should apply to such a crossing, with particular reference to stroke judging, something with which those of us who swim front crawl don’t have to be concerned. In the autumn he contacted the CS&PF through President Nick Adams, asking for the CS&PF committee to agree the rule-set in advance.

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Eventually Sylvain’s window arrived and we assembled as usual In Varne Ridge with Sylvain and his fiancee Greta. Gábor had just changed job and was very disappointed to not be able to be present but instead he’d drafted in a Hungarian friend of his from his EC solo and MIMS swims, Gergő “Kovi” Kovács. Lisa Cummins also joined the crew. But the weather wasn’t co-operative for Channel swimming for the week. Sylvain did electrify the Saturday morning Dover beach crew who had all heard about his butterfly attempt. He also made me do butterfly with him in training and Greta had to enter the water also. I did about 200 metres continuous and that was enough for me. Sylvain glides through the water with his ‘fly, I look more like I am trying to escape from the water.

Sylle & Donal swimming off Dover beach
Sylle & Donal swimming off Dover beach – shot by Lisa Cummins
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Dungeness Lighthouse

During this week, Lisa and I stepped in as emergency crew for Haydn Welch’s Channel attempt, as there was still no visible window. Sylvain and Greta waved us off from the rare departure point of Dungeness for Haydn’s unusual English Channel attempt, something that was tough on them as conditions looked quite good from the beach, though as it (providentially) became aware to us crew, it was utterly unsuitable for a butterfly attempt. Two days later, Lisa and I both returned to Ireland and Kovi to Hungary. Haydn’s attempt provided Lisa the opportunity to leave from Dungeness, which nicely counterpointed the fact that she is the only English Channel swimmer to ever land at Dungeness. Sylle continued to train daily in Dover harbour. Torn between holding his nerve and taper, and the temptation to restart long swims, he agreed with coach Eilís that he would swim a couple of two and three hour swims.

I’ve said before, and I am sure will say again, that waiting for weather is one of the most difficult and least understood or appreciated aspects of Channel swimming. Years in the dreaming and training, everything can be lost with an unfavourable low pressure system. Many people in Sylvain’s situation would have lost their chance of a swim after the first week, and probably have to return home, and it being late in the season, may not have any chance at a late swim. The financial cost also escalates rapidly. Another week of accommodation and car rental. Cancelled or rescheduled flights for yourself and extra flights to bring crew back in, and more expensive due to short term booking.

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Uncooperative Channel weather

Sylvain and Greta was prepared to wait for a chance of a spring tide opportunity, and so a week after we returned home, Sylle called us back to Dover. We arrived the afternoon of Saturday September the 21st with the prospect of starting the swim during the night on Sunday/Monday or during Monday.

Soon after we arrived, we did “the big shop”, using my checklist. Water for Sylvain. Water for crew. More water. Backup food for Sylvain. Food for crew. More food for crew. More water. WHIF food. (What-IF we can’t eat this or that? What-IF Sylvain or crew get sick?). A Channel swim’s provisions often look like a small desert expedition.

Then back to Varne to eat and prepare and mix, and await the next call after 7pm with Pilot Mike Oram.

Mike confirmed the swim was almost certainly on for Sunday with a starting time in the morning of about 9a.m. but Sylle still needed to to wait until Sunday morning on the pntoon, for final confirmation as weather forecasts still indicated a possibility of a 6 hour delay but the final, final, final morning discussion would gave us the go-ahead. Provisionally! Life of a Channel Swimmer! Hurry up and wait. But be on the slip-way in the morning, and there was still a chance of a tide delay.

Sylvain & Great Greta
Sylvain & Great Greta

Back to Varne to pre-mix, pack, eat and sleep. 

Premixing the swimmer’s feed simplifies and cleans up things on the boat greatly for the crew. The swimmer can be sure the feed is mixed to their own requirement, and malto-dextrin is a sticky substance best avoided having to mix on a boat. Two or one and a half litre bottles are much easier to lift and pour than 5 litre bottles. Square bottles pack better than round. Minutiae, the type that comes from the combined experience of the group.

Then we packed all the boxes. Sylle’s pre-mixed feeds. Sylle’s supplementary and solid swim food. Sylle’s gear, crew food, more crew food. Sylle’s swim gear. Crew gear. Sylle’s clothes. Crew bags. Pack everything, then unpack it and repack it. Check the checklist. Then dinner, then re-check the checklist and boxes.

A morning start would bring its own challenges, but at least we would get a good night’s sleep before.

Sylle does like to gurn for the camera!
Sylle does like to gurn for the camera!

On to Part 2.

Guest Article: Sylvain Estadieu – Butterfly in the Public Lane

As an irish people I dislike the association of Guinness with being Irish. Sylvain is French so he's allowed!
As an Irish person I dislike the association of Guinness with being Irish. Sylvain is French so he’s allowed!

Sylvain Estadieu, aka The Flying Frenchman, came to Ireland in 2008, where he became a Sandycove Island swimmer. He Soloed the English Channel in 2009. So despite his origin and travels around the world, and currently living in Sweden, Ireland and Sandycove will always have a claim on him.

During Channel training Sylle became  notorious for his Individual Medley of Sandycove Island, four laps of the island, about 1700 metres per lap, each lap using each of the four I.M. strokes, butterfly,  backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl. I seem to recall he said breaststroke was the worst lap.

After keeping it quiet for some time, Sylvain finally went public late last year with his intention of attempting another English Channel Solo, this time though he intends to attempt it as a Butterfly world-record attempt. Sylvain and I crewed for Gábor Molnar‘s English Channel swim, where I extracted the promise that we (Gábor and I) could crew for him. So this September, I’ll be back in Dover for another World Record attempt. 

In Varne Ridge.From left: Gabor, David, Donal, Evelyn, Sylvain,
In Varne Ridge.
From left: Gabor, David, Donal, Evelyn, Sylvain,

In 2010 and 2012 Sylvain and his girlfriend Great Greta travelled around the antipodes, where he left his mark by starting a tradition of non-wetsuit swimming in Lake Wanaka.

Sylvain at Lake Wannaka
Sylvain at Lake Wanaka

*

I get asked quite often if my sessions are 100% butterfly. The answer is no. I just had a look at the figures and for 2013 it turns out I’ve swam 48% of butterfly, 47% of front crawl, 4% of backstroke and just under 0.5% of breaststroke.

The other question that I get asked fairly often is if it’s easy to swim butterfly in a public lane. It can prove difficult to train front crawl if there are undisciplined bathers (Disclaimer: don’t swim in the same lane as me … I’m not a easy-friendly lane-mate) … so doing butterfly in a crowded lane sounds like it should be almost impossible, right? Well, you’ll be glad to learn that it’s possible!

The first rule of BIAPL is you don’t talk about BIAPL (you saw this one coming). One does not encourage others to do it. Especially if said others frequent the same swimming pool. We wouldn’t want a lane full with butterfliers, now that would be mayhem.

The second rule of BIAPL, which is probably more important than the first one is you’ve got to look around. This one is actually applicable to other strokes, other sports and situations like crossing the street, walking on the sidewalk, moving dishes from the dishwasher to the shelves, etc. As soon as there’s one person to share the lane with, you’ve got to start looking around yourself. Doing a complete length of butterfly with your head down is forbidden, so is taking the first stroke(s) with your head down. You look ahead as often as you can and learn to anticipate. Will I be able to take one full stroke or two short ones? Maybe I’ll have to overglide a bit so the oncoming swimmer will have time to end up behind me?

In all likelihood I will need to whack my right hand against the lane line a couple times per length so as to give enough space to the others (sorry to disappoint you Donal, but my wingspan is a mere 1m82 … but I still take more space doing fly than if I were to (somehow) swim sideways with my head-to-feet axis perpendicular to the lane). Occasionally my left hand will be high up in the air trying to pick apples while my left “wing” will resemble that of a little duckling. Not pretty, but at least there’ll be no blood in the water.

It’s an easy rule to summarize, but it’s really powerful. Just know your surroundings, know what’s going on around you, and most of the time you’ll be alright.

The third rule of BIAPL is that you won’t be able to take every single stroke in the mighty butterfly style, so get over it already. There will necessarily be times when you have to switch to freestyle for a few strokes. But that’s not a biggie, especially because it gives you the chance to … count … something … else! Yipee! You’re already keeping track of the distance you swam, the remaining one, your average pace for each set and the number of times people have pushed off right in front of you, now let me introduce the fly/fc ratio.

What is the fly/fc ratio?

Quite simply, the fly/fc ration describes the amount of butterflying in your butterfly sets. 100% means that you didn’t need to use the one-arm stroke even once while 50% indicates that it must have been a bloody battlefield out there and that maybe you’d have been better off doing something else, like kicking perhaps?

Calculating the ratio is very easy: imagine your average stroke count is 20 strokes per 25m in front crawl. You start a casual 1000m butterfly and end up using a total of 90 strokes of f/c in order to pass people of avoid accidentally punching them in the head (or worse, if you have paddles on, something reminiscent of the French Revolution … the Swedes have hidden their royal family since I moved to Sweden). You will have swum approximately 112.5m of f/c and 887.5m of fly, hence a ratio of 89%. Not bad!

You can also use this ratio to calculate you actual “butterfly speed” over such a set, but I’ll let you do the math.

The fourth rule of BIAPL is embrace the moment. Have fun, you’re flying after all. You’re bringing magic to this world, you’re inspiring people, at the very least a young Arnie, for two strokes or more.

And remember the (poor) haiku:

Both arms over head
Then glide deep under water
Archimedes will help.

Otherwise, training is going well, getting faster, stronger and better looking by the day.

Fly Sweden!
Fly Sweden!

Recommended links:

Sylvain’s blog.

Something important that I recently learned

If doing a long swim with a training partner … who is faster than you anyway … if you are barely managing to hold onto his bubbles … do not, I repeat DO NOT give him some of your caffeinated carbohydrate feed (Hammer Perpetuum with Caffeine) at the 21k point … ESPECIALLY if he has been off caffeine for four months!

Gabor

Or you will see him take off like Speedy MacSpeedster, the holder of the Speedy Family’s speed record.

Gábor and I had a 24k last Friday. Unfortunately I can’t share the session details as it’s under an NDA from Coach Eilís. Suffice to say it was tough. According to Gábor, graduates of this particular session shall henceforth be known as The 24 Carat Club, and includes all this year’s Sandycove marathon swimmers. Also swimming at various times during the day were Queen Lisa, marathon swimmer Rob The Bull Bohane, and 2012 Aspirants Catherine Sheridan & Carmel Collins.

Lisa

Recovery was about four days to feeling almost normal while swimming, pretty good.

I am now off caffeine again myself.

Rob & I after Sandycove Challenge 2010

Swimsuit models never look like Open Water swimmers

These are typical swimsuit ads, you see them all over the place. You know the only cold that this pair has ever felt was when he left his cashmere scarf behind that one time in that lovely little boutique in Chelsea after he came back from a weekend in a yacht in St. Tropez and he was feeling the chill of the April air and he met up with her for lunch after her fish pedicure and afterwards they walked her Chi-waa-waa in around Kensington. Or so I imagine.

Warning, get your sunglasses. Here’s me, 6 months ago, probably at my weight best! I weight about 4 kgs more at the moment after 6 months of open water swimming … but my tan is better!

Here’s another picture of Rob & I, just after finishing the Sandycove Challenge last year. We are the two without wetsuits obviously, and I’m the one without a cap. I was the exact same weight then as now, 78 kgs, and I’m 171cms (5’7″ … and a very important bit, which is technical height measurement term that IS NOT IN ANY WAY IMAGINARY). That’s the two of us in the centre of the picture. It’s sometimes called The Channel Body. Stereotypically handsome Irishmen! Not.

Rob & I after Sandycove Challenge 2010

Would you buy those togs after seeing that as an ad? Not those exact togs obviously, we’re OW swimmers, they get pretty skanky. :-)

And because I love opportunities to use these pictures, here’s my adopted Hungarian child. In his thong, same day.

Gabor!

Sometime earlier in the year I put up a post with pictures of the different types of athletic bodies across different sports. I was going to originally put the first picture of me above into it for the laugh, (which was why I’d edited in a black background). I think in theory everybody over the age of 30 dislikes the body composition issues we see in society, but at the same time, it’s difficult to be honest about ourselves when we don’t meet these bloody ideals. I’m not the most handsome man in the world. As a cold open water swimmer, I’m always a bit (to more than bit) overweight from carrying some extra fat for warmth (I had originally written little bit, without realising it, my subconscious still trying to compensate). You’d swear though that any fat was the worst thing that ever happened to humanity, instead of remembering that it has specific purposes, like insulation and energy storage, especially in our line of sport. Live an active life, and just keep doing stuff. In the long run, you’ll be fine.

So I guess all this rambling just means; get real, swim companies. There’s a whole world of real swimmers out here.

English Channel season is over – anniversary of Gábor’s English Channel Solo (with video)

The last bookable tide for soloists for the English Channel is the last neap tide of September. (There is one unbookable tide left that some soloists may be able to get out on, weather permitting, best wishes to those waiting, hoping for a last chance).

Though the water is still warm (at least by Irish standards), the chance of storms and rough water has significantly increased, along with longer nights leaving solo swimmers starting on high tide, the more common, with a longer period of n.

Gábor successfully swam the English Channel on the 28th of September last year, and I had the honour to be there as crew. One of my all-time favourite movie clips is of Sylvain and I swimming in with Gábor onto Wissant beach. I hadn’t realised Sylvain had the camera at the time.

Gábor’s first thought, unsurprising for those who know him, was to make a joke. His second was to think of our friend and hero Rob Bohane. It was a very powerful and personal moment, and having it on film is thanks to Sylvain and Gábor for allowing us to be there, to capture the emotion of the end of a Channel Solo quite well, probably at that moment more emotional for Sylvain and I, since Gábor was mainly exhausted. And thanks to Gábor for letting me upload it.

With his words, Gábor brought all of our friends onto Wissant beach with him.

(The shouting is hooting, learned when surfing, when I discovered it was a sound that carries well over water and wind).

Congratulations to the MIMS swimmers

Congrats to my adopted Hungarian child Gábor, Eddie Irwin, and Evan Morrison on finishing the Manhattan Island swim yesterday. Evan finished in third place about 10.20pm GMT after a storming swim down the Hudson overtaking two people, fantastic. He reached a maximum speed on 7mph on the other side of the island! Erica Rose (US) was first and John Van Wisse (Aus, Double EC last year while we over there, and visitor here last year with Chloe McCardel, last year’s MIMS winner) was second.

MIMS 2011 GPS finish

The GPS was a bit flaky for the last 45 minutes making it difficult to figure out who was where. At one point it looked like Erica Rose might have abandoned only half a mile from the finish. Eddie and Gábor finished before midnight (not sure exactly, Eddie said it was a lovely swim).

Well done one and all. Looking forward to the swim reports

The Last Mile Roadtrip – October 5th and 6th 2010

From left to right:

Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer’s Coach
Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer
Channel Swimmer

Not seen in photo, 2 more Channel Swimmers and an Aspirant/Crew.

Okay, okay.

In the background, la Manche, from Cap Gris Nez, on a frisky Force 3 to 4 day.

Left to right,
Ciarán Byrne, myself, Rob Bohane, Eilís Burns, Imelda Hughes, Jennifer Hurley, Liam Maher, Gábor Molnar. Not visible are Craig Morrison, Paul Massey and Dave from Dover.

Some drinking, eating…and swimming was done. Eilís even swam sans wetsuit. Some lumps in throats and plenty of laughing and craic.

It was the best day.

Gábor Molnar, English Channel Solo Swimmer, 2010

A job well done. Update asap.

Conditions were good. Flat for 10 hours then it got a little frisky. Tide was strong though pushing both Suva and Pace Arrow past the Cap. Hard to get into Wissant also.

Gabor did a great job on his feeds, though he occasionally sacrificed quantity for speed, such that I often had to delay his next feed to make he was getting enough food in.

With most of the crew down with sea-sickness I was pretty busy.

I won’t go through all his swim  right now, just to say well done.

Gabor touched France around 2:20Pm with Sylvain and I swimming him in for a time of 14 H 18m. Sylvain got a great video of the end.

Warning -NSFW

Here’s our Hun, Gábor, getting ready for a speed Sandycove lap in his new, hi-tech, FINA-approved, open water adapted racing suit.

Rob suggested we organise a charity collection for the Sandycove Challenge.

In one bucket will be the collection for those wanting Gábor to wear this.

In the other bucker will be the collection for those wanting to stop him.