Some messages to Trent involved an ongoing in-joke with Trent’s crew which I can’t repeat, but I can tell you they involved direct messages from a deity.
Trent was hammering, burning. His kick was fully switched on, his stroke was up and still increasing and he’d probably briefly seen France for a second. We were lined up still toward Wissant, the long beach and village north of the Cap but still moving sideways also. His next feed was scheduled for five minutes later.
He refused the next feed. No time was lost, a dice was thrown, the fastest engines burn the most fuel, the race for the record now also a race to the end, a race to beat burnout.
In the seventh hour, with 6 hours and 10 minutes elapsed, Harley gave the next important message;
2.7 k in 45 minutes required.
Mike said that 6 minutes inside the record was possible if Trent was to keep up the speed. Keeping speed is really difficult at this stage, there is so much that can interfere with it; the currents, any change in water pattern or breeze, the late trajectory into the Cap, cramp, stroke rate or efficiency deterioration … or suddenly running out of energy because you’ve missed your last two feeds.
Again, this looks easy enough in normal circumstances. These weren’t normal circumstances, there is no normal in the Channel.
I would shout “go” in time with Trent’s breathing for a minute, or two or three, until my voice would break and only a croak would issue. I would stop for a minute, maybe do a very irregular Tweet update, and then go back to shouting.
At this stage Damián started preparing to go in, and took most of the remaining feed mix, as he’d also eaten very little during the swim. Since he wasn’t an official swimmer he wore the partial wetsuit common in many FINA events.
He entered the water, diving from the port side where he’d been stationed out and behind Trent, surfacing on Trent’s left side, the side that Trent never looks to, an item of concern for Damián.
The CS&PF rules for support swimmers, and Mike Oram had snapped at Trent earlier in the week that Damián was a support swimmer, not a “pace swimmer”, specify the times and intervals which the support swimmer(s) can be in the water, but since Damián had not previously been in the water with Trent, there was no problem with him going in now. The maximum he could stay in was 1 hour, but the swim was not expected to take that long. Most importantly he could not draft Trent, nor touch him before the end, including not being allowed to help Trent exit the water on the dangerous rocks around the Cap.
Damián could swim away from Trent, and help Trent keep pace just by his presence and being able to more easily feel for pace being fresh.
Five minutes after Damián entered, a yacht appeared from port heading straight for Gallivant and not bearing off. I asked Harley to ask Mike in case he or James didn’t see it, being intent on the closing stages of the swim, (unlikely as that was). Sail has right-of-way over power according to rules of the sea, and I worried that a sailor used to this would not bear off. But the 32 footer was under power, using the iron sail. Mike called on VHF, and they eventually bore off, taking away the very late worry of a time-consuming diversion.
Not long after Damián entered the water, another message to Trent from Mike via Harley:
1500 metres in 30 minutes. The Cap was right in front of us now.
Even I can do that easily. I know better though than to think that’s relevant. Trent’s stroke rate had reached 82 strokes per minute. He was “in a world of pain” in his own words. Heart hammering, stroke suffering, efficiency had deteriorating with each increase of those strokes. Every muscle screaming for oxygen and energy at best, to stop, to rest, to put an end to the torture at worst. Trent didn’t know, we didn’t know if the record was secure. On Twitter I said the Channel record was on a knife-edge, no time to think of anything except a cliché.
At 13:30 a message told Trent to swim 500 metres in 10 minutes. The unflappable Harley was even getting agitated, MOVE UR ARSE on the message board.
The water around the Cap was full of boats, at first we though it was other pilot boats who might have waited to see this extraordinary spectacle to its denouement, but it was fishing boats and just one other pilot-boat, Lance Oram, Mike’s son on Sea Satin with South African Miles Wilson after his successful 13 hours and eleven minutes Solo.
Sea Satin steamed starboard of us, and swung around to escort Trent and Damián on the other side. I Tweeted “7 minutes”, unable to tear myself away for more time from this extraordinary spectacle.
We passed fishing boats, small and medium, the occupants bemused by all the shouting, some displaying a typically Gallic indifference.
As we closed on the Cap, we could see a large crowd on the viewpoint (left of the lighthouse).
We steamed over the rocks in front of the Cap only visible at low tide. Individual rocks were visible on the Cap. The six minutes advantage Trent had, had evaporated in the final stretch.
Harley, Owen and I were apoplectic. Harley gave Trent some final motivation, holding out the Australian flag, Owen shouting go, go, I had descended into a non-verbal hooting shriek.
The steel bow scraped reef and Mike put Gallivant into neutral. Trent and Damián swum away, ahead of us. Toward the Cap.
They swam past the first above-water reefs, inshore.
I switched the camera to video, not having a lens large enough to clearly resolve the swimmers.
At 13:38 Trent and Damián reached the rocks on the north-east side of the Cap. Trent stumbled upwards clear of the water almost immediately, raised his arms, and Gallivant‘s sirens whooped. The swim was over, a new English Channel record had been set. My notebook says “UNBELIEVABLE”.
The new English Channel Solo record is 6 hours and 55 minutes.
It is 2 minutes and 50 seconds faster than the previous record.
Trent Grimsey is the new English Channel Record Holder.
He is not done yet.