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Here are my top tips for open water swimming! Whatever your goal, your swimming technique goes hand in hand with your success.
Table of contents

What do we mean by tidal conditions? From the web site we learn that the tide is the vertical rise and fall of the sea level surface caused primarily by the change in gravitational attraction of the moon, and to a lesser extent the sun. As the earth spins on its axis the centrifugal force results in slightly deeper water near the equator as opposed to shallower water at the poles. In fact it causes a flow from the poles to the equator.

The earth is also in orbit around the sun one revolution in one year creating not only another centrifugal force but also a gravitational interaction. These two yield a bulge on the night site centrifugal and a bulge on the day site gravitational both of them moving as the world turns. Therefore, a certain place on this world will experience two high and two low tides each day. With these forces alone, we would not have spring tides and neap tides. Spring tides have higher high tides and lower low tides Spring tides are especially strong tides they do not have anything to do with the season Spring.

They occur when the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon are in a line. The gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun both contribute to the tides. Spring tides occur during the full moon and the new moon. During this period you can expect the tides in the Dover Strait to have a mean spring speed of 3. Neap tides have lower high tides and higher low tides.

List of successful English Channel swimmers - Wikipedia

Neap tides are especially weak tides. They occur when the gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun are perpendicular to one another with respect to the Earth. Neap tides occur during quarter moons. During this period you can expect the tides in the Dover Strait to have a mean neap speed of 1. Your task is to swim across this tide and if you choose to swim on the bottom of the neap tide, hopefully the strength will be minimal, perhaps only 1. Thereafter it usually starts to drop by a couple of degrees before the beginning of October depending on whether we have had an Indian summer during September, or whether the autumnal gales have come early.

22 Tips for a Successful Channel Swim

There are numerous articles on hypothermia on the Internet and these can be readily accessed. For information on prevention, treatment and recognition see www. Most heat is lost through the head and body heat is lost much more quickly in the water than in air. The normal body temperature is This moderate hypothermia can usually be reversed and a complete recovery made, if it is recognised and treated quickly. Victims can appear to be clinically dead because of marked depression of brain and cardiovascular function, but full resuscitation with intact neurological recovery is possible, although unusual.

The victim's peripheral pulses and respiratory efforts may be difficult to detect, but lifesaving procedures should not be withheld based on clinical presentation. The symptoms and signs of the onset of hypothermia are often difficult to recognise, but they are basically bouts of shivering, disorientation, irrational behaviour, blueness of the lips, inability to concentrate or co-ordinate speech, inability to follow the boat and inability to respond to simple requests or questions.

If hypothermia is suspected your team must do as the pilot instructs — hypothermia is serious and can be life threatening.

Stage 1 - Body temperature drops 1. Blood vessels in outer extremities contract, lessening heat loss to the outside air. Breathing becomes quick and shallow. Goose bumps form, to raise body hair on end in an attempt to create an insulating layer of air around the body. Stage 2 - Body temperature drops 3.

Lecomte is a little over a fifth of the way through his journey.

Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. Victim becomes pale. Lips, ears, fingers and toes may become blue. Stage 3 - Body temperature drops below approximately Cellular metabolic processes shut down.

Major organs fail. Clinical death occurs. Note - Because of decreased cellular activity in stage 3 hypothermia, the body will actually take longer to undergo brain death. You may be a fast swimmer, but for how long can you keep it up and how often do you plan to stop for refueling? There is no doubt that a fast swimmer has many advantages over a slower swimmer. Your pilot will ask you for your swim rate and this should be a realistic timing.

There is nothing to be gained from fooling either your pilot or yourself. It is helpful to your pilot, to you and your team if you have an idea of the time you will take to complete your crossing. For a start it will help you to stay within your own comfort zone and gauge your progress. Time yourself over a series of races. It is approximately 19nm nautical miles from England to France, but you will swim more. If you are a slower swimmer, then unfortunately, the tides work against you and the slower you swim the further you will travel to complete your swim. Once you have an idea of your swim speed you can begin to estimate your crossing time and you can start to prepare yourself mentally as well as physically.

As we have already said the Channel is as much a mental swim, as a physical swim. If you are exceptionally fast 4. The Channel is not like a pool, unless you are exceptionally lucky, it will be continuously choppy and it will be salty. If you swallow too much salt water you will undoubtedly be sick and this is something you should endeavour to avoid if at all possible. How badly you are sick, will in part depend on your feeding schedule during the swim. Therefore you need to have a feeding regime which suits you, not your friend.

It is not important to stay in the water for long periods but it is very advantageous to gradually build up your ability to withstand low temperatures for minutes if possible. A minute in May is worth an hour in August.

Abhejali Conquers the North Channel - 6 down, 1 to go in her Oceans Seven Challenge

You can also sleep with a minimum of bed clothing and with the bedroom windows open and generally try to toughen yourself up. Air temperature and the chill factor are aspects of open water swimming which invariably are completely overlooked. Air temperature varies depending on the weather and the hours of daylight and obviously it drops during the night. The longest days are around the 21st of June.

At this time swimmers can expect as much as 18 or more hours of daylight, from about to hours. The daylight then decreases steadily after the longest day to about 13 hours of daylight, to hours, by the end of September. These figures of course, assume blue skies and high pressure systems and are by no means guaranteed.

On the contrary, these are maximum expectations and the reality is often cloud, fog, mist and rain. As common sense will tell you, body heat is lost from the parts of the swimmer exposed to the water and additional loss comes from those parts which are exposed to both the air and the water, primarily the head and shoulders.

The air temperature is usually higher during daylight hours; therefore the longer the day, the greater the period of higher air temperature and the smaller the potential loss of body heat from across the shoulders and back. But this simple statement is further complicated by the strength of the wind, which leads to the wind chill factor.

Hopefully on the day you make your attempt, the wind will be slight and the sun warm, hence the saying, you can feel the warmth on your back. But you should be prepared for little sun and more than your fair share of wind. In which case, if you have not acclimatised to the temperature and to swimming in windy conditions, you will feel start to feel cold. After a few hours, you will start to shiver, especially when you stop to feed and you will need to be aware of the effects of hypothermia. Locate your nearest open water swimming club and try to take part in as many events as you possibly can.

Mental determination will play almost as big a part in a successful channel swim as your swimming ability. We would also suggest that you refer to the Channel Swimming Association Handbook, pages , which will give you some more useful tips. Our general advice for UK based swimmers is to suggest that they enter British Long Distance Swimming Association swims to see if they like them and can stand the cold. Then, if you do, to start training seriously. What matters is that you gradually build up your ability, your mental determination to finish and your confidence until you get you the point where you know you can withstand the cold, you know you can do the distance and you know you can do it.

It is perfectly true that, depending on the tidal conditions, your final chart may have the shape of an S. Swimmers frequently ask for a chart of their swim. The charts are available either flat packed with creases or uncreased, in tubes. Your pilot will always be happy to plot your course if you provide him with a copy. Sharp and Enright also stock tide tables and the silver and gold rescue sheets for keeping you warm after your swim.

When the French authorities permitted these they usually started from Cap Gris Nez. But alas the weather, the strength of the tides and your position relative to the coast, are all factors that will work against you and the estimated 30 minutes will in fact be considerably longer, possibly as much as 2 or 3 hours. Of course, if you have good swim technique or you are in a club where good technique is taught, and you are still young enough, you should take advantage of it.

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But for most swimmers, by the time they are ready to make the Channel challenge their techniques and bad habits will almost certainly have become ingrained and this is not the time to start thinking about changing your stroke. Additionally, sea swimming is different from pool swimming and you will already have adapted your stroke to very different conditions than those found in the pool. Additionally, there are very few coaches who have much experience of sea swimming.

Starts are unimportant, turns are unimportant, there is no stopping and changing direction every 25 metres and the ability to sprint m is of little benefit. What is important, is to be able to take long powerful strokes and to hold your rhythm for many hours without showing any sign of weakening. One of the first pointers to fatigue is your stroke rate. And when it gets rough, you need to be able to go with the conditions and to take advantage of them and not to fight them.

The importance of outdoor training and acclimatisation to the conditions cannot be emphasised enough. The body reacts and performs differently in cold water compared with indoor pools, where the water temperature is very often 28C and more. Do as many of your long swims as possible in open water. Pool swimmers and even national champions have found the transition to open water much more difficult than they expected. Utilise the time in the indoor pool to keep yourself sharp but remember that there is no alternative to building up your stamina and confidence in open water.

Bi-lateral breathing can be a great benefit if you can do it and it is certainly worth persevering with it. It allows you to be able to swim on either side of the boat. This can be very advantageous when the wind gets up and allows you to seek refuge from it by going on the other side of the boat or if it is blowing the diesel fumes from your escort boat over you. Whether you decide to use grease is entirely up to you.

But here again, experiment for yourself. We know that the mixtures used in Australia are less suitable for our conditions. Basically, the more lanolin in your mix, the thicker it will be and the harder to put on and the longer it will stay on. The more Vaseline in your mix, the easier it will be to put on and the quicker it will probably come off. You must always remember, and it is not easy, but once you are coated with grease, you must keep it away from your hands. You must also keep it away from your face and goggles.

Once you have got one of your team to coat you in grease, it is too late to want to scratch you back!! If you do decide to use grease you should provide yourself with a set of old clothes to cover the grease on your body when you come out of the water, as it is not easy to remove. Do not leave any litter; i. Some pilots do not like swimmers using grease, so add this to your checklist to ask about. Traditionally swimmers have used grease since Capt. That does not mean that you have to use it but it does offer 3 benefits: When you first enter the water at the start of the swim it definitely insulates you from the initial shock of the cold water, this is most pronounced at the beginning and end of the season.

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In the event that you swim into or though jelly fish tentacles it offers a small amount of protection from the sting. On a long swim you will probably find that you suffer from chaffing under the arm pits, between the legs, around the neck or from the rubbing of the straps on your costume.

If you only stroke at 50 strokes per minute, you will make 45, strokes during your swim. What your pilot is really saying is that he does not like swimmers using grease because it is difficult to clean off his boat and he does not want to get the boat greasy. It is too late to think about how to feed and what to eat on the day of the swim.

These are factors that need to be practiced during your long training sessions and during other competitive races. Briefly your food, depending on what it is, can be handed to you using a long pole or in a net, or in a bottle attached to a long piece of string or simply handed to you from the boat. Pool training or even sheltered open waters cannot prepare a swimmer for what he may encounter at sea.

Even on a good day the Channel is unpredictable and one must be prepared for this. Dover Harbour is an excellent venue for training, being a good facility for long arduous swims, in cold Channel temperatures. It offers an opportunity to practice feeding and is easily supervised, but it is still a sheltered environment. Hence, some experience in the open sea is advisable if possible and will be of great benefit. Try and train with friends and obviously a personal coach can be a great boon.

But whatever you do, it is essential that you make safety your primary concern and that when you are training outdoors someone is with you at all times and that others know when to expect you back. There is nothing to be gained by worrying people or causing unnecessary alarm. Swimmers should get accustomed to swimming alongside an escort boat with waves and tide and winds and currents. Practice bi-lateral breathing as this gives a swimmer the choice of swimming on either side of a vessel and to use the hull for shelter against wind and tide. It may also help you to avoid fumes from the boat if the wind is in the wrong direction.

Outdoor training cannot be over emphasised as the body reacts and performs differently in the cold water. The transition to cold open water takes time and effort. In England this is usually early May and swims of 10 to 15 minutes duration is a good base to work on. Gradually extend the swims in time by adding 5 to 10 minutes per swim and a second swim per day may prove to be beneficial.

When two-hour swims have been achieved, then all training needs to be performed outdoors. Around three weeks prior to your actual swim date, an eight to ten hour swim should have been accomplished. At this stage some swimmers choose to perform a split swim over a two-day period, i. During the final two weeks of training it should only be necessary to do one or two hours a day.

11 things you need to know before swimming the English Channel

It's best to have a complete rest from swimming for two or three days prior to the actual attempt. A Channel Swim differs from all other swims of the same distance because of the sheer complexity and the local environment. This is why it is considered the ultimate challenge amongst long distance swimmers. A swimmer needs to be mentally and physically attuned on the day as nothing else matters but to arrive safely on the other side.

Start with intention of success, but safely, not at any cost. Swim training should be supplemented with carefully programmed and observed weight training, circuit training, running, cycling, all preceded by lengthy flexibility work. Never get into the water without doing a minimum amount of stretching.

Training for most of us is a balancing act between achieving sufficient physical development to realise our goal, maintaining a full time job and paying some attention to the family! Over training will dampen your initial enthusiasm, affect your well being, promote sleep disturbance, irritability and restlessness and make you more susceptible to recurrent minor injuries. Should you be injured of course, the first line of treatment is rest, followed by a gentle return to your previous standards. As the swimmer you are not expected to understand the weather but you do need to be aware that this part of the English Channel has a microclimate all of its own, it is complicated and unpredictable.

The one factor over which we have no control and which is the single most important ingredient for a successful swim is the weather. Because the Dover Strait is such a narrow stretch of water between two landmasses, the weather conditions are very localised. The regular shipping forecasts do give an indication as to what is going to happen, but are aimed at shipping, they are aimed for the next 24 hours, they tend to be cautious and they are for quite a large area.

Quite simply, whilst they are useful guides and should always be noted, they do not really cater for people looking to swim the Channel. But, from the forecast and the charts available, your pilot will be able to get an idea of the wind speed and direction and a general view of the weather to come. The BBC local forecast after the 6pm news is also useful. For more information check the CSA web site for weather. What every swimmer is hoping for, is no wind or a light wind force 2 or less.

Your pilot will be looking to match these forecasts with sea state, air temperatures, cloud cover and his local knowledge before he gives you an opinion. When the sea is flat, force 2 7 miles per hour or less , there is probably a weak high pressure system over the area, but equally the Dover area could be between two low pressure systems. This could mean thick fog - another hazard, which has to be considered and regularly occurs in the summer months.

What you can expect to have is force 3 to 4, which is miles per hour with a wave height of 3 to 5 ft But, be warned, it is not unknown for swimmers to experience gusts and winds of miles per hour waves up to 8 ft, 2 metres plus, and white horses. The reason bilateral breathing is important in the Channel is that it enables you to swim on either side of the pilot boat to suit the sea conditions. The sea conditions also depend on the direction of the wind in relation to the tide. Wind and tide together give a long rolling sea, wind and tide opposite each other gives a short breaking sea and wind across the tide gives a confused sea.

The stronger the wind or tide, or both, the more amplified the sea state. So, during your swim you could have a situation where the wind and tide are together for part of the time and then they are opposite each other, giving a totally different sea state with exactly the same wind conditions. One of the hardest things for swimmers and pilots alike to understand is the effect of weather conditions elsewhere in the English Channel, on the conditions in the Dover Strait. While Dover is calm and sunny, there could be a gale approaching the South Coast or in the North Sea.

These conditions can produce a swell at Dover or higher or lower tides than the tide tables have predicted, or longer slack tides, or shorter slack tides. The weather is always uncertain and local conditions can change in a very short time 30 minutes. Hence, it is important that you have some understanding of the task you face.

Some days are perfect, some days become perfect as they progress, and some perfect days are missed! The same goes for training: take your time and build up to it. Show off. Mix it up. As for temperature, I tried to swim in the coldest water I could find at the time so that I was prepared for the worst case scenario. Give yourself a fat chance. You might be slathering yourself in goose fat for layer of insulation, but piling on some pounds around your middle will help keep your internal organs warm, too.

Find your zen. Swimming, swimming and swimming onwards towards France might not be the most stimulating experience. At some point you'll just be a grown person flailing across water for miles and miles of liquidy nothingness. You must prepare so that you go in without any doubt as to whether you can succeed. From the day I signed up I never thought about not finishing the swim.

Book early. Remember that boat we mentioned? Take it easy. When people get sore the important thing is to put your focus into your body, work through your stroke and try to switch off any of the muscles that are aching. And keep going. Different strokes, for different folks.

Most people swim Front Crawl Freestyle but people do occasion-ally use the other strokes including Butterfly.