8.11.2012

Gordon's English Channel Swim

It is now about a day since Gordon finished his English Channel swim.  It was an amazing experience and I am so glad that I was here to be on his crew and witness his accomplishment.

We met the pilot, Paul Foreman, at 2:00pm at the Dover Marina.  After loading up and saying goodbye to Gordon's parents and one of his sons, we were off.  It was about a 25 to 30 minute ride to the beach where he would start.  We got as much stuff ready to go as we could before we got there: mixing feeds, getting the GPS set up, etc.  Gordon got all greased down and was ready to go by the time we got there.  He hopped off the boat as soon as he got the OK and swam a short distance to shore.  It was touching to see him clear the water and then kneel down to pray before starting his swim.  After raising his arms to signal he was ready, we walked into the water and started swimming for France.

He was swimming faster than normal, which was his plan.  He wanted to push it at the start to take advantage of the tides pushing him.  His stroke rate for the first few hours was in the low 70's, which is much higher than his typical stroke count.  He looked strong and powerful.  The weather was perfect and the water was 66 degrees.

After three hours, I was able to get in the water to swim with him.  I know some people (Goody) will make fun of me for wearing a wetsuit, but I have been struggling with cooler water and did not want to do anything to jeopardize Gordon's swim.  I haven't worn it for a couple years and I was quickly re-acquainted with the spots on my neck and underarms that are prone to chaffing with the suit on.  Following channel swimming rules, I was able to swim at his side for one hour.  The water was blue, and surprisingly clear.

Gordon's stroke rate decreased only slightly through the bulk of the swim to the mid to upper 60's.  He never once looked tired and the crew was impressed with how well he was swimming.  After it got dark, the water started getting a little choppy, but nothing too serious.  At 9:00pm I got in to swim with him again.  By this time we both had glow sticks on to help the crew see us.  It was tough swimming in the dark because I could barely see Gordon with the small swells and I felt like I was swimming all over the place.  I kept thinking that I wasn't doing him any good in the dark and decided to not get back in.  After an hour, I got out and talked to the first mate and he had similar idea.  I changed into dry clothes and spent the rest of the time helping with feeds, talking to the crew, and watching Gordon swim.

Feeds consisted of Perpetuem mixed with white grape and pineapple juice, swiss rolls, cereal bars, flat Coke, chocolate milk, hot chocolate, and chicken nuggets.  Gordon's goal was to keep his feeds as short as possible, and he did an excellent job of keeping them really short and efficient.  For one feed we had mixed in some peaches and he spit them out.  Talking to him later, he though it was a clump of Perpetuem and realized after he spat it out that it was peaches.

The other members of the crew were his wife (Cathi) and son (Jake).  Paul Foreman was the pilot and Ray was the first mate.  Sam was the official observer.  There was also a reporter (Alan) from KSL on the boat.  I was so happy that someone was covering Gordon's swim.  Alan pulled out all the stops and conducted multiple interviews with everyone on the boat.  He used his GoPro to capture some cool video.  At one point, he even had me wear the GoPro on my back when I was swimming with Gordon.  He had about 2 hours of video when we were done and was going to try to edit it into a 3 minute story to air on KSL on Saturday.

Everyone on the boat was impressed with how strong Gordon was swimming and the progress he was making.  At about 9 hours the pilot told us if he kept it up, he might have a little as 3 hours left.  This combined with seeing the lighthouse on Cape Griz Nez got us really excited.  It must have excited Gordon too, because he picked up his pace again and started swimming at 68 to 71 spm.

We told him he had about a mile to go and he said "Just a Gridley Straight" and took off.  To get him to land, the crew had to shine a bright spotlight on the shore for him to follow, since the boat could not get any closer.  We watched him swim into shore, struggle over the rocks, stand up and raise his arms over his head.  He made it!  After collecting some rocks to bring back, he carefully made his way off the rocks and back into the water.  He swam the short distance back to the boat and got out.

He finished with a time of 11:30, which was half an hour faster than his most optimistic estimate of 12 hours. I am so happy that his hard work paid off and that the weather was so good for his swim.  Just the night before, several swimmers got within a few hundred yards of shore and had to be pulled out because of extremely thick fog that made keeping them in the water a safety concern.

Gordon is now the third, and fastest, Utah swimmer to complete the English Channel swim.  I know there were a TON of people following him at home, which is proof of the influence he is on the open water community and with his family and friends.  Gordon is a true hero to all of the open water swimmers in Utah and we are all very proud of him for his accomplishment.

Please check out his own account of his swim on Gords Swim Log.

I have a bunch of pictures that I will post later.

1 comment:

DD said...

Thanks for posting your experience of Gordon's swim! It was fun to read, and nice to hear about it from another perspective.
Brendon & Diana Hatch (bro-in-law & sis)