And so it was at precisely 7am on Saturday 14th I began the journey into the chilly waters of the Sussex Coast to raise as much cash as possible for the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice and the RNLI.
The idea was my ‘new approach to fundraising’ (Splash4cash) a competition, with a £1000 first prize to apply guesswork and logic to a series of complete unknowns, how far I would swim in exactly 10 hours. The prize money had been kindly put up by Shoreham Vehicle Auctions and Jeremy Silverthorne Fine Jewellery.
And so I set out, towing a large orange buoy or ‘tow float’ behind me with two satellite watches firmly attached. The weather was kind, the one day of the week in which a northerly breeze had flattened the sea somewhat from the usual swell. I had another swimmer, Mike Latham with me for the first part to Littlehampton and we began steadily with two supporting kayakers in tow, on-board were water, sports gels and bananas to keep the fuel in me for the next 5 hours until i could meet the main support boat at Littlehampton for the river swim.
The route was simple, Worthing Pier, to Littlehampton, up to the Black Rabbit at Arundel and then back down to Littlehampton, the idea was how much of the course I covered in 10 hours.
Some 2 hours into the swim I began to experience the excruciating cramps which tend to come in the right leg after last years major blood clot in the top of the thigh, I had to swim back to my depth to stand briefly to eradicate it.
5 hours after setting out and the hardest and most dangerous section had arrived, entering the harbour at Littlehampton AGAINST the current. I knew before hand that there would still be water coming out for around 90 minutes and that this section meant going nowhere fast. One of our young swimmer friends, Nathan Abbott had arranged to come out to bring me a pair of short fins for the harbour entrance section, getting them on in the water without my legs cramping proved both painful and difficult, but after some effort, they were on. After an Oat bar, a banana and a sachet of sports gel with extra caffeine for a boost the assault began, if I were to stop briefly in this section then I would be swept back at around 5 metres per second, I had around 1km to do before I could feed again in the relative calm eddy in front of the RNLI station upriver. As well as the dangerous currents, I had to negotiate the harbour wall covered in razor sharp mussels and cockleshells, but keep as close to it as possible to minimise the currents effect. After what seemed a lifetime and a lot of encouragement from Jim Mahoney in the kayak, I made it to the RNLI station, having inched forward for what seemed like an eternity.
The support boat had been with me since the harbour mouth with my long suffering wife Jacqui and daughter Ashlena on-board and we continued upstream waiting for the tide to turn, for the magic ‘slack water period’ and the following rocket propulsion up to Arundel, but it failed to happen. Not helped by the heavy rainfall overnight, the water was still pouring into my path (I was hypothermic by now as I had been in for 7 Hours). I had to keep the fins on as by this stage my whole right leg was locking up every so often and having the power to tread down with some resistance was the only way to normalise it briefly.
Finally I battled to Ford, with just under 90 minutes remaining and the river finally began to turn. I was determined to reach Arundel so took on some hot coffee, more gels and shot off for the final push to Arundel. Just before the road bridge of the A27, I handed the Satellite watches over to the boat so that they could be stopped bang on the 10 hour mark. Jacqui and Ashlena counted down the remaining ten seconds and we stopped the timers just past the bridge. Job done. I hardly had the energy left to climb into the boat, but somehow managed to haul myself in to be wrapped in blankets and duvets for the journey home. Today (Sunday) I am exhausted and needless to say my shoulders and arms are very tender but i am elated at completing the task.
The final distance was 23,410 metres, although data showed because of the current I had to swim 30km or just under 19 miles. The winner of The £1000 (Dave Priest of Tuff Fitty Triathlon Club) has donated half of the prize straight back to the charity which was unbelievably generous of him!
The total raised thus far stands at just under £5000, and donations are still being received by well-wishers bringing my total to date to around £28,000 for good causes over the last few years. I’m having a year off but will be back in 2015 with a new and far crazier idea that I am working on….