Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Planning is everything!

So, as they say, the devil's in the details. In this case, the details pertain to the when and where of my swim. And what a bladdy little bastard of a devil he's turning out to be. In short, at this point it seems that if I don't hit the itsy bitsy pinhead-sized bull's eye that is the timing sweet spot, I'll miss North Ireland completely. More specifically, I have to correlate the tides, the weather and Paul's (my manager) leave schedule perfectly with a fairly optimistic stroke speed of 2.7km/hour over a nine hour swim if I want to beach at Torr Head. A mere decrease of 0.1 knots (that's just 2%, I repeat, 2%) over the course of the swim could see me docking at Denmark's Faroe Islands instead. 

For my swim to be successful I need a good team and good maps. Thanks Paul, Sean, Carlos, Jon, and the rest of you, for more than adequately fulfilling the requirements of the former. Quality maps have, however, proved a little more challenging. Nevertheless, as this whole exercise is (largely) about endurance, persevere I must. So I've plotted the predicted course from a combo of the maps I have available, namely the Mull of Kintyre chart (UK Hydrographic Office) and Tidal streams info. What emerges is that the little deficiency in info about the tidal conditions around High Water (see where blue arrows split into two) escalates into potentially a rather big deficiency in terms of achieving my goal.

I'v indicated my path with blue arrows on the map. I chose blue because I happen to like the colour and it's probably going to be the colour of my body as it heaves its way through the chilly waters on the day. Based on the info available to me - have I mentioned it's a bit deficient - I think I've done a pretty good job of plotting my possible outcomes. And one is perfect and the other isn't pretty. 

In order to know which one is the more accurate, and as you can see from the two options, it IS vital to know, I have to get reliable info about the following:
1. Tidal conditions at HW. 
2. My swim speed in the channel conditions. 

In the absence of credible information on either of the above, it's going to be necessary to go to source. I intend to do this around 21-22 July if anyone feels like joining me for a recce. When up at Ballycastle I'll hop onto a boat and head out to observe first hand what happens with the tides at HW. And then I'm going to have to hop out of the boat, into the water, and measure my swim speed in the actual sea and tidal conditions. Seasick tablets are advised for those of you whose inner ears struggle with conflicting sensory input. Read - I don’t want vomit in the boat or over the side. There's only so much a body and mind can endure at one time.

The information I get from my outing will help immensely with the detailed plotting of the swim and my intention to avoid Denmark. So too will the Polpred software that Proudman (now the National Oceanographic Centre) have very kindly agreed to let us use for free for the period over my swim. Carlos's outstanding negotiation skills are to thank for this very useful, nay critical, addition to the team kit. The detailed model of the Kintyre to Northern Ireland streams is so much better than any info we already have, and should help stitch up any remaining uncertainty (jellyfish aside) that may arise after my fieldtrip. 

Wayne likes pork pies and Guinness. He likes routine and predictability. He loves his family. He's 40+, short(ish), balding and battling with waistline expansion. He's been known to occasionally play a good round of golf, likes to tinker with 'stuff' and has rescued a group of friends from the African wild by fixing a Land Rover with a jellybaby.

He's never been a great fan of physical exertion. In short (apart from the jellybaby incident), Wayne is an ordinary person. And he's about to do something really amazingly, astoundingly and astonishingly extra-ordinary. He's going to swim the the treacherous, never-been-swum-before channel between Kintyre (Scotland) and Ballycastle (Ireland). For charity. This is his story.