Monday, 27 August 2012

and then

A knackered but happy Wayne back at home.
Once he's recovered sufficiently to be able to string a coherent sentence together, we'll be posting his recollections about The Swim, along with some photies.

The Evidence

Sunday, 26 August 2012

He Did It!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 23:33 (approximately) Wayne touched down just outside of Ballycastle, Ireland - making him the first person ever to have swum this section of treacherous water.  Well done Wayne - you deserve a big pint and a warm steak and Guinness pie.  You are an inspiration to so many!

500 metres to go

They are about 20 minutes on the outside from landing!!!!

Paul just commented that this was definitely his last stint as 'Handler' - this stuff is just too stressful!

Looking for a landing spot...

The second boat has gone off to look for a suitable landing spot and is guiding them in!!!!

They are aiming to land at Port Campbell, just west of Ballycastle. I have checked for this on the map but can't find it, but will keep you posted!

Night swimming

With all the drama of the last 2 hours I have completely missed the point that Wayne will be swimming in the dark now.  This is a notoriously low time for swimmers, as they lose the sun on their backs and it is quite common for a bit of a depression to kick in.  

In terms of logistics, the crew will have passed Wayne a glow stick to his swimming trunks as well as to the side of the boat.  Wayne will focus on these glow sticks in order to position himself in the water, as there is nothing else to use in order to find your bearings.

Wayne was very keen to do as little as possible swimming in the dark...  Hopefully we can finish this soon then!

Hour 12

Some good news at last...

They are almost due north of Ballycastle right now and the conditions have improved dramatically. When I last spoke to them it was mayhem on the boat as they were experiencing big winds, strong currents and struggling to keep steering in a way that helped Wayne in his swim - as opposed to I guess steering over him?!

From the latest update from the boat all seems to have calmed down, the tide has slackened dramatically and they seem to be 'picking' where they would like to land - the discussions were along the lines of 'Shall we go straight into Ballycastle, or just to the right of the beach?'

They estimate less than an hour's swim - but bear in mind folks, he has been in the water for 11 and a half hours already!

Watch this space - the boys have proven that they could be chucking a few surprises our way before we get to celebrate...

Just isn't getting any easier!

So they've swept past the Fairhead mainland area and are now heading towards Ballycastle - all under the influence of a very strong current. Latest GPS position shows them quite far out from land.

Basically, everything that was said about distance to shore and timing before they rounded Fairhead is now out of the window as they are in a whole new territory, being swept along the coastline. It will be a constant battle to punch through the tide enough to make dry land.

Ballycastle lights very bright on the land - if you're in Ballycastle right now - pop your head out the window and please shout for the man - he needs all the support he can get!!!

Buckle those safety belts Folks, it seems it might still be a rough ride.


In the agonising static that is coming from the Irish Sea, frantic correspondence is happening between people across the world. Spare a thought for the long-suffering Bernie, who has put up with many disturbed mornings and late nights due to Wayne's training schedule, and now, sitting at the Command Centre in Bagshot with her two children, and not knowing what is going on as her hubby bobs around in his eighth hour in the freezing, jellyfish-infested, angry water.  One can imagine her anxiety - it came across heart-wrenchingly clearly in her most recent SMS:  "The next time Wayne comes back pissed from the pub with a effing map under his arm I'm booting him to the curb!!!"

Still chugging!!!

He is still there! 

Apparently he is giving his crew more verbal abuse than Prince Charles will be handing out to Harry this weekend, but they are taking it as a good sign that he still has fight left in him!

Last feed was tense, but when they broke it to him that he has less than 1.6 nautical miles left (that's 2.96km - I had to look it up), he was extremely psyched and completely sure that he will make it!

Knowing Wayne's pace, this usually should take him about 1 hour to swim, but we're talking about a very tired boy out there, so perhaps 90 minutes?

Come on Wayne!!!!!

Who's who on the boat crew

While we wait for news, let's chat about who's who on the boat crew.

First up there's Paul. Paul is the co-instigator of the Really Big Adventure. He was there in the pub on that fateful night when, after a couple of beers, The Plan was hatched. Paul has been Wayne's manager in this endeavour - or is the trendy word nowadays 'handler'? He's certainly done a better job looking after his charge than Prince Harry's minders have done. Today he dons the additional hats of jellyfish/orca spotter, co-swimmer and motivator.

Second up there's Jonny. Jonny, like Paul, supported Wayne during the English Channel swim. His energy levels might lead one to suspect a urine sample would show traces of Ritalin. But Jonny's just one of those people with enviable levels of energy. He's Wayne's rah-rah man, a cheerleader sans pompoms. And a superb one at that. He also has a speedo handy and will hop in to keep Wayne company when he needs it. And he looks out for jellyfish.

Sean McCarry is wearing the captain's hat. This means he calls the shots as to when, where and how. He assures the team he didn't go to the same captain etiquette school as Francesco Schettino, the dude who ran the Costa Concordia aground off Italy earlier this year. Cpt McCarry has driven the endeavour from the Irish side. A man of stature in many respects.

Jo and Carlos - navigators. Critical for keeping the swim on course through the passage of erratic currents and tidal turbulence. Also quite important is that they apply their skills to dodging wind farms, tidal turbines, submarine testing grounds and any jellyfish flotillas. And Wayne.

Mark is the on board entertainment officer and catering cad. He feeds the boys' tummies and also their psychological state. His natural ability with the spoken word means he's also in charge of boat comms.

Gerard. If he was so inclined, he would make for a superb wedding planner. He's planned, coordinated, promoted and networked in a way that would be the envy of any self-respecting event organiser. A real people person and a valuable asset to the team, for sure.

Gary is the monitor - he will officially ratify the swim for the Irish Channel Swimming Association. He has spent many hours in this stretch of water and (aside from having a mad hobby - I mean, swimming in treacherous waters WTF) is a valuable source of information about the conditions. He's also doing a fantastic job motivating and motivation for wayne. It's reassuring that he knows a lot about jellyfish stings too. 


Lauren has just brilliantly pointed out that not even Stephen King could come up with a plotline more tense than this one!!!


As if things aren't tense enough, we are about to enter a stretch of water where the mobile phone reception is virtually non existent. So when the crew finally do have something to share with us, they won't be able to get it through!! Hang in there Wayne!

Not over...

Paul is swimming with Wayne at the moment. The tide is providing some useful forward motion and things are slightly more positive than 30 minutes ago. But in no way a done deal...

Tough times

Things tough out there at the moment. Wayne battling a really nasty patch of jellies and high winds. There's not a whole lot of happiness out there in the ocean right now.

Hour 8

Only 17 people ever have successfully swum from any part of Ireland to Scotland, over 73 have tried. This is done further down along the Irish coast where the tides are slightly less severe and the water isn't pushed through such a tight gap. What makes Wayne's swim so challenging is the strength of the tides, combined with the cold water temperature (between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius) and of co
urse, the jellyfish. No one has ever successfully swum across the stretch of water that Wayne is currently trying to wrestle down.

He has had a few tough feeds - morale is a bit low and he is beginning to express doubts. As Paul said - he only has about 2 - 3 hours left - this is what the swim is all about.

Go WAYNE!!!! you can do it!

Hour 7

Wayne is over halfway now and still stroking at 50 strokes a minute - incredible! He has had a few ups and downs with cramping and fatigue playing a major role, but seems to have picked up his stroke rate at the moment and apparently quite perplexed at the absence of jellyfish I'm told! I am also informed that he is a bit grumpy at feed times!

Crew feeling strong at the moment and there was talk of a potential finish time of around 9pm. 
This will never be corroborated by anyone on the boat as the variables are too plentiful to be tied down enough to make an accurate forecast. If he makes enough progress south during this tide and uses the slack in the tides well, the next tide will literally push him towards the coast. But if he isn't far enough south at the turn of the tide, he will end up sweeping past the mainland and into a very turbulent area between the mainland and Rathlin Island - not something he has on his to-do list...

Wind speed has picked up and is providing a bit of a challenge to him and the boat - steering is becoming a little tricky at the moment.

Having a whale of a time

While on the topic of seal behaviour, did you know that orcas are quite fond of munching these slippery marine mammals? 

And that the more common name of the orcinus orca is The Killer Whale? 

And that killer whales migrate through the Northern Channel? 

And that killer whales, referred to as wolves of the sea, are territorial? 

And that Wayne will be slicing through their migration route? Just saying....

Fuelling up

Behaving like a seal makes you eligible to be fed like one too... but this is a bit more scientific than a bucket of dead hake every day.

Wayne will be using a massive amount of energy over the duration of the swim. He will obtain this from two sources: his stored body fat (yes, he was for a stage really referred to as “fat boy Soutter”!) and the nutrients he takes in during the swim. Oh, yes, and even though he is in near-freezing water, he is dehydrating, so taking in copious fluids is just as important to avoid hitting the ‘wall’.

He will be ‘fed’ by his zookeepers on the boat every half an hour. This will include 250ml of water, as hot as he can take it to bring up his core temperature, mixed with two energy supplements - SIS Go fuel (which has some taste, but ironically for someone stroking through the freezing Irish Sea, he goes for ‘tropical’ flavour), and is packed with carbohydrate, and Maxim, which is tasteless but packed with power too.

Every one and a half hours, he stops for a snack too, either half a banana or the innocuously named ‘porridge’, which we believe he found in a long-lost annexure to Lance Armstrong’s memoir. No, actually, it’s simply porridge - something to fill the belly.

And there’s another thing: given the severely strict rules of solo open water crossings, in true seal fashion this stuff is literally tossed to him, so there is no physical contact with him at any time.

And so it goes, until that hand strikes land... and be rest assured there will be a beef and guinness pie and a pint of Ballycastle's finest on order.


Wayne has just had his 7th feed. He is experiencing minor cramps but still motoring along at a very respectable 50 strokes a minute. 

For the past hour he was joined in the water by Paul. This helps him break the tedium as all the adrenaline has now worn off and the excitement of the start is a distant memory. Now its just the miles stretching out in front of him, so having someone next to him gives him something to focus on and set a pace to. Another reason why he will be very grateful to have a buddy in the water is to help spot Jelly Fish. It places a huge strain on his neck to constantly look ahead so he will avoid this as much as possible in order to pace himself. Once Paul gets out of the water, Jonny will take over to help out.

From a navigational perspective they are very happy about Wayne's progress too. Whilst he has veered quite a bit off course to the West, this seems to play in his favour - right now he is being swept almost due south, which means he will end up nearer the coast line once the tide slackens and eventually turns again.

For those of you who would like to relive those tense moments during Wayne's English Channel swim you can do that here:

Jelly Spotting

Paul is in the water with Wayne at the moment and hoping to do an hour alongside him.  This helps to relieve the monotony that sets in around this time when the excitement and adrenaline wears off and the miles stretch out ahead of him.

Paul is also helping Wayne to spot Jelly Fish - it places a huge strain on Wayne's neck to look forward continuously, so to have someone else looking out for them is an enormous help.

Jonny will take over once Paul has done his hour.

Hour 3

They have just completed his 4th feed. In terms of positioning, they are very happy, despite their location seeming to be way off the predicted swim line when you view the Google Maps of the swim. Wayne is currently swimming in the slack part of the tide and will shortly be shunted down the channel in a south easterly direction as the tide increases. The navigation team are very happy with their progress.

Physically Wayne seems to be powering away brilliantly. He is maintaining a stroke rate of 52 - 51 strokes per hour - this has always been his strong area - even after 17 hours in the water during the English Channel swim, he was still grinding along at this phenomenal rate. He has indicated to his team that his shoulder is beginning to feel stiff. This was a worry for him in the week leading up to the swim, fingers crossed that they can manage that sufficiently to complete the swim.

Could not be better...

From the boat:

"Sea still very kind! Just short of 2 hours and we've done 4 nautical miles.  Could not be better at this point"

Sunshine at last

First hour completed

Wayne is well underway now, having completed his first hour in the water.

Conditions are very good out there - calm waters and not too much wind.

Wayne has had 2 feeds and is swimming very strong at the moment. I have asked the boat to update us on his stroke rate, as this becomes very interesting to observe as he gets more tired and needs to dig deep to keep the pace going against the current.

There is also a Google Map going as we speak with pins to track his progress. You can find it here:  The blue pins indicate gps coordinates that we receive from the boat every 30 minutes.

This just in from the boat:

"Slight swell now. Progress is good. The first part of this swim was always going to be the most challenging and it could not have gone better. So far so good now as the tide slackens we need to make good progress across the channel."

Keep you posted as we get more in!

The Start

ready, steady, go!

It seems Zeus and Poseidon got the memo for today's swim. The weather is fair and the tides as predicted.  Let's hope they can keep a cap on sibling rivalry issues for the rest of the day as Wayne has plopped into the water and the swim has started.

The Crew shortly before leaving Ireland

In in 10 minutes...

Last photo of a dry Wayne... 
Eagle Radio are running Wayne's challenge on the news between 11:00 and 13:00 today. or listen at 96.4fm.

An Epic Adventure About To Begin

At 11:45 (UK time) Wayne will wade into the waters. Crammed into his psychological backpack, along with his own (not insubstantial) personal goals, are tons of global good wishes. Good luck Wayne - Hercules had nothing on you! 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Google Map Link

If you want to track the progress of the swim, here is the link to the map we will be updating on Sunday.

Cold feet...

...more like cold body!

I can't believe the swim is nearly upon us.  Been spending time with Carlos, Paul and my Dad over the past 2 days doing some last minute route checking and fine tuning.

I am very fortunate to have such a great team of committed and intelligent people behind this swim, without it, it wouldn't ever have been possible.

My team will consist of:
Sean - Captain
Paul - Swim Manager
Carlos - Navigation
Joe - Navigation
Jon - life blood of the boat and the swim
Mark - Communications man.... know something about everything.  Except about women.
Gerard - Coordinator & planner in Ballycastle.
Gary - Observer

Back home we have:
Bernie - communications HQ
Lauren - ghost writer extraordinaire!

Thanks guys... will try to make it all worth while!


Just sayin'

Luckily I have the face for radio - doing two live interviews with BBC today: BBC Belfast with William Crawley at 13:20 and  BBC Radio Foale with Mark Tyreson at 14:30.

and then there's this:

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Just checked the weather..... it's a GO!!

Paul and I met this evening to discuss and although the weather is unsettled i.e. it could change, we don't think it will change enough to affect the swim.

So it's official... it's on! Now to book flights.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Jellyfish - what's the wobbly?

Jellyfish, a deceptively innocuous name for a rather vicious blobby bit of skeleton-less, skinless cartilage. The Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest mean that, in the absence of a heart and brain, the jellyfish had to evolve something with which to defend itself. This it did with aplomb – by lining up its cells into long strips of incredibly stingy tentacles. I am very, very afraid of these tentacles. The mere sight of a jelly in the waters turns my inside to custard.

My swim will see me invade the territory of the rather nasty Mauve Stingersas well as the tellingly named Lion’s Manevarieties. And, thanks to the USA’s repeated demonstrations of what happens following a territorial invasion, I am primed to expect a little bit of backlash from the gelatinous inhabitants of the Northern Channel.

Margaret, someone who previously attempted the swim, shared her experience with me. She discussed the enormous challenges presented by the cold and the tides and the weather. And the *drumroll* jellyfish. In her words: “A mega problem”. Life threatening in fact. A few weeks ago on Dover beach, Kevin Murphy, a seasoned channel swimmer type, buoyed my spirits by advising that if I did get stung, modern medicine and a short stay in hospital under sedation should see me recover, provided I am timeously transported. He knows because he’s got the proverbial t-shirt three times already. And then finally, just yesterday Diana Nyad said she’d had enough of interacting with jellyfish .

I refuse to be swayed off course by something with no sentient thought processes. And so I put my faith in Paul and Jon who will be my jellyfish spotters. And medivac if necessary. In the end, I’m really hoping that Dr Jonathan D R Houghton’s years of studying jellyfish give credence to his opinion that the Mauve Stingers aren’t out in full force and that the Lion’s Manes appear to be on their last legs (tentacles?) and are dying off rapidly.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Decision update...windy question?

I have been struggling to know what wind speed would allow a swim to succeed, as this decision is normally handled by the Captain of the boat.  But in this instance, the Captain (Sean McCarry) is only used to pounding the waves with his 300 horsepower 2 engined craft.  So between Paul, Carlos, Joe and Sean, we need to decided if it is a go'er.

To get a better perspective, I chatted to Andy King (my English Channel swim captain), and quizzed him on wind speed. 

He said:
15 to 20 knots would be ok if wind is behind you.
Ideal would be 10 - 12 knots.
If wind is blowing with the tide it's ok, if against tide it's choppy.

Current wind direction expected for Saturday is South East, which would be perfect for the swim i.e. the wind is behind the tide and speed currently ~ 8 - 10 knots.

At the moment, it would be a go-er, let's look again tomorrow, when we can see the predictions for Sunday. As far as I can tell from the satellite imagery it will be very similar i.e. there is a big low pressure sitting over the UK and going nowhere fast.

Writing to Wayne

So, it's a mere five sleeps until Paul, Jon, Joe, Carlos, Gerard and Robert spend the day in combat against sea-sickness in a (probably) rain-drenched boat-sized arena. All to support Wayne in his effort to become the first person EVER to swim from the Mull of Kintyre to Ireland.

There are many, many more enjoyable ways to spend a Sunday, so one must assume that Wayne must be a pretty special specimen to warrant such a substantial gesture of camaraderie. And indeed he is.

In a change from standard practice, I post this entry, not as Wayne's ghost writer/editor, but in my capacity as a friend. This I do because I want to reiterate what a truly remarkable event Sunday is going to be.

I've known Wayne for about 20 years. He even had a full head of hair when I first met him. Whilst his follicle count has diminished over the years, his waistline has expanded, as has his repertoire of skills and interests. In the decades I've known him, I've seen him embrace not only the lovely Bernie (cue an 'aahhh') but also new challenges on all sorts of fronts: projects, hobbies, jobs, countries and an inexplicable relationship with a temperamental Landy. In all this time I never, I repeat NEVER, witnessed Wayne even indicate the slightest interest in physical exertion beyond reaching for the next beer.

It came as some surprise then, to both me and the skipper of the accompanying boat, when Wayne conquered the English Channel not so long ago. Missing the crucial turn of the tide, Wayne hung in there for close on 20 hours in an exemplary demonstration of stamina and endurance and sheer pig-headedness. In that moment when he flopped ashore in France, two things seemed changed: firstly he was several pounds lighter and secondly a burning coal had ignited where his brain used to be. Apparently only a nine hour swim in icy cold, jellyfish infested, tide turbulent waters is going to douse that flame.

Ladies and gentlemen: Wayne. On the face of it, the most unlikely candidate to swim into history's record books. But on closer inspection, a man who's not afraid of a challenge and someone who has shown he has what it takes to see it through. He's done it before many times, in many different contexts. Except maybe golf. Whilst this is probably his biggest challenge, there's no reason to think this will end in anything other than a congratulatory round of drinks in a Ballycastle pub. Wayne, good luck, and may the jellyfish-repulsion-force be with you.

Sesa hantle

Sunday, 19 August 2012

This time next week... I may be swimming

Yikes,  it's starting to get very real.  My preferred swim date is the 26th of Aug, next Sunday.  

Looking at the Met Office 5 day forecast, next Thursday the wind seems to be subsiding (5 to 10 knots) and turning from SW, which I would be swimming straight into (not good), to SE which will be hitting me in the face but allow me to cross faster.

My training this past week was ok, I didn't quite hit my training targets, but it was good enough.  Only problem is that I got a little ear ache (starting to clear) and my right shoulder is fairly tender.  I am not going to swim at all this week, give my shoulder a chance to recover and hopefully be fresh for the swim.

My bulk swim feed (Maxim carbohydrate) arrived while I was away, so my feed, costume (purchased a new one and tested it last week) and new googles (also tested) are ready to go!

Now we wait and see if the weather is good enough next weekend to swim i.e. the wind stays low.  All other considerations are out of my control i.e. water temperature, jelly fish and tides

Tick tock.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Here comes the man

For those of you who don't know Wayne personally, here's a short video clip of him. 
You can familiarise yourself with the man and the outcome of his pie eating habit and Toastmaster membership at while he chats to the camera about his recent trial swim.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

As time goes by

So, what are you up to next weekend? Me? I'll be swimming the Northern Channel. So if you've nothing better to do, while I'm getting super cold, it would really be super cool if you would support me. Updates will be appearing regularly here and on the Facebook page.
Now let me go put away a couple more pastries.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Swim around the corner.....GULP!

Swim possibly 2 weeks away, weather allowing... best I get some more training in! (and a few pies). 

Training is actually going ok, did 4 hours last weekend and felt strong.  Next week I will be doing a number of 3 hours swims in a lake which will add strength and speed.

At the moment, the biggest risk is the cold.  Because I am doing so much training, the weight is falling off me and I am struggling to eat enough.

Weekend before last I went up to Ireland to do a test swim, climbed in 1 mile off-shore, swam directly at the shore for 1 hour and .... finished up 1 mile off-shore. Oops.  Didn't exactly go as planned, but we did learn from it.  The currents are so much stronger than I imagined, just mind blowing!  When I was stopping next to the boat to take a feed during the 1 hour swim, I was travelling at times at 10.6km per hour!  and I wasn't even swimming!

The biggest surprise was the jellyfish.  I knew there would be some, but it was the massive number that was, quite frankly, terrifying.  I was seeing a big jelly fish every 20 to 30 seconds.  Most were down around 5 feet and therefore not a problem, but now and again there would be one near the surface and I would need to swim around them.  I really didn't want to be stung and kept looking forwards.... by the end of the 1 hour swim I had a very sore neck.  Can't do that for the 9 hours.  So need to find an alternative solution.

Fund raising is picking up, the company next door to our office is owned by an incredible guy called Kevin Dougall (he owns D-media and the Red Lion Pub in St Margaret's at Cliffe) who heard about the swim and overnight is sponsoring about £2000 worth of kit / collateral etc to help Community Rescue Services raise money.  Humbling.

Can't wait... am both excited and terrified!

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.