0100 Christian is getting weaker and seems unable to increase his work rate sufficiently to get across the tide. Although I suspect he can keep swimming for much longer, we need speed to get across the tide and in to shore. 52 spm and we are encouraging him to work hard and he is responding. It must be hurting him to have been encouraged so much, to work hard for so long and still we are asking for much more. If only we were half a mile closer in, he might be able to relax as we reach shallower water and get inside the Cap headland.
We are still too far out for comfort and are lining the rail of the boat and cheering in English and Spanish. Christian has given so much he should simply stop swimming, how could he give more. We see it in his face, the way he breathes. His stroke is a mess, it slaps the water as it is over ruled by effort and strain , a complete lack of finesse. But Christian draws upon something and still he is swimming. We are cheering him on as if he were in the last 100 yards of a one mile race. Only we know, he has to respond for easily another hour. One more hour of struggle and then maybe Christian can relax into the last one mile. It may be too much for him.
There is not a breath of wind and the sea is like a millpond. There is just the tide to contend with. Christians’ resolve to keep giving everything he has is clear for all to see in the pitch blackness . We are cheering still. He must surely think he has nearly finished considering how long we have been cheering him on.
0130 Christian has responded and after two hours of constant encouragement since the three mile buoy, is edging in. Now we are quiet to allow Christian to concentrate on the next thirty minutes without being shouted at. Without being ordered to keep swimming or to go faster. Goodness, he simply cannot go faster anymore, but he can keep on swimming. In the shallower water, swimming is all he needs to keep doing, he will get across the tide, then its just keep on swimming until France gets in his way. He’s doing it.
0145 We are in shallower water now and the tide has less effect. Christian asks “How far”? It is still a long way……we don’t tell him. We can hear him groaning with the effort but he still does not complain. There is little point, we all know how tough this swim has become for him. We can see it in every stroke and hear it in every breath. We cannot bring ourselves to telling him there are still two hours to swim, but maybe now, he can swim these last hours without so much effort.
He is down to 48 spm, but pops in an odd ten faster strokes. He swims as if he has run out of strength, but still asks more of himself and tries to swim faster, only managing a few strokes before dropping back for a couple of minutes. Then a few more faster strokes, and relax. He simply cannot maintain a faster pace. Actually, he doesn’t need too. He will hit France soon enough.
France is close now, the cliffs and beaches are silhouetted against an orange glow of lights behind. The water is flat. Maybe the hard work really is over and we just need to keep him swimming another hour. It’s been 16 hours now.
0200 Feed. We tell Christian he has beaten the tide and only has one hour left to swim. We lie, (it will be two) but he will get ashore as long as he can keep swimming.
0225. Only one mile to the cliff under the monument. The tide is weak now and maybe we can swim him straight into shore. Surely, he can make it inside an hour. “No more hard work, just keep on swimming”. We have believed it for only a short while….He really can do this.
0230 Gallivant is shining its torch onto the shore, our butterfly swimmer has made it? Will he be doing a two way?
0235 I tell Christian it is his last feed , only one mile to go. It was a bit early to tell him this, but a timely boost for his morale. He had suffered some really hard swimming for so long and would have expected to have been ashore by now.
0250 Garry is preparing the dinghy. Christians’ children are yelling down the phone to him and we are playing the ‘Rocky’ theme tune. I doubt he can hear it.