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Salty Swallowers 
Two person relay 
Lindsay Francis & Sarah Bowden 
21 September 2013 

Lindsay Francis 

Lindsay & Sarah are childhood friends now aged 32 and have been coached by Tom Watch & Katrina Baker to swim the English Channel. 
 
Under a cloudy sky but under the glare of a full moon, we are aboard Sea Leopard (skippered by Stuart Gleeson and crewed by Garry Clark), as she motors slowly out of Dover Marina. Past ‘Suva’ who has just started to load its relay swimmers on board. We are accompanied on Sea Leopard by Tom Watch, Gary Bowden, Sue Francis and Wendy Atkinson. 
 
Out past the harbour we head off to Samphire Hoe where the relay swim will commence. The girls moods seem to fluctuate from pensive to happy to excited, in equal measure. Tom helps Lindsay to get ready and she slips into the water for the short swim ashore under the torchlight of Sea Leopard. 
 

Sarah Bowden 

At a little after midnight 0010, Lindsay commences her swim. The water seems quite lumpy and Lindsay seems to spend some energy as she rotates to breath and in becoming used to the conditions. She swims steadily at 56 strokes per minute. 
 
The sky seems to be clearing and the water is flatter after the first mile. Nevertheless the boat is rolling and we all feel a little sea sick. It takes away some of the humour. 
Sarah seems a little apprehensive and is a little hurried getting ready. The first changeover is completed on the hour. Sarah looks smooth and comfortable from the outset, swimming at 51 strokes per minute. She swims more to the stern of the boat (maybe due to Garry taking over the wheel) and positioning the boat differently than Stuart. Sarah looks comfy, although I wonder at times, whether she may be too close to the fumes. 
 
Lindsay has been sick, over the side, but still happily prepares for her second swim. She wears a dry costume. 
 
Suva passed us at 2 am, they seem to have a straighter track out of Samphire Hoe. Masterpiece is coming level but is further off St Margarets Bay. 
 
Sarah ends her first hour at 50 spm. Passengers are being sick and there is no more chit chat on the boat. Although the water seems flatter, the swell is rather a bother. 
 
Lindsay is back in and swimming 56 spm. Masterpiece seems much further off now but still level with us, whilst Suva has pulled directly ahead of us. Lindsay is swimming well but nobody is waving or paying her very much attention. She is just swimming, no smiles, no waving, no thumbs up. Sarah is quietly getting ready. It is almost sombre on board. The sea is flattening but the swell is still making everyone feel queasy. Cloud cover is 50/50 and the wind is unnoticeable, the fumes linger a bit. 
 
 
Sarah 50 spm, now swims further from the boat than Lindsay. Lindsay is dressed in ten minutes and is happy. At 0350 we enter the shipping lane and Sarah is swimming smoothly, although her stroke rate drops to 48. Within ten minutes we encounter the first vessel ‘Beau Triumph’, it moved out of the shipping lane to enable us to cross in front. Lindsay is getting ready, another fresh dry swim suit. She is happy still. 
 
Sarah climbs on board and is immediately sick. Whilst Lindsay continues at 53 spm. The water is calming down for each swim and the people on board, taking advantage, are trying to sleep. There is virtually no talking and the boat is very quiet. I think our passengers are realising it is tough being a Channel swim supporter. We are looking forward to a sunrise during the next rotation. 
 
Sarah is in at 0510, 50 spm. Suva has now moved up Channel and we are drawing level by 0530. At 0550 the clouds have thickened and cover is nearly 100%. Although we can feel the wind, the sea looks dead calm with only a little swell. Suva is now 300 yards to port and level with us. 
 
0610 and Lindsay is in. It is getting lighter now. Suva is ahead. We have asked Lindsay to work harder and overtake, expecting this to help her stay warm. 0620 Suva now 400 yards to port and still a little ahead. The sky is getting pink and Lindsay is at 56 spm. We are not expecting a great sunrise. It looks like Masterpiece is also level with us but maybe 2 miles further to port. We expect Masterpiece will run more with the returning ebb, whilst we cut more across, so we should see more of Masterpiece a little later. Maybe we can make a race. It looks like we are in a row, not quite line abreast, maybe more a gentle chevron. 
 
There is laughter and talking on the boat now. Lindsay is at 53 spm. Suva just changed swimmer, still virtually level with us. The wind is picking up from the South West. 
0650 and Lindsay has dropped to 50 spm. There is a thick bank of cloud over France which is obscuring the coast, but is wispy overhead. There should be a nice blue sky in an hour or so as the sun rises above the cloud bank. Lindsay is about to climb out, but made little impact on Suva, who is now marginally ahead by about 100 yards. Lindsays’ stroke has been a little slower this hour and is looking less tidy. Sarah takes over at 52 spm. Her stroke always looks much smoother and nicely lazier, maybe a little slower. 
 
It is 0730 and Tom takes his 7am jab…..he is late and needs telling off…..naughty boy. Suva is now pulling ahead and must be rotating through their faster swimmers again. 
 
0750 and we are playing loud music. I am sure the swimmer can’t hear it properly, but maybe it helps to encourage her. I am concerned though, it may also make her feel angry. While she puts in the effort and may be hurting and cold, it is not great seeing a cozy party going on. 
 
France is now clearly in sight. The sea and wind is about the same, thankfully not getting any worse. Suva is well ahead now and Masterpiece on the horizon still level with us. 
 
0800 the wind has picked up and the sea is getting quite choppy. Sarah is swimming but has stopped a couple of times during the past few minutes looking as though she is about to be sick. 
 
0810 Lindsay is back in. It is damp swim suits from now on. The swells seem to have died a little but the water is lumpy again, the sky is clouding over. The swim might soon get tough. Masterpiece is coming down with the ebb somewhat, so is getting closer. 
 
We are now in the French shipping lane. Heading across to France but tracking with the ebb down to Cap Gris Nez. The sea is picking up and for a while the surface of the waves have the appearance of mackerel. The sea is worse on the other side of the boat. Masterpiece about one mile off, but will be coming across our path within the hour. The sky looks bright over Calais but looks quite moody upwind. Sarah has just bent over the side and pulled her swimsuit up to ‘moony’ Lindsay. 
 
0900 and Freddie Mardle on Masterpiece has passed in front and is about a mile ahead. It is amazing, he was so far away only a couple hours ago. 0910 Sarah is in again. 
 
Lindsay came out shivering ( the Channel is beginning to tell ), she had looked forward to her hour ending and has got too cold. Suva and Masterpiece are well ahead. Sarah is now getting us in amongst the French shipping and ships are lining up ahead of us. We should be amongst them for Lindsays next hour. France looks bigger than England. Just passed in front of the biggest vessel we have seen so far ‘Chemtrans Moon’ only 400 yards away. 
 
1500 Sarah has climbed into the water early. Sea Leopard cannot get much closer. Sarah is told to swim 100 yards behind Lindsay waiting for Lindsay to finish her hour. If Lindsay cannot get ashore in ten minutes, Sea Leopard will sound its horn to tell Sarah to take the lead. Sarah has packed something inside her swimsuit. 
Lindsay will get in first. A French couple are on the beach and they are giving Lindsay space to get ashore. Garry is in the shallows in the dinghy. Sarah is still swimming ashore. 
 
Lindsay is wading in the shallows, she starts to jump around waving her arms about. It is 1505, Sea Leopard is sounding a Morse code to celebrate. Everyone on board is yelling clapping and cheering. The swimmers can’t hear any of it. They run together. 
 
Lindsay strips naked, out of her swimsuit and puts on a spare suit brought to her by Sarah. It has the word ‘Salty’ printed on the bum. Sarahs’ matching pink suit has similar printing ‘Swallowers’. And on the front ‘I Swam The English Channel 2013’ which they did on this day 21 September 2013 between the hours of 0010 to 1505 a total time of 14 Hours 55 Minutes. 
 
And I was fortunate on 21 September 2013 to observe and ratify their swim. 21 miles in a straight line, but 37.5 miles in the tide. 
 
 
Lindsay now swimming. The wind remains much the same but the water is flatter and the sun is trying to break through. 1110 another turn for Sarah, the water and wind is much calmer now. 1200 and the ebb has helped Sarah get inside the 3 mile bouy. It is getting tight with the tide so Sarah has been asked to work harder for her last ten minutes and Lindsay will have to swim a solid fast hour. 1210 Lindsay is in doing just that, 59 spm. She is clearly working harder and is taking deep breaths. 
 
Now the flood is running and we are expecting to come ashore near Cap Blanc Nez within the next 2 hours. It is still overcast and the sun only managed to pop out for a few minutes. The water has flattened but is still lumpy. Sarah wonders how many more swims? I guess one for her and another for Lindsay and maybe the swim will finish by 15 hours. 
 
Lindsay looks tired but seems to be fighting for more distance per stroke, swimming at 54 spm. The water is flatter now especially in the shelter of the boat, but very windswept. 
 
1310, in goes Sarah and she sprinted. It may be her last swim but is probably too far for her to get in from here. Maybe Lindsay will do it. It all looks so close. Just a training swim left for each of them. 
 
1315. Gosh, we just missed the Aberville light by 200 yards. It seemed miles away not so long ago. This flood tide is really running. 
 
Cap Blanc Nez looks impossible from here, maybe Sangatte. Sarah is now swimming normally and the sky is not so menacing. 1345 and it is clear Sarah will not make it ashore within her hour. She can keep up the swimming but cannot go faster anymore. We feel a little cruel, we had told her she might get ashore and she worked hard trying. So it will be Lindsay. The sky is not so dark. 
 
1400 and only a mile off now. The water is getting very messy again. 1410 Sarah is out. She gave it some, but we still didn’t get close in. Now Lindsay is swimming and France is looking so close, but the tide is strong and running us towards Calais. Sarah may yet have another swim to do. Suva has landed and passes us on its way home a few miles closer to the Cap than us. 
 
1430 Sangatte town is dead ahead. There are people on the beach, but it still looks too far. Then you look again and see the surf breaking on the beach and it looks so close. Forty minutes left for Lindsay and I can’t see her doing it. The tide is fierce and the wind and water remains unhelpful. It looks like the sands of the Calais beaches will simply get in our way as the current takes us that way, rather than allowing us to swim into the beach. A couple of hours ago I would not have thought the tide would have so much authority. 
 
Lindsay is happy and smiles every so often. We all know they will soon have swum the Channel. The distance is nearly swum, weather and tides will not conspire to defeat them now. We give Lindsay the thumbs up, and she gives one back……naughty girl, (both swimmers have done that so many times), and it breaks their rhythm. The water is less manic and slow now, just rough and windswept. 1440 and Garry is starting to prepare the dinghy. 
 
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