by vasanti | Aug 20, 2009 | Successful Channel swims
On August 13, Karteek from Edinburgh finished his 10th successful Channel swim in 16 h 49 min.
The same day Suprabha Beckyord from Washington, D.C. – another teammate – finished her 13th 3100 mile race in New York in a time of 61 days (unimaginable for me, but highly inspirational to follow the daily reports on https://perfectionjourney.org). For both of them these challenges are more of an inner quest than just athletic feats.
The online-article is followed by a few comments by Kevin Murphy, current King of the Channel and Karteek`s oberserver on the day.
Businessman hails yoga after completing tenth swim to France
Published Date: 20 August 2009
By MARK McLAUGHLIN
AFTER completing a gruelling swim of the English Channel, he vowed to never put his body through the pain again.
But Edinburgh businessman Karteek Clarke just can’t leave a challenge alone. He gave it another go – becoming the first Scot to attempt the crossing twice. Then he did it again, and again, and again.
Incredibly, the 42-year-old business training consultant from Newington has now completed his tenth swim to France – and he puts his remarkable achievement down to meditation and yoga.
He said: “Every time I do it I say it will be my last time, but this time so many events conspired to draw me back to Dover to give it
“I first attempted it back in 1994 and I thought I could complete it with very little training, but I had to give up after I’d been going for 12 hours and still hadn’t even made it halfway.
“I went back and trained properly and completed the crossing in 1997, and a friend of mine filmed me coming out of the water saying that it was great but that I was never doing that again. It was just too tough.”
Mr Clarke spent a few years pursuing less gruelling athletic challenges, such as swimming Lake Zurich in Switzerland.
“It’s only 17 miles across and it’s a bit warmer,” he said. “It’s hardly a dip in the pool but it’s nothing compared to the Channel.”
However, the Channel drew him back once more in 2000, and has refused to let him go since.
He says he has been continually drawn to cross-Channel swimming by his devotion to the Sri Chinmoy discipline of yoga and athletic endurance.
On his latest trip, completed on 13 August, he was monitored from a boat by “King of the English Channel” Kevin Murphy, the male world record holder with 34 crossings under his belt.
Mr Murphy’s feat is dwarfed only by the “Queen”, Alison Streeter, who has crossed the Channel an impressive 43 times.
Mr Clarke said: “I’m definitely not racing to catch up with these guys.
“I keep going back to hone my meditation skills as our Sri Chinmoy teacher encourages us to undertake these tasks to promote self-discipline. Like most brands of yoga, the aim is to silence the restless mind and purge it of negative thoughts. After about six hours in the water, you’re cold, wet and miserable, but it starts to become quite exhilarating.”
This time, the choppy seas, showers and swell made conditions difficult, and Mr Clarke had to battle seasickness which led to his
energy levels dropping.
He finally paddled up the shore at Calais 16 hours and 59 minutes after setting off. The world record for a cross-Channel swim is just under seven hours.
Mr Clarke is one of a select few swimmers who have repeatedly crossed the Channel.
Michael Oram, honorary secretary of the English Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, said: “Very few people have swam the Channel more than ten times, and while Mr Clarke has his spiritual motivations, others are motivated by the challenge.
“The Channel is the Everest of swimming, and I would argue that it’s even tougher than climbing Everest because there have been so many ropes and handrails added over the years that you can just stroll up it now. More than 4,000 people have climbed Everest but only around 1,000 have swam the Channel because it’s all about the endurance.”
Observations by Kevin Murphy who helped out as an observer and even crew member for Karteek, whose helper was busy feeding the fish most of the time (i.e. completely seasick):
“I was out yesterday observing Karteek Clarke’s successful swim (16hrs 49mins). The first five hours in the dark and what passed for dawn seemed to me to be miserable with a fair swell, a following sea and wind strong enough to be blowing the rain horizontally through the back doors into the cabin. It looked to be quite difficult for the swimmer to get a rhythm going. Although it was Karteek’s tenth Channel swim he started being sick after a couple of hours, until it calmed down. But afterwards he said it wasn’t the swimming that made him sick – it was looking at the way the boat was rolling! The second half of yesterday’s swim was brilliant and was as calm as could be hoped for – not quite glassy smooth but almost. Unfortunately, unless you’re lucky or very fast, the Channel is seldom calm all the way across…
Incidentally, I was very impressed by Karteek. He was always cheerful, always smiling, always confident, fed quickly, never asked how far he’d got to go and just got on with the job. If he keeps knocking them off like he did yesterday I think I may have a problem!”
Kevin Murphy (34 crossings)
by vasanti | Aug 15, 2009 | Channel swim videos, Successful Channel swims
Click to see the You Tube video
August 13th, the day Karteek completed his 10th Channel crossing in 16 h 49 min, Julianne Galloway from Dublin, Ireland, “blasted” across the Channel in the fastest time for a woman’s solo this year so far: 9 hours 51. Start: 2:20 a.m.
Her captivating report can be found on her blog, here just 2 paragraphs:
“…The first hour was, for lack of a better word, hell. It was very choppy and I was swimming in pitch black water with mirrored goggles (Naive mistake number 2). What was I thinking!? The boat kept feeling like it was going to crash into me, and I felt very lost swimming next to it. It wasn’t so bad swimming at night, I wasn’t scared or anything, but it was so incredibly hard to navigate breathing and the like because I could not see the waves coming toward me. Usually, when it’s light, if I see a wave I may not breathe, or if I get water in my mouth, I can spit it out. Well this time water was going everywhere, and I felt like I was thrashing the waves…”
Getting closer – or what?
“…France was getting closer and closer, but still seemed quite far away. I was trying to gauge how much I had left, so at 8 hours, I asked if I’d 2 more to go. They didn’t seem happy with this question! Lance yelled at me to stop chatting and just swim. I kind of snarled at him and took off, wanting to know how much left I had. It’s not that I wanted to give up. I wanted to know where I was in this mad thing! I couldn’t tell if I had a kilometre, a mile, 5 miles or even 3 nautical miles left. (Naive mistake number 4- wtf is a nautical mile? I kept trying to remember Mike Oram’s emails describing all this information I should have learned by this point, but nothing solid came from my noggin.) So I quoted Nemo for the 5000th time, and said ‘Just keep swimming’.” more
Very happy Channel swimmer!
by vasanti | Aug 5, 2009 | Dover, Successful Channel swims
Miyuki Fujita with Channel friend Margit Bohnhoff 2008 in Dover
Miyuki from Japan, little “Japanese Channel Queen” with 7 crossings now, was also waiting for favourable conditions to attempt her first double crossing. I had the pleasure of meeting her (and her friend Margit Bonhoff) and swim with her in Dover harbour last year. She is sweet, humble, funny and “totally crazy” about the Channel (in her own words). But for days and days the weather did not offer a larger window for a 2-way swim.
Afraid to have to fly back to Japan without even getting her feet wet, she finally went out in less than perfect conditions shortly after midnight on August 3rd with Neil Streeter as her pilot, Alison (Queen of the Channel) Streeter’s brother.
Miyuki, Ishii and Margit, training and waiting in Dover weather last year
While she completed 5 of her 6 previous solos in 14 hours or less, she would need 17 hours 18 min for the first leg this year with the wind against her most of the time. Determined to not give up, she still turned round after touching French ground to give her all to the second leg, even though the prospects were not encouraging at all and she had to swim through the night again. She swam valiantly for a total of 29.5 hours, refusing to give in to tiredness, feelings of hoplessness, the cold etc., but had to be taken out of the water after getting a bad cramp in her leg a few miles away from Dover.
This is Miyuki’s story in her own words:
“The English Channel Swim Report 2009
I always wanted to be the best and do something unusual so I aimed to
complete the two-way crossing, not just one way, as no Japanese person has ever successfully swum the two-way Channel crossing.
On my first attempt, I had to stop after ten hours due to thigh pain and I didn’t finish even one-way. A week later, I had another
opportunity to swim the one-way. I swam for 17hours 35minutes but had to give up just 3km from the French coast.
My respected Freda then gave me some good advice, “When you swim the Channel crossing, you shouldn’t look ahead. It makes you feel as if your goal is very far away and that you still have much further to swim so it is mentally harder to keep going. Also, you shouldn’t stop because by doing this you will be drifted by the tide and have to swim further. You shouldn’t do anything which will be disadvantageous to you. You should try the one way swim again.” It was in 2004.
The next year, I began training again for the one-way swim and followed Freda’s advice. Since then, I have successfully completed the one way crossing six times.
This year, I went back to Dover again. I felt ready for to attempt the two-way swim. I planned to stay in Dover for 35 days and waited nervously for the big day. Neil, the boat pilot, would choose the day with the best weather conditions for the swim. The other swimmers had gone to swim one after another and everybody kept asking me when I was going to swim but the days passed and I still had no idea when I would get to swim.
I started to feel very frustrated but I could not do anything but wait and trust Neil to pick a good day. For the two-way swim, we would need two consecutive fine days. It was possible that the weather conditions would not permit me to swim because the weather was constantly changing. I told Neil that if the two-way was not possible, I still intended to swim at least one way before flying back to Japan.
At last, one week before I was due to leave England and go back to Japan, Freda told me that I would be able to swim on the next Monday or Tuesday. I was so happy because I had been waiting such a long time for this chance and could not stop crying.
On Monday, I was on the beach with Jenni, an observer when Neil called her to say that we should all meet at the marina at 19:00 that evening for my two-way challenge! I was overjoyed. I was going to attempt the two way swim! I was so pleased that Jenni would also be coming on the boat with me as my observer. I got my thing ready for the swim, had a massage and went to bed for a nap. At last the time for my big challenge had come!
Our boat was called Suva. Once on board, I applied the Channel grease to my body. When the boat came close to Shakespeare Beach, Ishii, my coach farted. Everybody on the ship started to laugh and the atmosphere became very relaxed. Even when I was swimming in the dark, I remembered it and laughed. It was nice to have a funny thought to make me smile whilst I was swimming, particularly when it became dark.
That night I started swimming from Shakespeare Beach. I was familiar with the currents around the beach from my previous swims but, for some reason, on this occasion I kept drifting so that every time I looked up I saw the same scenery. I worried that I might not be moving forward at all and was scared by a big red jelly fish that brushed my arm, stinging me.
After about 40 minutes, saltwater filled my goggles. I had already tested the goggles in the water but the waves pushed the water in. My eyes started to sting. I knew from my previous experiences that the eyes are very important to a long distance swimmer so I changed my goggles when I stopped for my feeding.
I am used to swimming at night but I still felt sleepy. Suddenly, I was surprised by some people screaming. They were a relay team who had already finished their swim and were on the way back to Dover. Their support encouraged me a lot.
Swimming into the French side, I started to struggle with the high waves. Some were as big as 2m. The sea always tends to be rough
towards France and the currents are very fast.
Morning came and as it got brighter, I began to wake up a bit. By this point, I was really enjoying swimming even in the rough waters but I realized that France was still far away after 14 hours of swimming. I usually swim one way in 14 hours but Ishii told me that this time I would have to swim for another four hours to reach France. I realized that I must have drifted a long way off course when I was swimming near Dover and kept seeing the same scenery.
Miyuki says she loves swimming in big waves - like here in Japan
Consequently, it took me 17hours 18minutes to swim just one-way. I told Ishii that it would be impossible to finish two-way because the first leg had taken too long but he encouraged me to swim a little longer. I swam for three more hours before I asked him if I could give up. Ishii said that the weather conditions were going to become better so there would be no wind or waves so I had better keep swimming as such good conditions were very rare. He told me that I could complete the swim in just eight more hours in such favorable conditions.
I was determined to swim for another eight hours. I tried very hard, spurred on by the though that my dream of swimming the two-way Channel crossing was about to come true. My husband, the pilot, my colleagues, everybody would be delighted! What would I do if TV reporters were waiting for me at Narita airport? What would I do next after my dream had come true? Maybe I could try to swim the one-way ten times! Or perhaps I should try to become the oldest Channel swimmer! Pondering over these random things, I pushed myself to continue swimming.
My body ached and I wanted to give up many time but I kept my arms moving.
Night came again and it became cold but I didn’t stop. I saw the lights of England as I swam closer and closer to England.
I drank another feeding and said to the people on the boat that I could not swim any more but they told me to keep trying. I screamed and my voice echoed in the darkness over Channel.
It was the first time that my body was chilled to my very bones and even my wrists started to ache.
I gave up about 5 hours from England (about 4 miles). I was mentally and physically exhausted. I could not swim the last five hours.
I recalled my first Channel swim. That time, I was also unable to swim the last few hours. I could see the white houses on the French coast but just could not swim. I realized that I had not followed Freda’s good advice. I had looked ahead and convinced myself that the end was too far away for me to keep swimming. If I had continued to swim very slowly, I might have been able to finish the swim but, because I was tired, I convinced myself that I could not do it.
To be a successful long distance swimmer, you have to be mentally strong. I had swum 30 hours in pool and 20 hours 7 minutes in sea. Even though it was tough, I am glad that I did not stop after just one way and challenged myself to my limit.
Now, I have to use this experience to aid my future training for my
next Channel swim. On my first swim, I stopped after just 10 hours but now I was able to swim for about 29hours 30minutes. I never dreamed I would be able to swim for so long.
I am so grateful to the people who have helped me to come so far. I could not have done all this by myself. Thank you very much for supporting me. I hope that I will soon be able to fulfill my dream of completing the two way swim and will continue to enjoy swimming.
“The Channel swim was… the human mind is weak, you will inevitably experience feelings of struggle and sadness when you swim, but, hopefully, you will find happiness, too.”— Miyuki
What a great spirit of “gambaru” and self-transcendence!
- Miyuki, Marcy MacDonald and Barrie Wakeham in Dover harbour
Nice article about Miyuki on www.10kswimmer.com
by vasanti | Aug 4, 2009 | Successful Channel swims
Marcy + Gumby, Dover Beach
Marcy`s swim route Aug. 2nd 09
August 2nd looked like a swim day, finally. And it was the middle of the neap tide! Quite a few boats went out around 8 a.m., with several swimmers intending to attempt a double crossing. But the wind would pick up again to 15-20 knots (windforce 4-5). Marcy totally enjoyed her swim in the waves, touched France in 11 hours 31 to complete her 10th solo crossing (including 2 2-way), turned round to start on the second leg and see how things would develop, but then stopped after an hour or so when the waves got so high they were rolling her on her back and it became dangerous. “I had a blast,” she writes on her blog.
Lianne Lewellyn set out for a double crossing, too – in what turned out to become atrocious conditions that tested her to the limit. She completed the first leg in 11 h 20 min and turned back to battle the waves for anouther 16 hours plus – with the added difficulty of swimming through the night.
Strong arms for a double crossing in challenging conditions (Click for video)
Carried off course by the currents and strong winds she finally landed at St. Margaret`s Bay way east of Dover, totally exhausted, after 27 hours 35 minutes of uninterrupted swimming – except for the short moments on French dry ground. What an achievement!
Choppy - Lianne Lewellyn swimming "uphill" (click to see the video)
by vasanti | Aug 1, 2009 | Channel swim videos, Dover
These are the days every Channel swimmer is longing for – but they are rare and precious – and sometimes just too short for slower swimmers who need a bigger window of swimmable weather in the fast changing Channel conditions – or for a double:
A short "perfect" day in the Channel - July 4th 2009, photo by Fenland Swimmers UK
When attempting to swim the Channel, a lot of patience may be needed. Plus plenty of luck or Grace. Often swimmers are waiting for more than one tide without even getting a chance to attempt their swim. They have prepared for one or more years, flewn in from other continents – maybe for nothing. So, often swimmers will go out on “iffy” days – never knowing for sure how conditions will develop, in spite of the knowledge and experience of their pilots.
“Perfect” days in the Channel are very, very few, especially during the short period of the neap tides, but yesterday was one of them: almost no winds, no currents, sun out – most of the pilot boats were out with their swimmers, some can be followed all the way via satellite tracking. In the late afternoon you could see many of the boats crowding around Cap Griz Nez or just on their way back – a couple of swims reached the Cap dead-on.
Satellite Tracking of Anastasia, July 31st, 2009, with debris from a previous swim on July 29th
Here is one of those almost straight swims – the broken line to the right shows the remains of a previous swim 2 days earlier – with much more tidal push.
… are over
Today one swimmer – Marcy MacDonald – is hoping to go for her 3rd double crossing – but the conditions in Dover and the forecast
Webcam at Wissant bay on Aug 1st, where many swimmers touch French ground
don`t seem to be as perfect anymore – while Wissant (left) is looking pretty calm still.
Dover on the morning of Aug 1st - photo by Marcy MacDonald
Below: This was the situation in Dover in the morning – so quite a few boats ready to go turned round back into the harbour to wait for a front to pass through.
Next possibility to swim in the evening? A Channel swimmer just has to stay prepared and rested and catch enough sleep – which is another challenge in itself.