Last weekend Dover Training started. Every year around the first weekend in May, Channel Relay and Solo aspirants gather at Dover Harbour to train for their crossings. Every year a treasured group of volunteers show up every Saturday, Sunday, and Bank Holiday Monday to advise/train/beast the hopefuls. This group is led by Freda (Channel General) Streeter; in a later post I will feature the beach crew in a little more detail, but given that this was the first time I had met them, I thought I would spare them the photo call……
Generally speaking, the first weekend of training is pretty dismal. Early May in the UK is pretty hit and miss weather-wise, and the water typically on the cool side (<10C, 50F). Groups of swimmers huddle under many layers of clothes, trying to get warm after a short dip, before getting chucked back in again by Freda. Not so this year……
Saturday and Sunday were both busy with my boys, so I missed the opening 2 days of the weekend. But on Monday, Helen and I got to Dover in plenty of time to register with the beach crew, and get ready to swim. Helen is a veteran of multiple Dover training seasons, so knew the ropes, and everything went very smoothly. We were also joined by Bojan and Dan, who are both training for a Windermere solo later in the summer.
Swimmers are divided into yellow hats (relayers), and red hats (soloists). Bojan and Dan were also red hats, as the training they want to do is more closely linked to the longer sustained distance.
The weather was SPECTACULAR. Air temperatures were in the high teens C, and water temperatures a very respectable 11.5C (53F). We were all given a 1 hour single dip (shorter double dips had been the fare on Saturday and Sunday), and off we went. The water felt crisp and fresh, and the swimming a giddy pleasure. The harbour was almost mirror flat as we traversed over to the North Harbour Wall, then back over to the South Wall, then a bit more swimming here and there to make up the hour.
A measure of how flat it was, was that when you were passed by another swimmer going in the other direction, even 10 yards away, the bow wave they created was clearly felt! When we got back to the beach at 1 hour, we were asked to stay in for another 15 minutes by Barry, so off we went. It wasn’t a chore, it wasn’t unpleasant. It was nothing less than gorgeous. It was the sort of day with sun on your shoulders and little wind, that you felt you could swim for hours, even at 11.5C. A great introduction to the delights of Dover Harbour.
I am aware that days like this are ‘not common’, and that there will be some frankly horrible days in Dover to come. I just feel priviliged to have got a good one to start with. Roll on next Saturday, and a longer swim!