Tejaswi's Big Swim p.3

Battling to finish.

At around ten and half hours, my crew told me that I still had 3 miles to go. I was a little mystified and disappointed, but I swam on.

An hour later, they told me that I still had an hour to go. This really rattled me – I felt that I should have been making better progress than this. I could vaguely make out some cliffs in the haze, but they still seemed far away. I asked for clarification from the crew, but they just told me to swim on.

My poise was shaken and I began to tire. I tried to focus on putting one hand in front of the other and to forget about time and distance. Every time I glanced up at the cliffs, they seemed no closer and indeed seemed to recede. I began to worry that somehow the tide had turned against me and was pulling me backwards. The terse encouragements and concerned looks from crew only served to increase my unease. I discovered later, after the swim, I was being pulled along the coastline in a northerly direction and that we were passing the bay between Cap Griz Nez and Cap Blanc Nez. As I was swept along, the contour of the bay made it look like I was going backwards, but in fact I was still making progress towards the beach.

By the twelfth hour, I had entered into a completely different phase of the swim. I felt very tired and was only thinking about keeping going in a very mechanical way. My mind roamed almost in a dream state. My thoughts were no longer concerned with the swim other than an occasional imploring query as to when, if ever, it was going to end. Reality was swimming. It was all I could remember and all I could look forward to. It seemed that I had endured an eternity in the green waters of the Channel. It was my all encompassing reality.

The cliffs seemed to be getting closer now but I couldn’t be sure. My crew were cheering me on and clapping but they seemed a long way away and I could make no emotional connection with what they were doing. I did notice that the ship’s mate, Richard, had put on a wetsuit which I thought might be a sign that we were close to land. Finally, he and Rodney dove into the water to guide me to the beach. I just kept on swimming until I noticed Richard standing and I put my hand down and felt sand. I had made it. I knew it was a special moment but I was too exhausted to feel much except a tired relief. I stood up gingerly as I was afraid of cramping and stumbled slowly over some hidden rocks onto the beach. I walked a few feet onto dry land and signaled the observer on the boat that I had made it. Rodney came up to me and gave me some high-fives and then Richard was urging me to go back to the boat. I wanted a memento from France, so I looked around my feet and grabbed the first pebble I saw.

We waded out into the water and I noticed a small French fishing boat heading towards us. It had followed me for the previous half hour or so and now the two fishermen offered us a lift back to the pilot’s yacht which was some 200 metres or so from shore. I was relieved but unsure that I would be able to climb over the boat’s high sides. The kind fishermen grabbed my arms and Rodney pushed me up from behind and after some awkward and unflattering moments, I was hauled into the boat like some strange catch, having smeared Channel grease over the sides of the little boat and one of the fishermen. He did not seem to mind and inquired through sign language and French how long I had swum. Both of the fishermen seemed very happy to help and I was certainly grateful that I did not have to swim another 200-300 metres back to the yacht.

A short time later, I was happily ensconced on the yacht enjoying the moment I had been waiting for – looking back across the water towards France, warm, content and finally out of the water, marveling at the distance I had swum.