On Aug. 29th, 2017, Tatiana Kvasova (32) from Moscow became our first Russian Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team swimmer (male or female) to conquer the English Channel - marking the 47th solo crossing by a member of our international team, and the 4th Russian woman overall.
Born in 1985 in Siberia in Novokuznetsk, Tanya learned to swim from the age of 6 and from then on loved to spend hours and hours swimming in quarry lakes and a huge fresh water reservoir in her region. Her sister used to call her "crazy dolphin".
After meeting Sri Chinmoy in 2004 on his visit to Russia she became his meditation student. Studying at the Pedagogical University in the Ural region in Tchelyabinsk to become a teacher for English and French, she read about swimming the English Channel for the first time on the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team website. Immediately it gave her a feeling of joy and a sense of freedom – the idea of swimming as long as you wanted to! She talked about the idea with her friends, and they advised her to start training right away if she really wanted to do it. So she started to train - a little bit. However, it all seemed as unreal as going to another planet.
Then, after graduation, Tanya moved to Moscow. During the following years, as an active member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, she did more running: quite a few marathons (10 or so), a 50 km ultramarathon, a 24 hour race, a 13 hour run. Running just became part of her daily routine and spiritual practice, but she was also inspired by Sri Chinmoy`s motto of "self-transcendence" in general.
As she started to organise SCMT races and other events in Moscow and was working more with athletes, the dream of swimming the English Channel came back again. In October 2013 she started her swim training again, this time more seriously, and in June 2014 she decided to book a boat for the English Channel at the earliest possible date - which was the end of August 2017.
For August 2016 she planned a great training swim, the 26 km Rapperswil-Zurich Sri Chinmoy Marathon swim in Switzerland - but as it turned out she was far slower than expected. In spite of having trained with a coach and gone to Croatia and other places for training, she underestimated her speed in the open water and did not make the halfway cutoff. Instead of 6 hours, it took her about 7:30 hours to reach the 14 km cutoff point in Meilen. Her teammates advised her to postpone her English Channel swim for another year to 2018 – but Tanya was determined.
She took a 4 week rest and then upped the intensity of her training, her mileage and speedwork, and became even more serious about her discipline under the guidance of her new coach Maxim Korshunov. Training in Moscow on a tight budget, eating properly and continuing to organise sports and Peace Run events etc. was quite a challenge for her. In early May 2017, when she had planned a long cold open water swim in the Black Sea during a meeting in Eupatoria on the Crimea, the water was still too cold for a 20 or 30 km swim, so she came back again at the end of May, booking a boat for a couple of days to get some proper training in Channel temperatures and conditions. Her longest swim in the Black Sea was 11.5 hours in quite challenging conditions.
In retrospect, she feels: "This (intense) training already made me another person, I have learned to understand myself better, my mind, my body. By working hard in the training and going forward step by step overcoming difficulties you really become a different person, more determined, more confident, and at the same time you become more patient and learn to understand others better."
Dover and the Swim
Booked for the neap tide (neap = between 5.3-6.1m tidal difference, weaker currents than on spring tides) between Aug. 28 to Sept. 4, she decided to go to Dover a few weeks early to acclimate and do some more serious training in Channel waters. A 10 hour swim in the harbour that went very well increased her confidence that she would be able to do it.
Then, on Aug. 27, the day before the neap tide would start, the call from pilot Eddie Spelling came: be ready for a 3 p.m. start the next day. The weather forecast was extremely good for a couple of days, so good that Chloe McCardel from Australia had already started on her unprecedented quadruple (4-leg) solo-attempt of the English Channel. Everything including two helpers (Manogati and Olga from Belarus) was ready – and on Aug 28 at 4 p.m. Dover time, the big adventure finally started.
We got the news while on our annual international celebrations retreat in New York, and so hundreds of wellwishers from N.Y., UK and Russia, including her family in Siberia, supported Tanya`s swim inwardly, praying for her and sending good vibes – with a few of us outwardly following the tracker on the internet deep into the night and again early in the morning (she started 11 a.m. N.Y. Time).
Tanya knew she was in for a 20 hour swim or more, and she told so to her pilot when he asked about her estimated time. She reached the separation zone dividing the Channel into the two NE and SW shipping lanes only after about 7 hours, in the middle of the night (the halfway point geographically but not necessarily timewise). Around 4 hours later, almost in the middle of the French shipping lane, the tides changed as expected and currents pushed her back northeast, away from the Cap, away from the receding French coastline, but she just ploughed on, undeterred, through the colder hours of the night into the morning dawn. Pilot Eddie posted: "Coming up on our 15th hour she's still smiling". She had looked at a lot of swim tracks of over 20 hour swims in her preparation, and so she was also mentally and psychologically prepared to seemingly go backwards and to do a few "extra laps". However, conditions stayed very favourable and only 4 hours after the first big tidal change the currents started to slacken again, and with the next change of tides, about 16 hours into the swim, she entered French inshore waters where the currents are less strong, moving closer and closer to Cap Griz Nez. However, it would still take her four more hours! The last challenge was to pass the Cap once again, tantalizingly close but out of reach, yet slowly and steadily making headway towards the coast. When we called again from New York at 6:30 a.m. our time (11:30 a.m. Dover time, 12:30 French time), Eddie told us "only 30 more minutes to go" – what a relief! And finally, after 20 hours 13 minutes of determined effort, Tatiana reached her goal, stepped on dry land and manifested her long cherished and hard worked for dream: she had become a true English Channel swimmer (solo, no wetsuit), the 4th Russian woman and the first Russian swimmer in our team - in the 40th anniversary year of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.
Tanya was blessed with amazing conditions right from the start: Eddie posted: 19.9°C water temp (Tanya thinks it was more like 18.5°C - 19.9°C maybe just on the surface, but still), 22°C air temp, waters calm, wind 2 knots NE. Her observer was King Kevin Murphy himself, with 34 EC crossings, the most for a male swimmer. And with Eddie Spelling, she had one of the best pilots who had already helped fellow SCMT member Vijaya Claxton reach her treasured goal in 2007, and took our relay safely to France in 2009 and myself on my Channel-triathlon in 2010.
Tanya`s personal report about the swim is still to follow, and also Kevin Murphy, who never forgets to mention that he was honoured and lifted overhead by Sri Chinmoy in London, promised to write a few words about Tanya`s great swim.
The Goal will be all yours.
- Sri Chinmoy
Tanya also took some inspiration and helpful information from Adriano`s book about his English Channel solo swim 2013, entitled "The Challenge of the English Channel - a spiritual approach to the Mount Everest of Swimming".