Last year when I attempted to swim the 21 mile English Channel, I developed severe motion sickness and I made the decision to stop my swim. I was greatly disappointed but not defeated. I asked my boat pilot Reg Brickell if he had any cancellations for 2016........I wanted to try another solo crossing of the English Channel. He was fully booked because of his reputation as an honest and trustworthy boat pilot and he could not accommodate my request. The Brickell brothers want all swimmers to succeed with their goal of swimming to France no matter how long it takes. So last fall I booked my Molokai channel swim in Hawaii. After giving my deposit for my May swim of Molokai channel, I received an email from Reg stating that he had a cancellation for June. Knowing that I have a very fast recovery time after a marathon swim, I decided to swim the English Channel just four weeks after my Molokai swim.
I had a concern about the acclimation to cold water since I was acclimating to warmth for a few month prior to Molokai. I was monitoring daily water temperatures from the Sandettie Buoy in the English Channel that was updated every hour online. The readings consistently read 57 to 61 degrees. I was very pleased with that recorded water temp. On arrival to Dover, I found the water temp at high tide averaging about 54. Huge difference! I had a concern about my upcoming swim. My son Tom was my only crew. He did an amazing job! He stood on the boat for 18 hours monitoring my swim. I never saw him take a break.
Yesterday when I started my swim from Samphire Hoe, England, I noticed immediately that the water temp was a cool 54 degrees. About a mile into my swim, I felt chilled and had a concern about the water temp. Sometimes the water temp would reach 57. I kept telling myself that the closer I get to France the water temperature would rise. Wrong!!!!!! Occasionally I would feel warm pockets of warmer water around 60 degrees. But than an oil tanker would go by and would propel much colder water to the surface. Yikes!
By the second hour, I started to have doubts about my swim. I started to have frequent episodes of vomiting.......none of the prescribed medications worked. I was feeling like this was "Deja Vu" from my failed attempt in 2016. My boat pilot voiced his rightful concern about my vomiting.
By the 6th hour, the pockets of warmer water were infrequent. I kept telling myself that water temp would improve because the sun was rising and I would feel the gentle warmth of the sun. It did improve slightly but I was still cold.
By the 12th hour, I could see France. My doubts went away. I started thinking of swimmers who inspired me to never give up......Jackie Cobell who set a world record for the longest time of 28 hours to swim the channel. I thought of swimming legend Sal Minty-Gravett and her epic world record of a two way crossing of the English Channel. I didn't want to quit even though I was very uncomfortable from the cold water.
By the 14th hour, I knew I was experiencing mild dehydration because I could only tolerate sips of fluids. As I continued my swim, I noticed a very large dorsal fin piercing the water about 6 feet behind me. I said to myself, "Is that a shark?" I knew that sometimes marathon swimmers may experience hallucinations during a long swim. "I said to myself, "Pat, you are hallucinating!" So I continued swimming. After my swim, my son Tom said, "Did you see that large dorsal fin behind you? I thought it was a shark but it was a large ocean sunfish confirmed by the CSA Official." Shortly after the dorsal fin encounter, I was greeted by a medium size jellyfish. The sting was horrible. I had to stop my swim momentarily to remove the tentacle from my face. My upper lip had a long tentacle sticking to it. Ouch! Tom saw me rapidly trying to remove the jellyfish tentacles off my face. I jokingly said, "that's my welcome to France". We both laughed.
The last mile of my swim took nearly three hours to complete due to strong currents. I was being swept along the coastline for a beautiful scenic swim. I was finally able to reach the shore line and walk up the beach near the white cliffs at Cap Blanc. It was a fantastic feeling to complete my goal of setting a world record for oldest woman to successfully swim the English Channel at the age of 66 years and 135 days old.
The previous record holder is my Facebook friend Sue Oldham from Australia. She set the oldest woman record for the English Channel in 2010 at age 64 years and 258 days. Out of respect for Sue, I contacted her the day before my swim to let her know of my intention. She was amazing! She wished me success and a great swim. During my swim, she contacted my daughter to relay a message to my son on board. My son yelled to me during my 15th hour and said, Sue Oldman from Australia contacted Sarah and wants you to pull hard to get through those currents. I greatly appreciate her dedication to the sport of marathon swimming. She is planning to swim the English Channel at the end of this summer. I wish her much success in breaking my record. After all, records are meant to be broken.
I want to thank my son Tom for his amazing work as crew. He paid attention to every detail to help me become successful in reaching France. A special thank you to my daughter Sarah who posted updates on Facebook.....she was amazing! I want to thank my husband Jim who has always encouraged me to reach for my dreams. Also, I want to thank my extended family and friends for their encouraging words. Thank you to my former co-workers.....they are an awesome hard working group who sent me heartfelt words of support. I want to thank my boat pilots Reg and Ray Brickell for their expertise. And lastly, I want to thank all my Facebook friends who sent words of congratulations.
My last marathon swim to complete the Oceans Seven will be Cook Strait in New Zealand in 2019. Due to popularity of this swim, there is a long waiting list. But in the meantime, I will continue marathon swimming in other locations. Thanks again.