After a couple of false starts due to weather I’m set to start my swim at 6 am Tuesday (5 pm Tuesday night, Sydney). I will post this when I get final confirmation tonight and then surrender all social media devices while I try to get a few hours sleep.
When I wake my handler, James has a schedule prepared that we will follow with military precision until I’m delivered to the good ship ‘Rowena’ fully carb loaded and greased up like a pig at a county fair.
My boat pilot, Pete will take us a short distance from Folkestone to Samphire Hoe where I will enter the water, swim to the English shore, be seen standing clear of the waterline and only then, on the sound of the horn, start my swim to France.
I’ll be swimming in pink to signify my pride at being an out gay athlete and I will wear the pink hat of the Bold and the Beautiful swim group from Manly with whom I started my open water swimming career.
Under English Channel swimming rules I will wear one pair of briefs, one cap and one pair of goggles – no wetsuits allowed. I must not touch or be touched by the boat or any person until I’m seen standing without assistance on French soil, again clear of the waterline and the final horn has been blown. An observer from the Channel Swimming Association will be on board to ensure I play by the rules.
James will count my strokes to make sure I stay on pace and will reward me like a seal in training with the occasional feed, Jacqui (sister) is in charge of motivation and humor – as if the swim is not hard enough, David (brother in law) is a doctor and will keep me alive and friend and Frenchman, Gaetan will swim with me for limited periods if I become delirious. He will also negotiate with hostile French authorities on the other side if required. The frogs only allow us on their soil for 10 minutes (true) just because they hate anything that comes from England.
Having my daughters, Ellen and Mary with me here at basecamp for the past 24 hours has soothed my nerves and made the wait easier. My sons Luke and Patrick are in Australia and encourage me. Patrick starts his new business as a franchised personal trainer this week. Developing a shared interest in health and fitness with him has been one of the many unexpected joys of this adventure. His older brother, Luke who is at Sydney University is sleeping until 2 pm each day then reading a book under a tree in the park before possibly having a beer in the evening and probably doing the same thing the next day. I know what I’m doing has his support because a few moments ago I received a Facebook friend request from him after my request to him has been ignored for over a year. The support of my four children, and that of their friends has been uplifting and affirming.
I have previously dedicated this swim to my late father, Bob. When we return to basecamp my Mother Pat and youngest sister Maria will be among the friends and supporters here to meet Jacqui, me and the rest of my team. Whatever the result, we will raise a glass to Bob and celebrate our love for him and each other.
I’m a fortunate man and this is a rare opportunity I will cherish always.
(I’m swimming for Lifeline. If you have a mental health problem and you are in Australia, you can call them on 13 11 14 – if you can spare some money to support their work in saving lives and preventing suicide please donate by using the link on this site – Thanks Michael)
(Picture by James Goins – me swimming in Dover Harbour on my first day here)