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Marine Parade
Dover, CT16
United Kingdom

This website is for people wanting to train to swim the English Channel.

Zoe Freda bollocking 7.jpg

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Under new management.....

Emma France

Rather later than planned I'm updating the website with a Facebook update from before the season started....

Dover Training 2016 Season

We are just a couple of weeks away from the start of the 2016 season (that’s the first Dover training weekend not when the Channel swims start!). For those of you returning for second, third or more dibs at this amazing, life changing sport you know what to expect. For those of you joining us for the first time there will be a mix of excitement, apprehension or even fear. But worry less because even the old hands feel those emotions too. Whether you are training for a Channel relay, a solo, another swim or just dipping your toes to see what it’s like, you will be assured of a warm welcome from like minded souls who will all remember their first time. Advice, help, camaraderie and the chance to make friends for life are all on the menu and we look forward to meeting you.

But, although Barry ‘The Shingle Stomper’ Wakeham and his lovely wife, Irene ‘The Kit Lady’ Wakeham will be ever present, there will be one notable absentee. Our beloved Channel General, Freda, has hung up the rubber gloves, cast off the waterproof galoshes, mixed her last carb drink, dissected her last tree worth of bananas, decanted her last packet of Jelly Babies and Milky Ways and told us all for the millionth time not to swim past the last pole, swim too far out or disobey her in any way! Yes, the day we thought would never come has arrived. Freda has retired from weekend in and weekend out Dover training (but see the PS below!!)

For over 30 years Freda has been omnipresent on Dover beach, advised legions of swimmers from home and afar, been a rock of common sense and dispensed hard truths and praise in equal measure. She has cajoled and coaxed performances out of all who have come within her sphere and I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t benefitted from her knowledge and experience.

Freda will still pop down from time to time to check us out. She might even wag a finger at dissenters (it will be worth dissenting just to go down memory lane!). But, apart from Barry and Irene, and other willing helpers, who will sit in the Royal Chair at the beginning of each Saturday and Sunday telling you how long to swim for and giving the safety briefing? Well, that would be me!! 

Why me? Well, because Freda asked me if I would takeover. We have been chatting about it for the last couple of years and now it has happened. But, I need you all to know that I am not doing the impossible. I am not filling Freda’s boots. Metaphorically they will be at my side but I cannot hope or try to be what Freda has been to all of us for so many years. I can’t make you do what you are set. We all have choice and it will be your choice and a battle you will have with yourself as to whether you complete the training swim or not. The difference is you won’t have the famous, and feared, Freda glare to contend with. I can ask you why you got out but I’m not very good at glaring! 

Actually there is another notable difference. Once I have done my best to set you on your way I will be quick changing and joining you. Which means I will know if you are bobbing or skiving. As Freda said in her recent post, “Oh, how I wish I could have swum up behind you over the years.” Well, I will be, so look out. This also means that I won’t be able to bob or skive either – not that I have ever done that.

So, let’s look forward to a new chapter on Swimmers’ Beach. Remember, you can now sign up on-line, which should speed things up in the first couple of weeks.  
Watch out soon for more details about the start of the season. Take care and see you on the beach. 

Emma

PS. I am actually unavoidably away on the first weekend in May and Freda (those of you who said, “Yeah, what retirement,” can now all smile) will make a special guest appearance for one last hurrah.

Freda's retiring after over 30 years of running Dover training

Emma France

From Freda with apologies for not doing it straight after the dinner (I was still in shock!!),

Well, there I was enjoying the dinner and applauding the awards and delighting at meeting so many swimmers and their families from last season and years gone by and then - WHOOSH, I suddenly found my jaw dropping and I was doing a goldfish impression! Cliff was talking about a special award that wasn’t on his list and didn’t have a slide. I was looking around to see who it was for and then he mentioned retirement and my name!! It’s not often any of you have seen me speechless but I truly was. How dare you all surprise me like that!! I’m the one who dishes out surprises. I’m the one who says:

"I know it’s raining, but, if Im getting wet then so can you. Six hours, get going and I don’t want to see you for two hours. And don’t go past the last pole!”
“What do you mean, you have to get home for a Sunday roast so you have to leave at 12 o’clock? The Channel won’t be easier because you had roast beef for dinner!”
“Yes, I know you swam 7 hours yesterday. That’s why you’re only doing 6 today!”
“No, of course I haven’t swum the Channel. Do you think I am mad?”
“No, Carlos, you can’t set fireworks off on the beach when you land in France.”
“Well of course it’s tough but it was your stupid idea to swim the Channel, not mine.”

All I can say is that I cannot believe it’s over 30 years since Alison’s coach emigrated to Australia and I started to coach her. I have had such wonderful times and seen so many changes in that time. In the first couple of years we had a small handful of swimmers in the water on the first weekend in May. Now it’s well over 100. I have so many memories of swims and swimmers over all these years. You have all been amazing. Swimmers from all over the world have met at Swimmers Beach and made new friends and it has been a delight to see them all. 

We have had such fun, hey? On many an occassion I have laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks. I have delighted in seeing so many swimmers achieve their dreams and I have cried with those who have been thwarted. I have wagged my fingers at those who have challenged me and the beach crew (you know who you are!) and have had my head in my hands at some of the antics you have got up to. Channel swimming is an amazing sport full of amazing people - and you are all mad!!

Thank you so much for my award. It has pride of place in my house and will always remind me of Dover and Channel swimming. But, although it is in my house, I am sharing it with all of you. People think that I haven’t really retired but it is true, I have. Of course I will still come down from time to time (and I will still wag my fingers at you all) but it is time to hand over the reins. Barry and Irene do a fantastic job on the beach and I know that Emma will do a great job in keeping you all in check. In fact she will have an advantage that I didn’t have. She will be swimming in the same place as you and will know if you are skiving!! Oh, how I wish I could have swum up behind some of you over the years!

Now, talking of skiving, shouldn’t you be in the pool! The Channel takes no prisoners, you know!

Love Freda xx