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Marine Parade
Dover, CT16
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Dover Training Week 11 - a tour of duty


Dover Training Week 11 - a tour of duty

Emma France

Those people who have never attempted or trained for a channel solo or relay (or equivalent) with us may be excused for thinking that what we provide is support for the appropriate amount of time in the water. Whilst that is indeed something that we provide, we also aim to convert as many unknowns into knowns as possible or to put it another way, provide experiences that help you become aware of all the things that you didn’t know that you didn’t know and prepare you for them.

This weekend was a classic example of that.

It was also lovely to pay a visit to Hythe again - as well as a nice long stretch of water to swim in, it gave the opportunity to experience how water can feel different without the protection of the harbour.


Special forces

What was the theme this weekend? There are many options for the name - military week, bootcamp, back to basics….. Whatever it was to you, the aim was to demonstrate some important points and give you some experiences that you may not have had before:

  • Feeding in deep water

  • Fast feeding

  • Surviving without ‘treats’ and social picnics

During the week and via the wonders of social media, i watched conversations take place about the frustration of some swims taking longer than they needed to due to slow feeds or feeding too often, be that due to drinking slowly or taking on too many solids. Now those of you who have listened to the briefings or read the blog posts or even attended the seminars will have heard me talk about the importance of fast feeding. We also talk about training the way you intend to swim. I became aware that this is one way that we really don’t practice what we preach. Feeding 40 people on a beach at the same time and providing an array of interesting and tasty treats is not a fast experience. There are several issues, including:

  • It’s a slow process as we try to get to each of you in the shallows

  • You’e standing up which is a very different experience to feeding whilst treading water

  • We’re encouraging treats every feed

My bad.

So what does a good feed look like?

  • It should be fast, and by fast I mean 20-30 seconds from getting the feed in your hand to swimming on

  • Treats are treats and should be occasional if at all. There’s something quite magical about a surprise jaffa cake or jelly baby provided by your crew when you’re not expecting it. It is not something that you should have at every feed. The clue is in the name. On my last solo I had one jaffa cake throughout the whole swim and that was because I took a painkiller.

  • Ideally you should take your feed, go onto your back and kick your legs so that you’re still making some progress whilst stopped to feed

  • You’ve practiced feeding after 2 hours and then hourly. Personally this is what I do on big swims as well, though I accept that this is not for everyone. Freda used to also suggest feeding hourly for 3 hours and 45 minutes or half hourly there after.

Why is this important? After all, what’s a couple of minutes here and there over a swim that takes 12, 14, 16, 18+ hours? Well, quite a lot actually. Let’s make a comparison. If you’re running a marathon and you stop for a rest, you'll still be in exactly the same place when you restart. That is not true in the channel. All the time you are stopped, the tide is still moving you sideways. All the time you are ‘stopped’ you are still moving but not in the direction you want. So what? Well all of these stops add up. Half hourly feeds from the start over 15 hours, 2 minutes a time and is an hour. Is it only an hour? Probably not. Have you ever watch the tracks? Have you seen swims that get tantalisingly close to reaching the cap (the closest point) and miss it, then need to swim further as the land falls away, meaning you end up swimming more hours. Zoom in on the map of Cap gris Nez sometime and you’ll find a place called ‘Le Sodit’ (you really will). It amuses me that it’s around the place that we say ‘sod it they’ve missed the cap’!

I’ve heard this called the graveyard of dreams. In the water it can be difficult to understand if you don’t know what’s happening. Land looks close and then starts to look further away or, why are we just doing a coastal tour and not swimming to land? So what? Well, what if your frequent or long stops mean that you miss the cap when you might otherwise have hit it? It doesn’t just add the hour to your swim, it can add multiple hours.

So what, I hear some of you say again? Well, in my opinion, whether you are a speed merchant or more of a value for money swimmer, the longer you are in the water, the longer there is for things to go wrong out of your control. So just don’t do that to yourself.

Is that all? Nope. The longer you take to feed, the more the boat comes off course and that can take a while to correct depending on the weather and even longer for a slow swimmer.

Overall it can be extremely time costly.

Remember, it’s a channel swim, not a social event or a photo shoot (though we do all want a photo memory of our big achievement). It’s a very busy shipping area to be crossed as quickly as you are capable.

If I compare two of my swims: 2014 where I landed on the cap in 12hrs 58mins and 2018 when I landed in Wissant in 16hrs 1 min, I know what that extra few hours felt like. That extra time can happen for all sorts of reasons, some you can control, some you can’t. Whether that’s extra time on a 10 hour swim or a 20 hour swim it doesn’t matter - in my opinion you should remove the unnecessary variables like speed of feeding.

NB these statements have been based comments by pilots (with some more colourful words removed!) as well as personal experience. I’d be delighted to hear from more pilots. Ultimately all we all want is your success.

PS - as with all things in life, there are exceptions to every rule. There are some swimmers who just seem to need a different approach, I see perhaps one of these every year or two. We train hundreds of swimmers, chances are you’re not the exception!

If you feel you need more experience in this, just ask and we’ll arrange for you to practice next to a kayak again. Whilst not the same as a pilot boat, it is a lot more similar than standing on a beach.

Future themes

If you want to join in the fun, here are some upcoming themes:

  • 20th & 21st July: Hawaiian week

  • 27th & 28th July: Love & friendship week - we really should celebrate what an incredible group we are. Friendships formed on this beach can and do last a lifetime.



Daylight on Saturday

Saturday (Hythe):
Swimmers:  32
Water temperature: 18.4C
Air temperature:  21.0C
Conditions: Calm & sunny

Swimmers:  46
Water temperature:  18.0C
Air temperature: 19.6C
Conditions:  Drizzle to start, slight chop to the water later on. Partly cloudy

So far we have registered:

  • 83 Solo swimmers

  • 43 Relay swimmers

  • 36 Just for Fun swimmers

  • 77 Aspire swimmers

  • 98 Drop-in swimmers

There are 30 swimmers who have applied and will be approved subject to a successful assessment swim.

Please note that if you would like to sign-up for solo, relay or just for fun subscriptions, I am now offering a 25% discount on the full fee. Whilst this doesn't show on the website or membership system, it will be applied at the point that payment is requested.

If you have elected to be a drop-in swimmer, please can you ensure that you pay before you swim. The fee is £7 with feeds, £4 for relay training or solo without feeding and £3 for a short recreational swim. Cash or card is accepted.

If you have already paid and haven’t yet collected your card, please collect from the beach crew on your next visit and attach it to the outside of your swim bag. For those who do assessment swims, you’ll be able to collect your card, once paid, the following weekend.

If you haven’t joined us yet and still plan to, the online declaration can be found here.

No declaration, no swim, no exception.


Channel swimmer on the beach

Aliens invade

Congratulations to the following swimmers on their swims this week:

  • Alexa Trust Relay on 8th July in a time of 12 hours 8 minutes on Louise Jane. The team included Darren Parfitt.

  • Aspire relay of Loch Lomond on 8th July in a time of 12 hours 19 minutes

  • Guy Harris for his solo on 10th July in a time of 16 hours 39 minutes. With over 50 people watching the live streaming of his finish, he was a very much loved person to be the first DCT soloist of the year.

  • Elaine Henderson for her solo on 12th July on Optimist in a time of 15 hours 20 minutes

  • Michelle Kenyon-Weston for her channel solo on 12th July on Masterpiece in a time of 16 hours 15 minutes.

  • Team Hope for their channel relay on 12th July on Viking Princess in a time of 14 hours 59 minutes. The team included our 3 new Indian friends Sudarshan, Zarir & Moiz plus Catherine Stefanutti.

  • Nick Murch for a super tough crossing of The Wash in a time of 5 hours 58 mins which we believe is equal to the fastest on record and is the record for north to south direction. The video I saw of the conditions were shocking so quite how you did that I don’t. #TheStorm.

It’s been a wonderfully busy week of achievements, if I missed calling out your swim, I’m so, so sorry!! I would have been cheering you on and it can be tricky to recall a busy week after the event - please comment and shout about it.

Well done to all the other successful swimmers of the week. We’ve been cheering you all on.

If you swam this week and you didn’t fulfil your dream yet, chin up. Learn what you need to learn and come and chat about a new plan. The day after my first (unsuccessful) attempt at the channel the following 3 things came into my mind the day after:

  • What we do does not define who we are, it’s how we rise after we fall

  • There’s no failure, only feedback

  • The world is full of people who didn’t know how close they were to success when they gave up.

Needless to say, I didn’t give up and the rest is history. #Daretobelieve

Next week looks set to be another exciting week of tracking - good luck to all of you. Go make that dream come true.


Stand out swims

Most of the 7 & 6 swimmers

With so many big swims last weekend, many of you were enjoying a well earned recovery weekend. I know that sometimes it feels like you should be continually knocking out the big swims and that’s just not true. A cyclical pattern of building up and then recovering will actually help you build strength far more than just knocking out the big swims. Enjoy the rest - you most definitely earn it.

This weekend I’d like to call our the following stand out swims:

  • Ady Brown for your back to back 10s weekend.

  • Alex Fordyce & Tina Noble for your 7 & 6 weekend

  • Ed Horne for your 7 & 5 weekend

  • Nicky Mather for turning a 3 hour swim into a 6 hour swim

  • And to everyone who learned something about themselves this weekend or allowed us to keep you in when part of you wanted to get out. Ultimately, it was you that kept you in.


Volunteers - thank you


Thank you to all the people who volunteered this weekend.

A very special thank you to our special bootcamp volunteers, especially Charlie & James. With Rachel & Paul with their kayaks we were able to feed from 4 kayaks at times which was a big help.

Thanks to everyone else who was on the rota or who just rocked up and helped in a big way or a little way. I really appreciate it and couldn’t do it without you.

If you can spare a day, please sign-up here.



Looking ahead

Future disrupted sessions:

Sunday 4th August (Dover Town Regatta). The swim zone will be suspended. We are likely to do another 3am start, and this will be confirmed nearer the time. On this date there will be no parking available along the seafront.


Saturday 28th September this will be our end of season BBQ - save the date!

October visit to the landing sites. I’m looking for a volunteer to coordinate this day - please let me know if that could be you. It’s a fun day where we visit a number of the sites where people land their swims and then enjoy a lunch in France. It’s a brilliant way to round off the season.

There will be additional safety measures in place for all swims that involve an element in the dark, so attending the briefing is mandatory for all swimmers. You will be required to wear at least one light (battery operated adventure lights, not chemical ones). If you need them, I sell them on the beach, but please buy them before the swim, selling stuff in the dark on the beach at 2.30am isn’t my idea of fun.


Emma’s corner

Big day confidence

I recently wrote a blog on my personal / business website about big day confidence. There are lots of big days coming up, it’s worth a read.

Blog link

You’ll read top tips including:

  • Follow your normal routine

  • Visualisation

  • Peak performance state & anchoring

  • Self talk

  • Remain calm


It has been my absolute pleasure to work with some of you outside of weekend training. For some of you that has been around crafting a training plan when your schedule makes it difficult to make the most of what is on offer in Dover.

For others it’s hypnosis that is what you want. Finally, where there are multiple and complex issues to work through which may or may not relate to your swim, a breakthrough session is the difference that will make a difference.

I’m here to support you in the way that you need.

If you’re curious and would like to discuss further, feel free to schedule a free initial 30 minute consultation. I am available on Fridays from my base in Surrey. Some evenings from Surrey or Cambridge (depends where my other job has me on that night) and sometimes on a Saturday late afternoon in Dover. Most of what I can offer can be supported face to face or via Zoom (video conferencing).

My calendar is filling up fast, so if this is something that you’re interested in, you can find out a bit more at Emma2France or contact me via email or phone.



A few photos captured at the weekend.

See you next week!!


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