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Dover Training Week 6 - Things that go bump in the night


Dover Training Week 6 - Things that go bump in the night

Emma France

Channel swimming will always be an unpredictable sport and the wind and bumpy water on Saturday morning provided the perfect example of that. Still, it did make for a fun sleepover party under the shelter and the bumpy water mid morning made sure that Hayley, our birthday girl, got her birthday bumps!

Sleepover party

Sleepover party

As we were due to be swimming during the night and into the morning, our theme was 'Sleepover’ and therefore pyjamas and onesies were the order of the day - probably our simplest theme to join in with. I did have to chuckle at myself as I got up to get ready for our rescheduled 9am meet-up on Saturday - I got up, got dressed, had breakfast and then put on my pyjamas and dressing gown to go out!



Saturday take two

Saturday take two

Swimmers:  23
Water temperature: 14.5C
Air temperature:  19.4C
Conditions: Strong breeze from SW (Force 6 gusting Force 8). Bumpy water, massive rolling waves towards ferry wall. Drizzle at times.

Swimmers:  78
Water temperature:  14.5C
Air temperature: 15.0C
Conditions:  Partly cloudy, calm water.

So far we have registered:

  • 80 Solo swimmers

  • 41 Relay swimmers

  • 32 Just for Fun swimmers

  • 49 Aspire swimmers

  • 52 Drop-in swimmers

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

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


Things that go bump in the night

Bumpy water

Bumpy water

Saturday saw the first of our disrupted training sessions and boy was it disrupted - even the disruption was disrupted! The Dover Rowing Regatta was due to take place during the day which left us with 3 choices:

  • Cancel training

  • Switch to an alternative location

  • Start early enough to be out of the water in time for the event

Based on the popularity of starting in the dark in previous seasons and the complications that can be experienced with other locations, I decided to opt for a start at 3am and give the experience of getting up to swim at an unusual time (but a time that you could experience on your big day) and to experience swimming from dark to light.

I tend to start looking at the forecast a couple of days ahead as anything further out tends to be too volatile. Forecasts for the harbour are not the same as forecasts in open locations like Hythe or Ramsgate. You need to consider wind direction and estimate the impact that the wind has and the protection that the walls of the harbour offer. The wind direction has a significant impact on water conditions and where the bumpy water can be found. The other factor is the combination of wind strength compared to tide height.

The forecast for Saturday did change a bit over Thursday and Friday but remained a big forecast. I was in touch with the organisers of the rowing regatta to see if they planned to go ahead or cancel. They decided to defer a decision until the Friday which left little time for re-planning our session with hotel bookings generally being non-refundable at the point they made their decision. As with anything in life we had choices: cancel training; adjust the start time; take a look and see.

I decided that taking a look was actually a great experience. One of the tough things in our sport is dealing with uncertainty. So 24 of us met at 3am in the wind, rain and darkness. The water wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it might have been. I’m pretty sure that I’ve swum in worse but that didn’t make it sensible to get into in the dark. We looked at the safety of getting in and out of the water. We considered whether we could safely launch the safety kayak. We also considered whether it would be possible to see swimmers, even with lights on from the beach and from the kayak. On balance we decided that we could not achieve all of those safety criteria and opted to enjoy each others’ company and have cake and hot chocolate during our sleepover theme. We then agreed to reconvene at 9 to assess for a 10am start.

Despite no swimming, getting up at that time was a lot of fun! Another great opportunity to chill out and laugh together. The class of 2019 is a fabulous group. I don’t think the local youths who were quietly enjoying cans of lager under the shelter quite knew what was going on and soon scarpered leaving behind half full cans of lager!

So we met again at 9 and did indeed swim at 10am. It was a bumpy swim but totally doable. Whilst much shorter than swims of last weekend the one or two hours that swimmers did were worth far more than the pure hours in the water.

I’d like to say an extra special thank you to the last minute offers of help on the beach both at 3am and at 10am. Those of you who looked at the rota and phoned or messaged to say ‘do you need an extra pair of hands’ were just so amazing. Anyone on the beach would have seen just how closely we watched at all times.

I’d also like to say an extra special thanks to Paul for getting up before 6 to check on anyone who didn’t see or read the updates on facebook, via email or on the website. He got very little sleep that night and still spent the 2 hours on the kayak making sure everyone was ok.


Pacific Open Water Swim Co



Thank you to Pacific Open Water Swim Co for sponsoring our 3am cake. We had plenty that it also supported swimmers on Sunday - yum!!

Pacific Open Water Swim Co offer adventure swims from Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and more! Bespoke swims on your schedule. Marathon training swims - 2, 4, 6, 8+ hours year-round with water temperatures from 10-17C. 

Your swim family in San Francisco, 
Bryan and Sylvia


Stand out swims

Rachel enjoying the beach bar

This was a weekend of two halves. Saturday was too lumpy for our planned early swim and still a bit bouncy when we did swim. Sunday was beautifully calm.

Well done to those of you who did train in the bouncy stuff on Saturday, it is good experience. Well done to those of you who made the decision not to also, it can be a tough judgement call to make.

At the beginning of the season I said that the time would come when I said ‘3 hours’ and you would think that was a ridiculously short swim. After some big swims last weekend, this was the weekend that happened for some of you. I hope you enjoyed your recovery weeks.

I’d like to call out the following amazing swims (in no particular order):

  • Everyone who swam on Saturday

  • Steve Stievenart, Mikey Tees and Steve Henigan for 7 hour swims on Sunday. Particularly well done to Mikey who was on his way out of the water at the end of his planned 6 hours and allowed me to entice him back in to achieve his longest ever swim (so far). And to Halani who also went back in at the end of 6 hours for an extra half hour. That really is strength and determination in action.

  • Overall there were 11 people who completed 6 or more hours of swimming.

  • Chris Leek for slaying the demons that had got in the way in previous weeks, what a difference a week can make.

  • Katie Berlyn for 2 x 2 hour swims - a qualifier for a Lake Geneva relay

  • The 11 swimmers who completed their two hour qualifiers

It was also lovely to see Aspire back with us on Sunday, taking the number of swimmers in the water to over 100. Well done to those of you who cracked your 2 hour qualifying swim.


Volunteers - thank you


With so many people to sign-in, grease and feed, we really can’t support you without our fabulous volunteers. So many of you are clearly incredibly grateful for this support and I thank you for that. Having said that we can’t do this without volunteers, I’d just like to ask the man who made an inappropriate comment to one of our volunteers who helped with application of vaseline on Saturday to never do that again. I sincerely hope it was a misplaced joke. It wasn’t funny and it was offensive. Can I suggest that if anyone needs more delicate areas greased in the future to help yourself to a glove and self-apply. Of course if you are friends with the person doing the greasing then by all means ask for assistance if required, just ensure you don’t put volunteers in an awkward and compromising position.

Serious note over.

Thank you to:

  • Saturday: Rachel Hill; Oonagh Gormley & Paul James. With support from Louise Marshall, Tony Marshall, Conny Gewert and everyone else who helped me continually count swimmers.

  • Sunday: Oonagh Gormley & Anna Ploszajski. With support from Paul James, Anita Goyos, Frederique Vandrepote, Tony Marshall, Louise Marshall, Diane Parrish, Alan Macleay, Daniel Stewart, Keith Oiller, Paul Cross, Rachel Hill, Margot Anderson, Nick Murch, MJ, Mikey Tees and everyone else who got involved and helped.

We had a lot of impromptu and amazing support volunteers this weekend. With 49 red hats in the water, most needing feeding, that support was greatly appreciated by me, yes, and more importantly by the swimmers. I’m always grateful for extra support on the day, so if you don’t know when you can help and find yourself available, feel free to pop along and lend a hand. If you are able to sign-up to support a session you can do it here. I’ll always find a way to make it work with, or without, people on the volunteer rota. It does make for easier planning if I know who is planning to be there.

It does make me chuckle when a soloist comes back to volunteer after their swim - talk about gamekeeper turned poacher! ‘They’re late, shouldn’t they go without a feed’; ‘no bobbing!’; the list goes on. I’m so not needed, they have it completely under control!



I don’t think we’ve ever fed so many people at one time!

Feeding frenzy!

Feeding frenzy!

Was Sunday our busiest day ever? Quite possibly!! I have certainly never had or seen quite so many people feeding as fed on Sunday. At the maximum count we had 43 people feeding - wow!!

On the second feed we were still feeding 31 swimmers.

I’m very glad that I invested in what seems like an industrial sized cool box - we need it!!

A couple of reminders:

  • We only feed red hats, though we may give the odd treat here and there to yellow hats.

  • We will assume that you want CNP unless you say otherwise. UCAN is also available on the beach as is water

  • If you have any food intolerances, please let me know when you sign-in. We will always have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options (albeit slightly more limited in range that those without food intolerances).

  • Purple hats / just for fun subscriptions are purely for recreational swimming. I would anticipate a maximum of 2 hours in this category. If you wish to upgrade your subscription to a more appropriate category I’m happy to help with this.



So, you get the picture, there’s always a theme to our weekends. Next weekend’s theme will be revealed next weekend. You’re going to need to be patient for this one. However, you will be able to look forward to joining in, this is something you can all join in with!


Planning your training

As a red hat, one of the things that I’ve always liked about Dover training from when I was training under Freda is that you turn up and get told what to do. I am the worst person to set my own training plan as I would inevitably make emotional choices which may lead me to under or over train. I hope you also enjoy the fact that you get access to this support to keep you on track and honest with yourself. The other advantage is that it helps you to learn to cope with the unexpected, especially where the number you get is significantly bigger or smaller than you we’re expecting! Sometimes the number even changes during the swim.

What really helps us to do this is if I am able to make a judgement call based on all relevant information. For example, if you don’t tell me that you’re only swimming one day of the weekend, you may end up with the wrong training plan. Likewise if you only mention after training that you won’t be there next weekend then same could happen.

The training we do works best when both days of the weekend are trained. You could say if you only want to do half the channel do half the training! Now of course I recognise that life gets in the way for some people some or all of the time, so I really do appreciate it if you can help me make the decision on what is an appropriate training session based on all the information. i know that some of you are using other days to supplement the weekend day that you can’t do, well done, that’s great. If that’s not you, it is actually pretty difficult to train on just one day at the weekends. Once we’re up to the big swims, it doesn’t stay like that every weekend, I do also give recovery weeks. If you miss half the sessions or get out early, I need to keep setting those big swims and bizarrely you can end up over training by missing sessions. If you are able to do what is suggested you will get to enjoy the recovery weeks too.

If you are a drop in swimmer, that responsibility remains yours. We will facilitate training swims up to the maximum time we are there that weekend. At the peak of training that is generally 7 hours on a Saturday and 6 hours on a Sunday. There are exceptions to this. Towards the end of the season the hours on the beach do start to drop.


Looking ahead

A fantastic experience to practice starting a weird and wonderful times of the day.

A fantastic experience to practice starting a weird and wonderful times of the day.

Next Saturday is disrupted again due to the BLDSA Champion of Champions event taking place in the harbour. Therefore we will aim to start early again. Very, very early! Please arrive by 2.30am for a 3am start. We will still be doing long swims on these days. Of course ability to swim in the dark and do long swims is weather dependent.

Anyone who has swum with us before will be welcome to join this session. However, we won’t be taking any new swimmers on this swim as I’m not prepared to put unknown swimmers in the water in the dark for their first session.


Saturday 15th June (BLDSA Champion of Champions). Start time 3am, arrive by 2.30am. If you’re swimming in the CoC event, you could always make it an extra special challenge by training with us first…….. (I know one of you is intending on doing this!) 😬

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd June I will be supporting some long swims on these dates (up to 10 hours). Please note, I do not believe that anyone wanting to do a channel solo needs to do a 10 hour swim. Sometimes it is useful to do a little longer than normal if you are a very slow swimmer. Also it can be useful if you are only able to make one day at the weekend. However, if you have a burning desire to do a long swim, this is a great opportunity. The 10 hours will start at 8am. We will be able to support up to 9 hours from 9am. No need to pre-book.

Saturday 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.

TBC (Dover Rowing Regatta). The rowing regatta which had to be cancelled on Saturday will be reschedule to some other time. We’ll work out our revised plans once we know.

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.


Feeding with CNP - part 1

Last weekend I took the opportunity to create a short video to show just how easy it is to mix CNP. Today it took a matter of just a few minutes to make 10 litres of it. For your big day you can mix some or all of what you need in advance or make some and show your crew how to mix it for any extra that is required.

Basically, we mix it to double the strength that it shows on the tub and then it is diluted to single strength when we add hot water at the time of feeding. It is flavourless and you can add whatever you like to it. I’d advise against anything citrus or blackcurrant squash as these can be quite unsettling on the stomach. Things that have been popular on the beach include: summer fruits; vimto and peach flavour. I’ve been known to mix mine with a black tea. Some people also add fructose, but this is a personal choice.

I’ll provide some other information in future recordings. Feel free to chat with us between feeds if you have any questions on this or feeding in general.


Online applications & membership cards

New style membership cards

New style membership cards

I have a lot of membership cards waiting for collection. If you haven’t yet picked up yours, please see me next time you’re on the beach. Please can you attach your membership cards to the outside of your swim bags. This is part of our safety procedures should we need to identify bags in the even of an emergency, it’s also helpful if we know which is your bag if you need to change goggles or get any medication etc that you might need.

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

No declaration, no swim, no exception.


Alison Streeter used to always say that swimming the channel is 80% mental, and 20% everything else. I like Julian’s twist on this ‘it’s 80% mental and 20% in your head’! Your Dover Channel Training subscription covers all your physical training with us in Dover, including all your feeds and the support of the volunteers. The act of training also supports part of the hidden 80% by giving you unique experiences and the opportunity to do things that you may not have previously considered possible.

You may have questions, in fact I suspect you will have plenty at times. There are a number of ways to get additional support. Most swimmers with experience will be happy to chat with you and answer your questions from their perspective. A number of experienced swimmers have also signed up to be mentors via our facebook group mentorship programme. That is also free to use.

If you want more formal support than can be offered in a brief conversation on the beach or via the mentorship programme, please get in touch with me so that we can discuss if I can provide additional assistance outside of what is offered through Dover Channel Training. You can find out a bit more at Emma2France. As well as the qualifications and experience that you’d expect I’d have, I’m also a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a Hypnotist. If you have unhelpful self-talk, beliefs that are not real and are limiting your progress or a desire to have more support, please get in touch. We can discuss what would be of benefit for you.



A few photos captured at the weekend.

See you next week!!


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