This month, one of our open water TriSwim swimmers, Alex Crawford completed a Jersey to France night swim in an official time of 6:32 hours; read about his adventure.
“The Jersey to France swim is a 15 nautical miles (18 statute miles or 28km) channel swim similar (but shorter) to the English Channel swim. The swim has to start and finish on the beach, with an average swim time of 7.5 to 10 hours.
To be allowed to do the J2F swim, you must complete a 6-hour continuous swim in open water at 16 degrees or less (same qualification as the English Channel).
To prepare for this, I spent winter at the pool, focusing on my base fitness and, most importantly, technique. I have long followed the Swim Smooth methodology and attended video analysis sessions with Laura from TriSwim; these sessions were invaluable in improving my technique and finding the ever-important fluidity and economy in my stroke, which I would need for an endurance swim.
At the beginning of the season, I headed out to the TriSwim lakes (Haysden, Chipstead, and Bewl) and began building my cold water tolerance. When I wasn’t at the lakes, I was down at Dover Harbour, swimming in whatever conditions I could to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Dover was very gracious, providing me with 21-knot headwinds, cold water, and plenty of jellyfish. I completed my 6-hour qualifying swim in Dover Harbour with plenty of Jellyfish stings as souvenirs.
Landing in Jersey, I had a five-day tide window with a relay team going before me. The weather wasn’t playing ball when I arrived, with heavy winds and an angry sea. Fortunately, I got a call from the pilot saying the relay team would be swimming that night and that I could swim the following night, the last day of my tide window.
I was collected at 1 a.m. from the dock by Matt (The pilot), Sam (the official observer for Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club) and Dee, who would be my crew and prepare my feeds. The boat ferried us to La Coupe beach, where I would start. It was a new moon, so the night was dark, but with a clear sky, we had a beautiful canopy of stars. I slipped into the water and swam 200m to the beach. Once clear of the water, I raised my arms, and the boat blew a horn to signal the start of the swim.
The first hour of the swim was “interesting” as I got accustomed to swimming in the pitch black. About 30 minutes into the swim, I could feel movement underneath me but couldn’t figure out what it was, and then I heard a clicking and squeaking with the unmistakable sound of dolphins. Coming up for my first feed from the boat, the crew confirmed that a pod of dolphins had been following me for half an hour. I took this as a good omen, swallowed my feed, and continued.
I choose not to wear my watch as this could be a distraction, and a 60g watch lifted over 23 thousand times would equal lifting nearly 1.4 tonnes throughout the swim. Without my watch, the only means of calculating passing time was by the number of feeds I had. I pushed on with regular Jellyfish stings, helping keep me awake and focused. The sunrise was a welcome sight and brought a new dimension to the swim.
When I came up for feed number 7, my crew shouted that this would be my last feed if I pushed hard. I was confused as, in my head, I should have at least another three feeds. I looked ahead but couldn’t see anything but the sea, so I did as instructed and got stuck in for the next hour. I heard the boat’s hull scrape up against the sand; the motors shut down, and the excited screams of my crew. I pushed on and could feel waves forming and pushing me forward until I touched the sand. I stood up, walked out of the surf onto the beach, and raised my hands. The boat’s horn rang to signal the end of the swim.
I was in France after 6.5 hours of swimming and 29.6 km, 1.5 hours faster than I hoped. I caught my breath and then swam slowly back to the boat for the return trip to Jersey. We were greeted by the pod of dolphins on our return.
Jersey is an open-water swimmer’s dream with dozens of sheltered bays, two sea pools, and the welcoming Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club.”