Swimming Plus - Open water swimming events in Jeffreys Bay
Challenge Yourself This Winter

Now in its forth year, the Cold Water Classic is truly an extreme event that forms part of the JBay Winterfest being held from 6 - 17 July 2016 in Jeffreys Bay. Held on the 16 July 2016, swimmers can test themselves by swimming a mile, double mile or triple mile in ±12°C water.

Swimming across St Francis Bay

Date : 23 October 2014

CAPE ST FRANCIS - PORT ST FRANCIS BUTTERFLY SWIM

 

One of the Swimming Plus crew, Brenton Williams did an unprecedented 8 K  swim from the Cape St Francis lighthouse to Port St Francis recently. This is how the swim went:

Conditions looked all right for the swim the entire 10 day period prior to 26 April.  

The wind would be light to medium SE, swinging to SW a couple of days before the swim.

Some rain was predicted which was a factor that didn’t bother me either way. The water was 15 – 17 C and cold weather conditions or a bit of sun wasn’t going to influence my decision to call the swim on or off.

Cheryl Gibson- Dicks picked me up in JBay at 6 am on the morning of the swim and we drove to Port St Francis where we would meet the other swimmers and the support crew at 6.45 am.

We had a quick briefing and all was set for the swim.

John Henrick, the pilot, and myself had agreed that he would check the currents from Port St Francis to Cape St Francis from the boat, while we drove around to the Point on the morning of the swim.

If the currents were the other way round, we would swing the swim around and go back to the Port and swim from the Port to Cape St Francis.

This was the worst case scenario, as the swim was part of the Nautical Festival and we all wanted to finish the swim in the Port.

John called the swim on, and just after 7.30 am we entered the water at Johnsons pool.

We needed an early start as the weather predictions were that the wind was going to blow harder as the day progressed.

At this stage I was calm and felt everything was under control. Now it was time to swim and even though I knew the next few hours would throw some kind of challenges our way, I knew the preparation for the swim was good.

Physically, I was strong enough to swim 8 K butterfly and had faith in my training.

We got into the water off Johnsons Point, but not before I had scraped my hand on the rocks, after standing on a sea urchin and losing my footing.

Swimming out through the rocks at Johnson Pool to meet up with the boat was a tremendous feeling, and the swim towards the lighthouse was a highlight of the swim.

Never, not even in my wildest imagination, would I ever have thought that I would swim past the Cape St Francis lighthouse.

I could see the lighthouse quite often as I breathed but all too quickly we swam past it.

In the beginning phase of a swim, I concentrate on getting my rhythm going. This can be difficult to do if there is a lot of surface chop or big swell.

Settling down in cold water can also cause disruption to the butterfly rhythm and there were also two other swimmers who had to adjust to the pace I was setting.

On a big swim, it can take up to an hour to really settle down and start to find a good rhythm.

There was swell swirling around the Lighthouse area and it wasn’t easy to settle down at all in the first part of the swim.

As we entered the bay of Cape St Francis, the swell eased off and we had a light wind from behind us. This caused the odd surface chop that we had to deal with. The water was also warming up and got to 17 C very quickly.

Just after the first feeding, that we took at the 1 hour mark, I got into the rhythm of the swim.

This was not before our able observer threw the 500m Powerade bottles at us, overhand and with force.

Luckily I could duck underwater before the bottle hit me, and could chuckle with the paddlers as Cheryl came close to hitting Kyle and Kendal with the drinks as well.

Each big butterfly swim has its own rhythm or ambience. Swimming fly is mostly done by gliding under the water, so there is much more opportunity to truly "feel the water”.

The two arm fly strokes come from the lats and are very symmetrical. Once the pull is complete, I drive with my hips and try not kick too hard, go too deep, or splash kick.

The picture of us swimming across the Bay is exactly how I remember the swim to be – at that stage.

Now was the time to revel in being out in the ocean, enjoying the elements and with deep gratitude that everything was working out after months of planning and training. I am busy living the dream – and there is little in life to match a dream bursting into reality.

At this stage, I can let my thoughts roam and don’t have to concentrate on my stroke all the time.

Thoughts drift to Cape Point which is on the horizon, to the Little Fighters, who have been dealt cards that avoided me in childhood, which makes swimming along the wild and uncharted St Francis Bay seem tame in comparison.

I could see Daryl Staples ranging around on his ski, which also gave me the confidence that if conditions were changing, we would be right on top of things.

This is what makes me feel alive and is somehow connected to my purpose here on earth. I feel privileged that I am able to swim out in the ocean, doing something that no human being has ever done before.

I wonder what the first sailors who chartered this ocean would have thought about 3 swimmers rounding points that were only discovered in the 15th century.

This is what will continue me on the path of dreaming up new swims, of exploring this path of butterfly swimming that I have found myself upon.

Suddenly 45 minutes had gone and it was time to drink again. We had been swimming into the sun so all we could see was ocean and no land, despite Shark Point being right in front of us somewhere.

As I stopped to drink, I saw the waves breaking at Shark Point and asked paddler Mark Paarmen just how close we were to the Point.

"Very close so we going to go a bit wide and NSRI jetski will sit right on the Point and we will go on the outside of him” said Mark.

So far so good as we approached Shark Point, which was always going to throw the biggest challenges to the swim – we just didn’t know quite what to expect yet.

The swell had being building since we started swimming and there was a 2 – 3 m breaking at Shark Point.

The outgoing water was causing a strong current against us and I saw Mark and Daryll paddle in front of us, assessing the current.

Mark paddled back and shouted that we are going to have to swim hard for the next couple of hundred metres as we had to break out of the rip.

I could sense that everyone had become more alert and that this was the real deal – the part of the swim where you have to dig deep.

I upped the pace which is very difficult with butterfly swimming. Pulling harder with the arms, more hip movement and a harder kick all sap the energy level.

Mentally, I also had to be alert as there was swell around, currents were against us, the wind was now cross shore and the intensity of the swim had just picked up dramatically.

There is a white pole on the Shark Point headland that just didn’t come closer. We could see people on the rocks, probably thinking we are totally crazy.

More boats had also joined in swim with John maintaining order around us.

It was uplifting to see people coming to support us, especially when we stopped at the next feeding and promptly drifted back about 200 – 300m.

I indicated to Mark that we weren’t going to stop for a feed again. By this stage we had been in the water for 2 ½ hours and just couldn’t get closer to the Port.

The last hour of the swim was a hard slog. Once we cleared Shark Point there still seemed to be a current against us and the time taken to round Shark Point and get to the Port was nearly two hours – compared to the 1 hour 45 minutes it took to get to the Shark Point.

Normally one can relax and savour the moment in the final stages of a big swim, but not today.

We had to work hard all the way to the Port and it was with a sense of relief that we entered the entrance of Port St Francis.

There was a couple of hundred meters to the slipway and we really enjoyed the moment.

There were quite a few people at the Port when our feet touched land which we appreciated.

A new swim had been pioneered and we could savour the moment. Nothing had gone wrong during the swim and it had turned out to be a tough one at that!

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