Champion Of Champions

5 miles, 3 miles + 1 mile, Dover Harbour, By Giles Meyer

Over 60 of the UK’s keenest outdoor swimmers headed to Dover harbour on the 14 June to take part in the BLDSA’s flagship event the Champion of Champions swim. Among them was a small representation from SLSC consisting of Tom Hudson, Katie Goodhall and myself.

The day started with a lengthy briefing which mainly focused on how the organiser’s new electronic tagging system would work. The said tags were then handed out and attached, Vaseline was applied and swimmers headed nervously towards the water for a sea start for the five mile race – five laps around strategically placed buoys positioned in a square one side of the harbour. The water was less than 15 degrees and with no sign of sunshine it seemed like it might be a cold one. The five-minute delay in the water before the start did not improve matters.

We finally set off and it was heads up and arms and legs everywhere as swimmers headed for the first buoy. Once round the buoy things cleared out a bit and the proper swimming started. With the field being so large swimmers soon divided up into packs and there were several races within the race. The up side of this was that some great times were achieved, the down side being that there was no let up for the whole five miles.

I was sucked into a sprint finish against five others, coming in third out of the five, while Tom took the more sensible approach that 2008 is all about his Channel Swim and this was part of the training. Hence Tom was full of beans back in the clubhouse after the first five-mile leg, while I had the shivers and really didn’t want to get back in for the second three-mile race.

Whilst recovering on the beach we had a call from club Captain Nancy who had decided against attending with the very honest excuse of ‘couldn’t really be bothered’. Having excelled at so many events over the last couple of years she has the right to bail.

After some lazing around on the beach, with Tom in full shooting attire, the clock soon ticked round to the start of the second race, the three-miler. While getting up for the second race was a little tricky, once in the water the adrenalin kicked in. It was another good race and both Tom and I gained similar positions as for the five miler. Tom the happier racer once again, as I managed to attract two rogue jelly fish which really didn’t help my failing mood.

After yet more food and rest it was time for the mile. After five and three miles this was really going to feel like a sprint. With a lot of local kids (probably 17-20 year olds) suddenly joining in, the field seemed to expand still further meaning a very frenetic start to the race. It was kick, or be kicked, so the former seemed preferable.

The race went past in a flash and both Tom and I were happy with our times and very pleased to have completed the three races – we were both looking forward to a drink or two. Tom came 16th in the men, while I came in 3rd, but given Tom’s chirpy mood throughout the day, I think he was holding something back.

It was a tough but really enjoyable days racing and a very well organised event. With its proximity to London hopefully next year we will manage to persuade a few more SLSC members to take part.