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Simon Rich
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English Channel Solo swimmer and Croatia Training Camps

From the moment I made my mind up and paid a deposit for a Solo Channel Swim two years in advance, I felt I was going to be able to do it all on my own. I trained for and completed a marathon on my own, I trained for and completed an Ironman on my own, I could swim the Channel on my own, or could I…


The only thing missing from my locker, was cold water. I came across Tim Denyer and Red Top Swim via the CSA website of recommended Channel Swim coaches in the London area, and quickly found the Cold Water Camp that takes place in Croatia in May every year.


I signed up for CWC2018 with an open mind an no expectations because I had little knowledge of what the schedule involved. When I did find out I never thought in all my life I could swim 4-6 hours everyday for six days. CWC2018 helped me break through a significant barrier in understanding what I was capable of. The friendships made and fun had remain the single most valuable takeaway from the experience. Bringing kindred spirits together and immersing them in swimming fever created experiences and memories that I will hold dear forever. Combined with the fact that coming back from a holiday fitter than when you left is really getting your money’s worth, CWC2018 set me up well for the next 12 months. At this stage I still felt confident I could get the Channel done ‘on my own’, i.e. without professional support in my pilot boat. Then came CWC2019…


Whereas 12 months previously we were largely blessed with beautiful sunshine and 16-17c water temp, the forecast for CWC2019 week looked awful, and the water hovered around a miserable 12-14c. I was afraid of the 6-hour qualifier for a whole different reason the second time round. Every open water swim at CWC2019 filled me with dread. The mental anguish of 6-hours in 14c water with flashes of 11c, is something I never want to experience again, but crucially it gave me a whole new level of understanding about what I could put myself through, and exactly how to do it. Once you have put yourself through something truly agonising, you can adjust the new ‘normal’ and test your limits again. For me, this was CWC2019 in a nutshell. Not for the faint hearted, but Channel swimmer wannabes rarely are.


It goes without saying that Tim and Matt are intrinsic in the day-to-day of this process. Keeping the schedule, paying attention to each and everyone’s particular needs. A quiet word in your ear just when you need to hear it, the highest level of professionalism or the lowest form of wit, as and when appropriate. Getting through CWC2019 was a credit to these two and once the week was over I had no further hesitation in knowing I needed one of these guys in my pilot boat.


The final piece of the puzzle which settled any remaining nerves was my last minute involvement with a 4-team Channel Relay two weeks before my solo swim. This was as part of a RedTop squad and removed any shred of hesitation for the big day. I was lucky that the whole process was carbon copy of my solo swim, so it was really just a case of going through the motions. Again, it’s only thanks to Red Top knowing that I needed this that put me in that position. When the big day came I had nothing left to fear, Red Top had prepared me perfectly and taken over management of anything left to worry about administratively. Needless to say apart from the unavoidable weather delays and heightened state of anxiety, with Matt in my boat everything went according to plan.


Simon Rich