Chalkwell Redcaps

Chalkwell Redcaps

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Xmas Eve Charity Dip - By Lorraine Rate

Now why on earth am I doing this?   I haven't been able to stop asking myself that question all bloody week.  Will I have a heart attack?  Maybe.  Will it hurt? Probably.  Will it really be that cold?  YES.   So why?  Because I stupidly said I would and its for charity, and lots of other people are doing it, and I have nothing better to do on Xmas Eve !!!!  Well, apart from finish the shopping, set the table for 14, cook the turkey, cook the gammon, make the desserts.  ho ho ho !

So here's the deal.  Turn up at Southend Beach at 11.00, run up and down the beach in your swim suit (STRICTLY NO WETSUITS ALLOWED), carrying a charity bucket for 15 minutes, then when you've collected a few bob, run in the freezing cold sea, then run back out again.  Smile for the camera.  Get dressed, and your done.  OK, let's do it.

So first things first.  7.00a.m. the phone rings and its Essex Radio for an interview, asking all the very same questions I've been asking myself all week.  But, with one exception.  "And, Lorraine, where exactly will you be meeting today, so that we can broad cast it to all our listeners to encourage people to pop along and cheer you on".  "Oh, thank you Mr Radio man, we will be meeting at the Arches, just adjacent to the pier".  "Well, thank you for your time this morning Lorraine and we wish you good luck".  Bye.

Back to facebook, and 2,000 messages later - Er, Lorraine, we are not meeting at the Arches, adjacent to the Pier !!!!!!    Oh dear.  Funny thing was tho, that while I was running up and down the beach, some old boy stopped me and actually said "Some daft bird on the radio this morning directed everyone to the pier".  No way, I said !!!!!   Idiot !!!!!  

Didnt have the heart to tell all my fellow Redcaps that I had also pre-recorded a radio interview with Southend Radio the day before directing them the wrong way too.   L.O.L.  You gotta laugh!

Almost ready, 10, 9, 8, 7.........
Final pause for the camera and its almost time

Done it, and whats more, no heart attack, and Im still breathing
We raised just under £200 for that brief moment of madness and got a full double spread in the Southend Echo.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Starting distance pool training or how to count to 5 - By Ben Jaques

This is from when I started distance pool training back in November.
Long distance open water swims are easy to do (well getting the distance right is), pick a starting point and measure the required distance and, bang, you've got your end point. Brain only has to remember where to get in and where to get out and can spend the rest of its time wandering off doing its own thing (imagining all the creatures that live in the waters below is a good one to keep your pace up).
But sometimes you cannot get to the sea (or the sea is a little too chilly) for a long swim and you have to make do with a swimming pool.
My local pool isn't kilometres long so the start and end point plan falls down. But I do know how long it is leading me to plan B; take the total swim distance and divide by the length of the pool then swim that many lengths. What could be easier?
A small hurdle is that at my local pool the first hour of the morning swim is in the diving pit (20m) whilst club swimmers are in the main 25m pool. No problem there, 5 x 20 = 100 and 4 x 25 = 100 so all I have to do is count the 100m’s and I will know how far I have gone. Now I know I am not very good at counting whilst swimming so being able to keep track of the number of 100m’s would never work without my helpful little lap counter thing (fits on your finger).
So off I set, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, press, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, press and repeat. All going well until 1, 2, 3, oo this diving pool is quite warm, 2, 3, 4, 5, press, hang on a minute this 100 is supposed to end down the other end, never mind, 5, press, bugger was not meant to press again. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, hooray remembered not to press, 1, pool swimming is OK, your mind can turn off, just enjoying the repetition, erm so what length is this I’ll go with 2 as I seem to be going in that direction and would not want to swim less than I counted. So I continued doing this for the diving pool hour counting what may or may not be the 100m’s I swam.
Once in the 25m main pool I adapted my counting a bit, seeing that I cannot count to 5 I had little hope that 4 would prove any easier. So I imagine Digi Duck sitting on the far pool edge, I swim down turn and Digi jumps onto my back. I swim back down to the starting end turn and back up where Digi jump off onto the edge again before I turn and swim the length to complete a 100m. Therefore I only press the lap counter if Digi is not riding on my back. Strangely enough this actually worked and the 25m pool counting was pretty accurate.
Why is counting so hard?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Southend Radio LIVE Interview - October 30 - By Lorraine Rate

Well what can I say, The Chalkwell Redcaps first step towards Fame.  Hopefully, this is just the start of our mission to spread the word that The Chalkwell Redcaps Open Water Swimming Club are going to try to raise an awful lot of money for The RNLI and Essex Search & Rescue.  So in anticipation of loads of dosh flooding in, Ben Jaques and Lorraine Rate, along with 100's of Redcaps (according to Tracy) headed off to the Headquarters of Southend Radio for our first ever live interview.

Ben and myself, prior to going live on air.
I was absolutely petrified.  I had been nervous for 3 weeks imagining that a simple question like "Tell us about the challenge Lorraine", would leave me tongue tied!  Ben, on the other hand, cool as a cucumber as always (that was only because my brain was too tired from the swim session the day before to know what was going on - Ben).

The SKS challenge may not be until July 2012, but we want to put the wheels in motion now.  It's never too early to start to spread the word.   I am really confident that the targets I have set, £5,000 for the RNLI and £3,000 for Essex Search & Rescue will be met.  Huge, huge thanks to Michael and Helen Tong for being the first to donate on the websites, albeit the message "You Nutters" probably sums up this challenge rather well.  We are looking forward to receiving the donations and watching those figures rise over the coming months.  I fully suspect we will all get motivated to raising lots of money in the new year as we are all so busy at the moment preparing for Christmas.

Left to right from back, Derrick, Derek, Ben, Lorraine, Alex
Wouter, Clare, Jane, Helen and Andy.  All either swimmers or kayakers for SKS.

So, back to the interview and my nerves!  I thought it might be a good idea to email Tracy Jones (our interviewer) beforehand, to give her an idea of what questions to ask and who to direct them at.  So for me please Tracy, "Ask me about, how it all began, the training plan and the fundraising".  And for Ben please, ask him all the intelligent stuff like Tides, weather forecasts, safety, map plotting and navigation".   I had gone over and over it in my mind a hundred times and was convinced I would be kicking Ben under the table after the first question.  "Now tell me Lorraine, exactly how did it all begin".    Oi, Ben, How did it all begin!    "So, now tell me Lorraine about this epic training plan you have put together for the swimmers".  Oi, Ben, What training plan"?   L.O.L.

We wanted to have some photography done before hand so we engaged the services of Julie Dempsey, who was recently crowned The Official Redcap Challenge Photographer of the Year.  A great crowd of potential SKS swimmers and volunteers turned up to support myself and Ben.   We all had a cuppa in Sands Restaurant first where the sponsor forms and other documentation was handed out, including my photo-copy of the 'Core body strength Exercises for Swimmers' regime, which I have to say, was not received as kindly as the tea/coffee for some reason.

Back to front sweatshirts - all the rage!
Tracy was so friendly, everyone relaxed immediately (apart from me of course).  With hands still shaking with nerves, even the portion of fish and chips that were bought in wasn't enough to take my mind off the task ahead).

So here is the official interview.  Well done and huge thanks to Julie for the recording.  She's a dab hand at videoing too.  No wonder she got that title.

And part 2....

And needless to say, after the interview, I headed straight for the Fish 'n Chips!  

So that's the fun part over.  Now back to reality.  Immediately after the interview, Wouter and Jane were heading off for yet another SKS Kayak attempt. Last week, you may have read that Andy and Jane made it to the shipping lane, but the winds were blowing and the surf was up, so heading back was the sensible option.

I want to stress at this pont how much the SKS swimmers are grateful for the support crews time.  Over the coming months, the kayakers and support crews will be making many crossings in order that we can learn of all the pitfalls out there.  This is when you realise that this challenge is definitely NOT about the swimmers.  It's about every single person involved in ensuring that this challenge is a success.  Whilst the swimmers are putting in the distance in the pool and the gym, the support crews are putting in twice as much work behind the scenes to ensure this challenge is achieved without a hitch.

Next report comes from Wouter.  Read all about SKS Kayak mission no. 2 soon.

Many thanks to Tracy Jones and everybody else at Southend Radio.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

SKS Kayak Reconnaissance 23 October 2011 (by Jane Bell)

OK guys, here’s a brief run-down of Sunday’s kayak reconnaissance mission: 

Andy Lean and I checked in with the Thames Coastguard and struck out seaward from the Crowstone.  Waters were on the choppy side but we were pleasantly surprised by the 13.5 degree sea temperatures which prevented our hands from freezing.  Heading directly into the incoming tide it wasn’t too long before we recognised the Ray marker buoys and reminisced on times spent splashing with the seals.  Beyond that familiar playground were the unknown waters behind the sandbank.  It was pretty ‘samey’ for quite a stretch here.  Waters over the sandbank are quite shallow so for swimmers there is nothing particularly different from what we are used to further towards the shore.  There wasn’t too much traffic either, but it was early on a Sunday morning so perhaps the playboys were still in bed….
Yep, bit choppy out there today
As Chalkwell faded into the distance the Allhallows skyline sharpened and Canvey stretched out into the Estuary.  Our vision became increasingly focused on the buoy at Sea Reach no. 6.  Sitting in the middle of the shipping channel, this was our mission’s target and would mark our crossing point. All went well until we hit Leigh Middle, deeper waters between the sandbank and shipping channel.  The winds picked up appreciably here and with them so did the chop.  From a swimming perspective this would have been comparable with a bad day at the Crowstone, so loads of experience there folks!!  Determined to reach our goal, we paused for a while to acclimatise, and then proceeded onwards to Sea Reach 6.  Headway did not last long as once again the conditions deteriorated.  The Coastguard had warned of high winds rising to Force 7 (31-38mph).  On top of this we were approaching high tide and there was every possibility that things would get rougher as the directions of wind and tide came into conflict.  Approximately 3km out at sea and still a good kilometre from Sea Reach 6 we acknowledged that this was not the day to make our first crossing and, rather reluctantly, made the decision to return to shore. 

Andy Lean - October 23 2011 - test crossing
Turning around it became clear that we’d made the right call.  With the waves behind us it was now surfing time!!  This game took a bit of getting used to but soon became fun and it wasn’t long before the Crowstone became visible again.  Looking back out to sea it appeared innocent.  Of course there was the feeling that we had turned around prematurely.  But there was also the possibility that what we could see from land and what it was actually like out at sea were worlds apart. 
Little buggers keep showing up !

So we may not have made it this time, but we have learned some valuable lessons for next year’s swim.  How the conditions change in deeper water, how the kayaks handle into and against the tide, and most importantly that safety must come first.  Disappointed?  A little bit.  But glad that the ball is rolling and keen to try again when conditions are more favourable. 
The Redcaps challenge is totally do-able and with the correct precautions in place we CAN achieve it safely.  We just need to practice…..

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Making friends with some marine life that will accompany our challenge - By Lorraine Rate

Last Sunday saw three Redcaps communicating with the marine life that occupies the mouth of the River Thames.  They completely ignored Ben, Jane and Paul's impersonation of a dolphin so I do hope they ignore us on the day of our challenge.  I was amazed they were so huge.   Nice Sealy x.

We're outnumbered guy's !

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I've made a start on my training - By Derrick Griffiths

Ben and Lorraine demonstrated during "Lorraine's" gentle (2.5 hour) Saturday morning dip that I have some catching up to do, so I sneakily popped to the pool last night to get a head start. Managed a 6.25km swim in 1hour 45mins. Wasn't such a good idea it turns out as I hadn't eaten, so when I got out at nearly 11pm I didn’t feel too great and was a little peckish, spent the next hour eating everything in the house!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

In the beginning..... By Lorraine Rate

Well, I guess this is where it all started.  All of us at some point or other have stared out over this stretch of water past the Ray seals towards Kent.  The Ray seals gather on a sand bank that is only visible when the tide goes out and what a lovely picture it makes.  But way beyond that, is All Hallows in Kent, 7k away.

"So, who fancies swimming across to the other side and back then?"  Whoever was it that first asked that question, I can't remember?

Simple question, but a difficult challenge.  The stretch of water is very tidal, fast flowing in from the North Sea as it enters the Thames Estuary.  When the tide is fully out, it's just miles of mud flats that are visible with the odd water pools here and there.

Wouter - bang in the middle of the Shipping Lane !
But when it's in, its a different story.  A 500 metre wide stretch of water bang in the middle occupies, on a daily basis, a very busy shipping lane.

The fact that it's very tidal makes the 7k race across to the other side seem almost impossible.  A 3 hour maximum window to get there.  Easy, you might think. Most of us can cope with 7k in 2 hours!  But could you cope with it if it was pushing you towards London.

Could you cope with it if it was choppy?  What about how cold it is?  And what about the 500metre sprint you are going to have to do right bang in the middle to escape the shipping traffic?  And more importantly, if you do get across in one pace, are you going to have the stamina, strength and ability to get back again before the mud flats re appear?

So that's it.  The Redcap Challenge.  We are calling it 'Six Swimmers, Six Hours - Only One Tide'.

We've just had our first meeting and it was intense.  We are all fully aware of the task and dangers we are undertaking.  Volunteers are coming forward from all over to assist the thirteen swimmers that have put their name forward for this challenge.  Safety is paramount.  We need qualified crew for every kayak as it will be a one kayak, one swimmer ratio.

Health and safety - tidal conditions - radio control - nutrition - the training plan - the best time to go - fundraising - the charities - everything was thrashed around the table for the initial meeting.

So, it's official. WE ARE GOING TO DO IT.  Sometime in July onwards 2012.

Two charities will benefit from this challenge.  The RNLI and Essex Search and Rescue.  The donation pages have been set up which can be found at the top right of this blog.   And we already have a live interview set for 30 October 2011 with Southend Radio, 105.1, (programme starts at 11.00a.m.), where Ben Jaques and Lorraine Rate will talk about the challenge.  The training plan is in place, the volunteers are gathering, the sponsorship ideas are coming forward, and now here is the blog.  We hope to make this an epic diary of all the trials, traumas and elations of all those involved in this challenge.

Over the next year, we will all be posting our stories whether it be on the difficulties of sorting out the navigation of such a challenge or whether it be just simply what suffering the swimmers are encountering during their training.

But for now, here's a taster of how tidal our waters get in Southend-on-Sea.  This is Ben Jaques and Wouter Van Staden conquering an expedition to the Mulberry Harbour which sits about 2k out at sea.  Turn your music up and enjoy his never never ending final leg of the Mulberry Harbour swim.  Brilliant.

And just to prove how dedicated we are to our cause, and to ensure we don't let our supporters down, we even train (sort of) in the snow.  Again, music up and enjoy.

Please, if you have read this far and appreciate the difficulty of our forthcoming challenge, post this to your facebook page.  Please advertise our fund raising pages as much as possible in order that we can ensure that a very large amount of money is successfully raised for our chosen charities.  Thank you.