Chalkwell Redcaps

Chalkwell Redcaps

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.