Channel Swim Rematch By David Levin (Past Staff Member) Memories of an epic swimming challenge came flooding back thirty years on, when members of the two teams involved reunited at the Sandford Parks Lido in August 2017. The original Cross Channel Relay race took place on 4th August 1987, when the College team beat Cheltenham Swimming Club (CSC) by 29 minutes in the, then, sixth fastest relay crossing of the Channel ever. The idea came about from discussions between myself, the Second Master, and Dr Rod Jaques (H, 1978), then at Cheltenham General, later Medical Director of the England Institute for Sport. I then spoke to Duncan Heenan, of the CSC, whose immediate response was: “Lets make it a relay race against the CSC and raise funds for the National Star Centre at Ullenwood”. Duncan Heenan is probably one of only a very few people to have swum the English Channel Relay and solo, run the London Marathon and cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats! The date for the race was fixed for the first suitable day after 31st July 1987. Rod and I decided that we would be part of the team, with six College pupils. As Master in charge of Swimming, I invited six Sixth Formers to join the team, and we trained for a year in preparation for the race. All those invited signed up enthusiastically.
Tim Dargie (NH, 1988), Anthony I'Anson (H, 1988), David Levin (Past Staff Member), Mark Coates-Smith (W, 1987), Rod Jaques (H, 1978), Alistair Nayler (H, 1987), Ian Powell (OJ & NH, 1988) & Faris Davidson (Xt, 1987) 34
They were: • Mark Coates-Smith (W, 1987) • Tim Dargie (NH, 1988) • Faris Davidson (Xt, 1987) • Anthony I’Anson (H, 1988) • Alistair Nayler (H, 1987) • Ian Powell (OJ & NH, 1988) Channel Swimming Association (CSA) rules forbid the use of a wet suit, only allowing a swimming cap and Speedo costume. Relay rules require a team of six to take it in turns to swim for an hour, accompanied by an escort boat for safety. Rod drew up a training schedule designed for performance to peak in early August 1987. This consisted of pool swimming, weight training and the occasional run, to increase both strength and aerobic fitness. Once the Summer Term arrived, Rod and I had the bright idea of swimming in the River Severn so as to get used to cold open water conditions. This was brought to an abrupt halt one evening, a dead sheep floated down the river with its stomach swollen with maggots! Luckily it burst 10 yards downstream of the swimming pack and not closer. Thinking like seals In mid July, the team went up to Lake Windermere with a view to intensive cold water conditioning. The Naylers very kindly placed their residential boathouse at the
team’s disposal. Successful Channel relay swimming basically involves swimmers being able to complete a controlled sprint for a full hour. On this basis, Rod devised a fiendish schedule consisting of a one and a half hour swim after breakfast at 08:30, sprinting between bouys for an hour at noon, some running in mid-afternoon followed by a one hour swim in the late afternoon. Between sessions we were free to water ski or kayak on the lake. Unsurprisingly, by the third day, sleeping between sessions was the preferred option! The other addition to the preparation was regular ‘carbohydrate overloads’ at meals, with the requirement to drink one and a half pints of milk stout to increase weight. The target was an additional stone and a half by race day. Long distance swimming is probably the only sport in which fat is more essential than muscle. Just think of a seal! At the end of the week, everyone had five days off, before leaving to stay at the Royal Marines’ School of Music at Deal. This venue was kindly offered by Major General Sir Jeremy Moore (Xt, 1946), an OC who had commanded the Marines in the Falklands campaign. We were joined there by the CSC team. Then followed five frustrating days in which the wind was never less than five knots, when CSA rules
Back two rows SWPC swimmers Dave Cummings, Duncan Heenan, Wesley Wright, Kevin Morris, Richard Sanders, Eddie Steele, Sue Sanders, Nick Hitchman and Matt Fletcher. Front two rows College swimmers, Anthony I’Anson (H, 1988), Ian Powell (OJ & NH, 1988), David Levin (Past Staff Member), Tim Dargie (NH, 1988), Faris Davidson (Xt, 1987), Mark Coates-Smith (W, 1987) and Alistair Nayler (H, 1987)
The Cheltonian Society Magazine with articles from the full range of Society members, from pupils to parents, OCs and staff.