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  • : Une traversée de la manche à la nage en maillot de bain.
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Arrive at Dover Marina, the car park is relatively quiet – looks like there are 3 groups of swimmers waiting to go on this tide. Weather is good with clear sky, warm with light, easterly breeze. High tide is at 05:59 hrs at a height of 5.89 m.


Meet Nicolas and his support team on the pontoon. Introductions all round.


On board ‘Pathfinder’ with Eric Hartley, pilot, and Gary Watkins, crew. Nicolas and his ‘crew’ of Jerome, Anne-Sophie, Christine, Delphine, Cyprien, Jean-Pascal and Pierrick are soon on board 


Eric gives safety briefing. I advise of procedures and CSA guidance together with the relevant rules covering solo swims as we leave the marina pontoon and start to make our way out of harbour. Checked and recorded required information. Note : Anne-Sophie is acting as interpreter but all of the teams ‘English’ puts me to shame and French is certainly not Eric’s second language!!


Leave Dover harbour western entrance. Sea is usually a little ‘choppy’ in this area due to structure of harbour entrance and tide, but there is just a slight swell to-day and all appear to be enjoying the ride. Sea is calm with slight, confused swell. Visibility is very good and the inshore waters look relatively quiet. 


Nicolas preparing to swim. Grease (vaseline & lanolin) applied to full body. Light stick attached to back of trunks and strobe light attached to goggle straps. Anne-Sophie confirms that she is really clear of the situation in which she will stop the swim. Pre-prepared questions asked at feeds must be correctly answered and stroke rate will be closely monitored. Nicolas’s previous solo channel swim 5 years ago was aborted due to cold.


Off Shakespeare beach. Nicolas enters water over starboard side of ‘Pathfinder’ and swims 30m to beach.


Nicolas stands clear of water on shingle beach, then re-enters water on sound of klaxon. Stop watch started and swim commenced at 03:15 hrs.


Alongside ‘Pathfinder’ and swimming front crawl on starboard side. Good, long stroke at 60 spm. Sea is flat calm with a very slight swell and visibility is very good – perfect cross-channel swim conditions.  


Nicolas indicates that he wants to change to port side swim. Eric confirms OK. Nicolas swims forward and around bow to swim on port side.


P&O Ferry leaving Dover harbour bound for Calais. Inshore waters are quiet – swim boats ‘Optimist’ and ‘Sea Leopard’ have just commenced their swims.

Large French flag has been raised on stern of ‘Pathfinder’ – shouldn’t have a problem with French Boarder control vessel to-day!!


Eric contacts Dover Coastguard and confirms start of swim. (Coastguards, on both sides of the Channel, track all vessels within the Straits of Dover. As the swim boats do not have priority whilst travelling across the two main shipping lanes, both the English and French Coastguards’ assistance is invaluable in warning other vessels of our presence and limited manoeuvrability.) 


Feed being prepared


First feed. Maxim in large necked milk bottle with wire on which to hook solid food. Bottle passed via small bucket on feed pole and retrieved via line attached to bottle


Excess gas expelled by J.P – looks like he will get on well with Eric and crew! All on board appear relaxed.


Conditions are perfect – no wind, almost flat calm sea. Nicolas swimming strongly at 60 spm


Second feed. 1/3 Banana placed strategically on wire attached to feed bottle!   J.P suggests two oranges as well for next feed!!

Note : All subsequent feeds observed, timed and recorded. (See separate sheet for full details).


Standard data taken and recorded. (See separate sheet for details). Standard data recorded at hourly intervals for the duration of the swim.


Beautiful sunrise. Conditions remain excellent. Weather fine with overcast sky


The white cliffs of Dover are astern and appear to be rather more willing than usual to release Nicolas on his journey across the channel although the flood tide is taking us slowly up the channel. Stroke rate remains consistent at 62 spm. 


P&O Ferry ‘Pride of Kent’ (180m x 28m) passing about 1½ mile off port side.

Visibility is excellent – the cliffs on the French coast are also clearly visible. 


DFDS ferry about 1 mile off port side on approach to Dover harbour


2 Porpoises spotted close off port side. Gary comments ‘Were they sharks?!’


DFDS Ferry ‘LeHavre Seaways’ passing approx ½ mile on port side


Porpoise spotted off port bow.


Small coaster passing about 1 mile across bow going down the Channel – getting close to the shipping lane now.


Feed. White board message ‘We have seen porpoises’. Nicolas answers ‘I have seen jellyfish!’.


Anne-Sophie preparing white board for next feed. ‘Un peu de the pour te faire pisser’ and ‘Tu as déjà fait?’


MyferryLink ‘Berlioz’ (187m x 28m) passing about 1 mile astern bound for Dover


P&O Ferry ‘Spirit of Britain’ (flagship and largest of P&O’s cross-channel fleet at 213m x 32m) passing about 1 mile astern bound for Dover.


Enter South West Shipping Lane. Eric advises Dover Coastguard.


Weather continues fine. Flat calm sea, perfect conditions for channel swimming. Sea temperature is 15.8*C. Flood tide is still taking us further up the channel. Nicolas is still swimming strongly and consistently at 62 spm and continues to make good progress towards his ultimate goal.


Container ship ‘Elite’ going close across bow going down the Channel

Bulk carrier ‘Norderney’ (200m x 38m bound for Bremen) passing close across bow going down the Channel


 DFDS ferry ‘Nord Pas De Calais’ (159m x 24m) passing about ½ mile astern bound for Dover. Flood tide has continued to take us up the Channel and we are now in the middle of the cross-channel ferry lanes. These lanes run at right angles to the two main shipping lanes (‘North East’ and ‘South West’) that run up and down the channel.


J.P Asleep in the Observer’s chair! He has had a hard day already!


Text from Quentia ‘How are you doing?’.


Dredger ‘Sand Harrier’ (99m x 6m bound for ‘Wight Dredge’) passing ¼ mile astern going down the Channel


Nicolas continues to swim strongly and consistently at 62 spm.


Feed. Nicolas concerned – ‘Hope it will not be too hot to-day!’


P&O Ferry ‘Pride of Canterbury (180m x 28m) passing about ¾ mile off port side bound for Dover. Swim boat ‘Rowena’ is about ½ mile off port side. The other swim boats are well scattered over this area of the Channel. ‘Optimist’ and ‘Sea Leopard’ are off starboard and ‘Louise Jane’ appears to be struggling to make any significant progress across the Channel


MyFerryLink ‘Rodin’ (186m x 28m) passing approx ½ mile across stern bound for Dover. Flood tide continues to take us up the Channel


Enter area of weed.


Large raft of weed and rubbish across bow. White board used to warn Nicolas, who swims with his head above water until clear of weed. Some jellyfish in and around the weed.


Nicolas stopped swimming briefly – jellyfish?


P&O Ferry ‘Spirit of France’ (213m x 32m - sister ship to Spirit of Britain) passing about 1 mile astern bound for Dover.


Hovercraft passing close off port side en route to French coast


White board being prepared for next feed – question ‘What is the name of your blog?’


Enter area with a lot of large jellyfish.


Feed. Message ‘Big bisous sales et meduses!’


Large CMA CGM container ship passing about 2 miles across bow going up the Channel


Enter Separation Zone. Eric advises Dover Coastguard


Seal (‘phoque’) close off port side looking enquiringly at Nicolas. (Observer very upset when J.P confirmed French for seal – we had been getting on so well ...and then he swore at me!!)


Small tug passing across bow.


DFDS ferry ‘Dieppe Seaways’ (204m x 25m) passing close on starboard side bound for Dover


MyFerryLink ‘Nord Pas de Calais’ passing close on starboard on return to Calais


Car transporter ‘Emden’ (177m x 30m) passing approx ¾ mile astern going down the Channel


Enter North East Shipping Lane. Gris-Nez Traffic contacted by Eric. Observer advises that now under French control so he must now speak in French ..... slowly!


Feed. Question on white board ‘Combien de temps met un ferry pour traverse la Manche?’


Container ship passing close across bow going up the Channel. Shipping remains relatively quiet in the North East Lane. Weather remains fine with perfect conditions. Visibility is excellent. Whte cliffs of Dover are gradually getting smaller, Cap Blanc and Cap Gris-Nez are clearly visible ahead.


Ebb tide is starting to flow.


Two large tankers passing about 2 miles across bow going up the Channel.


Feed. White board message ‘Veux tu une pip...ette. TURBO au prochain ravito?’  


MSC ‘Sabrinka’ (294m x 32m b f Felixstowe) passing approx ½ mile across stern going up the Channel


Buzzed by military aircraft flying very low directly over ‘Pathfinder’


MyFerryLink ‘Berlioz’ passing close on port side on return trip to Dover. Fine photo opportunity : cross-channel swimmer and cross-channel ferry. (Nicolas can also check answer to one of his questions – second time we have seen this ferry!).


Belgian yacht ‘Pinatoe’ alters course to motor past very close on port side – crew cheering and clapping to encourage Nicolas.


P&O Ferry ‘Pride of Kent’ (180m x 28m) passing about ½ mile off port side bound for Dover.


Conditions remain perfect – almost flat calm sea, water temperature is now 15.4 C and air 21.3 C. Sky is overcast with hazy sunshine.


Feed. There had been much discussion surrounding information provided to Nicolas on the white board. Projected swim time now changed to 11hr 45m (had previously been 12hr)


Swim boat ‘Gallivant’ is off port side as P&O ‘Spirit of Britain’ also passing off port side on another return trip to Dover


3 x Ferries off starboard side. Still in the ferry lanes but tide has now changed and the ebb is starting to take us back down the Channel. Conditions remain excellent and Nicolas continues to swim strongly and consistently towards his ultimate goal. Cap Blanc is now ahead and Cap Gris-Nez off starboard bow – estimated at 10 miles. Visibility has reduced slightly with some mist/haze along the French coast.


Small tanker ‘Sarah’ passing about ¼ mile astern going up the Channel.


Small bulk carrier ‘Tyne’ (111m x 18m b f Leirpollen) passing close across bow going up the Channel. Shipping within the N.E Lane remains quiet.


Large tanker ‘Cape Althea’ (292m x 46m b f Dunkerque) passing about ½ mile astern going up the Channel.


Small British yacht sailing (slowly!) past on port side – going on his holiday?


Small French fishing boat passing astern going up the Channel


Cargo vessel ‘MN Toucan’ (115m x 20m b f Rotterdam) passing close across stern going up the Channel


Feed. White board question ‘Ou habitant Perrine et Laurent les copains de Kilou?’ Thinking about question during feed – wrong answer. Starts swimming – remembers and gives correct answer! Observer comments ‘C’est tres bien!’ 


Nicolas continues to swim strongly and consistently although stroke rate has dropped very slightly to 58/59 spm. Continues to make very good progress. Weather continues fine with perfect conditions – sea is flat calm with no swell. Visibility remains good but with mist/haze along coast. Cap Blanc is about 4 miles off port bow and Cap Gris-Nez is estimated at 5 miles off starboard bow. ‘Ca va le faire!’


P&O Ferry passing about 2½ mile off port side. The ebb tide is in full flow and taking us back down the Channel


Leave N.E Lane and enter French inshore waters. Gris-Nez Traffic advised. Conditions remain excellent for Nicolas and for those onboard ‘Pathfinder’


Inshore waters are very quiet. Ferries are now in the distance off port side. ‘Gallivant’ is now about 1 mile astern and ‘Sea Satin’ is approx ¾ mile off port bow.

Cap Blanc is now off port side and the Cap is approx 2½ miles off starboard bow. Ebb tide is continuing to assist Nicolas towards his ultimate goal.


Feed. Nicolas correctly answers question – much encouragement from all his support team.


Continuing to make good progress but Nicolas’s stroke rate has again reduced slightly and is now 55 spm.


Team are in high spirits – the ebb tide continues to take us down the coast. Many telephone calls being made to family and friends who hope to  meet Nicolas as he lands. Cap Gris-Nez is just over 1 mile off starboard bow.


Nicholas has head up out of water looking for land – much encouragement from his support team now. Still looking good for a landing at the base of the Cap.


Small leisure craft passing across bow going up the coast.


Small yacht passing close across stern going down the coast.


Preparing for feed. White board message ‘Bravo, Bravo. Continue. Ca va le faire!’ – but not used as feed not taken. There is a large group of friends and family on one of the viewing platforms on the top of the Cap – and some are even venturing along the rocks to welcome Nicolas back onto French soil.


‘Rowena’ passing off starboard side after completing her swim. Much encouragement for Nicolas and stroke rate is back up to 60 spm.


Gary preparing self plus checking and preparing tender to accompany Nicolas in to landing.


Small leisure craft drifting off port side – no encouragement from those fishing onboard – they have seen it all before!


Gary and Jerome in tender and away to support Nicolas to landing which will be on rocks at base of cliffs just to east of Cap Gris-Nez.


100m to go. Three friends are on the rocks and will be there to meet Nicolas – waving French flag.


‘Pathfinder’ standing about 100m off shore. Eric holds position at safe distance from shore to enable finish of swim to be observed.


Nicolas stands clear of water on rocks at base of cliffs to correctly complete swim. Stop watch stopped at 14:37 hrs.


                                       Location : 1 mile East of Cap Gris Nez        Total Time :  11hrs 22 min.



Tender returned to ‘Pathfinder’. Nicolas, Jerome and Gary safely back on board. All on board in high spirits and congratulating Nicolas on completion of an excellent swim.


Tender secured to stern and commenced return to Dover.


Eric contacts Gris-Nez Traffic and Dover Coastguard, confirms successful completion of swim and commencement of return to Dover via Wissant. Thanks Coastguards for their assistance during swim.


Off Wissant, met by rib to return medical bag left on ‘Pathfinder’ 2 days ago.


Commence return to Dover


Entered Dover harbour western entrance after an unusually smooth and uneventful return journey.


Safely back on Dover marina pontoon.


Completed paperwork and Incident Report form. Wished Nicolas and all his team an enjoyable time during the remainder of their stay in UK, and a safe journey home, before I left ‘Pathfinder’ to commence my own journey home..





Observer’s Note

An excellent swim in near perfect conditions and Nicolas’s achievement is even greater bearing in mind the fact that he failed in his first attempt to conquer the Channel 5 years ago.  I was impressed and reassured by the monitoring of Nicolas undertaken by his support team. Whilst success in any conditions is mostly down to the preparation and training undertaken by the swimmer, the role of the pilot and crew should never be under-estimated. So, my congratulations to Nicolas on an excellent swim and my thanks to Eric and Gary whose experience and professionalism supported Nicolas in achieving his well deserved goal.


I would also like to thank Nicolas and all his team (especially Delphine, Anne-Sophie and Christine) for the understanding shown to Eric, Gary and myself following our return to the Channel after the very sad event of 2 days previously.   


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