Returning, as I am, to Jersey in the next few days for both a RJ solo and a RJ Relay, I’ve been putting finishing touches to the mental aspect of my challenges. I first met Sally in September 2014 on St. Aubin’s beach in Jersey after a 5km open water race, not long after my father told me he never wanted to see or speak to me again and, more hurtfully, that he wanted nothing to do with our two boys (now young men). I knew of the Jersey legend of EC swimming, saw her on the beach, walked up to Sal and asked her, ‘can you get me round Jersey?’ She said, ‘sure’ so I decided to turn a powerful negative emotion into a positive one by deciding, there and then, that I would swim around my father (who still lives on Jersey).
I attended the first of four successive swim camps the next May (2015) and so began a series of life-affirming experiences centred on swimming in the stunning waters that surround Jersey. Sal’s motto, ‘a bay a day’ rings true as the programme endeavours (within the limitations of the massive tides) to give swimmers a varied experience from glorious sandy beaches around the south and west, through picturesque harbours along the north coast that provide access to cliffs and hidden coves and caves and the deep water of St Catherine’s in the east where most qualifier swims of up to 6 hours are done (for those wishing so to do).
The camps are about much more than just swimming and, over the years, I have had the privilege to swim with inspirational people, whether it be Help for Heroes amputees training for an ‘Arch to Arc’, EC swimmers or those new to open water swimming. The camps never feel too large, the atmosphere is always conducive to sharing stories and experiences, and I know that I have gained a lot of knowledge in the process. I think, too, that everybody departs having gained in some way, whether it be open water technique, confidence in the water or just happy memories.
Lastly, Sal’s camps always include a healthy dose of socialising centered on charming, sometimes quirky, cafes (such as the Hungry Man and Mad Mary’s) visited after swims, evening dining at memorable locations (such as El Tico’s, watching the sun go down over St. Ouen’s bay) and special trips (e.g. to France for dinner or to the Minquiers by rib when, more often than not, you will see dolphins right up close).
Sally and fellow campers, I’d like to thank you all for those shared experiences as they will stand me in good stead when I swim around my father.