So I climbed down the back of the boat and jumped in to the black water, and swam to shore. If I said it was dark it would be an understatement, for those of you who have done a channel relay swim or channel swim you will know what I'm talking about. For those that haven't it looks something like this. Lucky it was 04:19 when I started so I knew it would only be an hour or so before it would start to get light. It was, however, rather choppy at the start and with it being dark I took on a lot of sea water. I was only about 15 minutes into the swim till I shouted for water. I'd swallowed some sea water and I needed to try and wash my mouth out. This wasn't helping my mental attitude, I was already in the mindset of "I can't do this". Then I remembered why I was doing this and started to get on with the job at hand, swimming the channel. An hour or so later it started to get light, the oppressive water started to take on a green tinge rather than black and my sprits started to lift. Swimming into the sunrise is a spectacular thing and for the first time when I glanced back I could see how far I'd already traveled.
30 minutes later I was so close to shore (0.3 miles I found out later), I could make out people on the beach, buildings, restaurants etc. The boat crew were starting to get the rib off the back of the boat as it is too shallow for the main boat to come into shore. It looked like I was there, I guessed in another 10 or 20 minutes of my normal swimming I would be on the beach. All of a sudden I felt my stroke go, my vision narrowed and I shot backwards past the boat. I pushed again and tried to keep up and then I went backwards again. I took another stroke and I went under the water for about 10s, I popped back up gasping for air and flaying slightly. I could see the boat in front of me but everything else was black, I had a small pin prick of vision and for the first time in the water I was actually scared of drowning. I tried to yell out to the boat, but the first few times my voice didn't really go above a whisper. The last time I finally managed to get my voice going and said "I need to get out before I pass out" I flailed and floundered my way towards the boat. It seemed so far away at the time but I don't think it was more than a few strokes. My befuddled brain was hoping that they would realise that something was wrong and that they would actually let me on.
I grabbed the bottom part of the ladder and after about 30s managed to get a foothold and I went, I couldn't do anything, completely powerless and if the crew hadn't grabbed me I would have been back in the water. I was yanked on deck thrown in a chair and covered in all manner of towels and dry robes. I couldn't even hold myself up, I think at one point I might have nearly fallen out of the chair but who knows my brain wasn't working. I know two people were holding me in the chair at first. After some water and my personal saviour, fatty coke, I started to come back to life again. I apologised to both my support crew and the boat crew, I felt so bad at what I considered to be a waste of their time not to mention that I was gutted to be that close. I think everyone including myself was glad that I'd made the right call, I don't think the boat crew would have been happy if they'd have had to jump in to get me.
A last few words of thanks:
Firstly to my wife, who has been with me on every swimming adventure since I signed up for this swim. She has had to get up at the crack of dawn to help me, either by walking the river bank, or coming with me to Dover, Windermere and other swim events. I would not be able to have achieve even half as much without your love and support. I promise I'll let you have a lie in this weekend.
To my boat support crew, Katia & Paul. You were awesome, you really looked after me (especially on the way back), gave me encouragement when I needed it and took some awesome photos. I feel really guilty about dragging you both away from work to come on a very early boat ride and not to get all the way to France.
To the crew of Anastasia, thank you for the opportunity to get this far and for looking after me on that swim. I won't apologise to you again as you told me not to, keep doing what you are doing and you never know I might see you again in the future.
To my family & friends, thank you for being so understanding and generous. I'm sorry I haven't been able to spend as much time with you as I would have liked over the last two years.
Finally, I have been amazed by people's generosity and kindness the last few years and especially yesterday before, during and after my swim (especially after). I haven't read through all the messages yet but the ones that I have seen really touched me. Thank you all so much.