Captain Alex Hardy from Gibraltar Barracks, Camberley swam the English Channel in 10 hours, 20 minutes and 49 seconds to fundraise for Walking With The Wounded. Being a soldier the charity is close to her heart and she chose to do something suitably impressive to help her fellow wounded servicemen and women. So far she has raised £1,500. You can show your support for this fantastic effort and visit her Just Giving page donate.
Inspired by Alex’s swim, why not organise your own fundraising activity? You don’t have to swim the Channel like Alex but why not challenge yourself to do something amazing while in the process helping the rehabilitation of our wounded servicemen and women.
It’s impossible to do this feat justice but luckily Alex has written an account of her swim. Who knew that the ‘Mobot’ could be so encouraging or that doing the times table could be such a great way of relieving boredom. Find out more below:
Alex Hardy’s Big Swim
I got the phone call at 1745 Mon 3 Sep 12. It was on. After an initial delay of 24 hours we had the go ahead to travel down to Dover in the hope of starting very early the following morning. After attempting to eat an impossibly large meal Andre, my boyfriend, drove myself and my friend Kelly down, with a lot of nervous energy being kept in check. After a quick recce of the harbour, where we would have to be at 0215 the following morning, we headed to the B&B. I tried to eat some more food, feeling the need to gain as much energy before the swim as possible then lay in bed for 4 hours trying to sleep but just having dreams of wind and waves.
The alarm went off at 0110 and I ate again – porridge and toast, although the nerves were starting to take over at this point. We got to the harbour and met up with a few other swimmers who were ready to start, all waiting for our boats. The bigger, flashier ones were already waiting by the harbour so I tried to calm myself down as I waited for mine. At 0215, bang on time, the Pathfinder pulled up in the harbour. Aboard was Eric and Gary, the two pilots, as well as Keith who would be my official observer for the swim and we set off on our way to my start beach – Samphire Hoe. The journey took about 30 minutes, during which I was kept busy by the observer checking details and reiterating the rules, as well as eating again. When I got the 5 minute call I got ready; Kelly ’greased me up’ with Vaseline to ensure the salt water didn’t rub against my costume during the swim, I put in my earplugs then donned my hat and goggles ready to go.
We pulled in about 30m from the beach and they shone a huge light onto the shore, so I dived in and swam towards it. My first thoughts were how cold the water was; on training swims we had always started in the daylight, with the extra warmth from the sun helping to warm you in the water. Banishing the cold from my mind I climbed up onto the beach, out of the water and waved back to the boat. I then waded back into the water and started my Channel swim. I swam towards the boat and made my way to the right hand side of it, trying to set a steady pace that I thought I would be able to maintain. The first hour passed relatively quickly, and I stopped for my first feed. I had some maxim out of a bottle but refused food – I felt quite strong at this stage and after stuffing myself before starting I didn’t want to end up with a stitch.
The strong feeling continued over the next few hours, even managing to have a little joke during the feeds. The most interesting thing for me was watching the people on the boat – watching Andre and Kelly getting my feeds ready, seeing Keith counting my strokes and reading messages on the whiteboard. After a couple of hours I got a bit cold, unfortunately the beautiful sun rise was on the wrong side of the boat so all I saw was Kelly taking photos of it!
Once the sun was up I warmed up a bit and tried to keep myself occupied. I did the times tables countless times, sung to myself, thought of countries beginning with different letters of the alphabet, imagined being back on the boat, imagined getting to France and imagined getting in a sleeping bag to warm up.
At no point did I question my ability to carry on, the 7 hour training swims made sure of that. I wished the time would pass more quickly to ease my boredom, but was cheered up by Andre and Kelly demonstrating the ‘Mobot’, the ‘Lightning Bolt’ and the ‘Blake Beast’. I counted my feeds so although I wasn’t told how long I had been going for I was reassured when I got some tea at what I thought was the 7 hour point. I was looking forward to the 10 hour point as then I was hoping that I would only have 2 more feeds left, but before that they held up a sign saying “Push hard now!” I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep up with my increase in speed but I pushed, hoping that the end would be in sight soon. The next sign made me unbelievably happy – “Land Ahoy!”
Knowing that they would not tell me this unless I was close I tried to look up but could only see water so I just kept pushing. At my 10 hour feed they told me to look right – there was the beach!! I just could not believe I was so close after only 10 hours! I kept pushing hard for the next 20 minutes, looking up every now and then until I could see the waves breaking on the beach. Once my hands started to brush against the pebbles, I climbed up out of the water, onto the beach and out of the way of the waves. With a huge smile and wave to the boat that was it. I had swum the English Channel in 10 hours 20 minutes and 49 seconds!