Channel Attempt Story

BillBill Member
edited July 2012 in General Discussion
Just reading about a failed EC attempt at

I would really hope my crew would pull me way before this... Anyone have a take on this? I really hope John is doing ok.


  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    Assuming the facts in the blog entry are even somewhat close to what happened:

    "I told John this and urged him to find the energy to push
    hard for an hour, but, ominously, he did not seem to comprehend what I
    was telling him. For the next 30 minutes his swimming was very slow
    and laborious, and he got no closer to land."

    Take him out of the water.

    " I then decided to go in and swim with him for a while, hoping to pick up his spirits and pace him in to France. Once in the water, I swam to him and shouted at him
    to summon all the energy he could and swim along with me, but he
    didn’t really respond and seemed a bit unsure who I was or why I was

    Take him out of the water.

    "I set out for shore, but John quickly fell behind so I went
    back to him and tried to swim alongside him, but even with my slow
    breaststroke he could not keep up (normally he swims much faster than
    I do). "

    Take him out of the water.

    "Also, the swell was so big at this point that although I was
    only ten or fifteen feet from him, I kept losing sight of him and had
    to swim around to find him."

    Get out of the water and take him with you.

    "I did what I could under very difficult swimming conditions, but support swimmers are only permitted to be in the water for an hour at a time, so after an hour I was called back
    onto the boat."

    Get out, take him with you and throw into the water who ever told you to get out but allowed John to stay in.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    "We were no closer to shore than we had been when I got
    in. I watched John from the boat and by this time he had, after 14
    hours in the water, for all intents and purposes, stopped swimming. He
    was throwing his arms about, but he seemed disorientated and was being
    tossed around in the water."

    Please some one tell me why he wasn't taken out of the water?

    The rest of it is so painful to read that I am simply left speechless.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    "The skipper shouted to John to end the swim but John did not respond in any coherent way. He was making some strange sounds and trying to stay away from the boat. At this point he began vomiting in the water and shouting some weird noises and I realized that he was not simply tired and exhausted, but that the situation was far more serious. He was showing the classic symptoms of hypothermia. With the skipper still screaming at him to come to the boat, John began to go under the water. I confess that I thought he was going to die right there in the water in front of me. It was very distressing."

    I just keep getting angrier and angrier the more I think about this. Our sport is not about swimming to your death, and your support team should understand this. And there was a doctor on board? Unbelievable.

    Someone please tell me this story is really about someone whose boat sunk in the middle of the channel, and lived to talk about it when he was rescued by a passing ship moments before he went under for the final time. Please, someone tell me it's not true.
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    Please, can someone find the name of the boat captain? No one should ever, ever swim with that guy. I can understand the volunteer support crew being clueless, but the captain does this for a living.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    This has to be a hoax. This quote is from the blog entry right before the date of his swim:

    "Well it looks like John will finally get his shot at the channel. Currently he is scheduled for take off at 2AM Friday morning, but there may be a problem. I have received a disturbing photo from England of the Skipper and his crew. Apparently they have little experience in channel crossings preferring to concentrate on 3 hour tours. Strangely the skipper was wearing a Lucky’s Lake Swim 200K club shirt most of the day. He was asked if he had really swam 200K and he said he must have because he had several of the shirts. Word has it the skipper has now left England and his crew will be doing the swim with John to guide him. If you want to follow John’s progress at 2am (then you way too much free time on your hands) log into his swim tracker on the web. Good Luck and may the currents and wind be headed for France."
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    Please someone tell me it's a hoax. PLEASE.
  • There is a SPOT track. It shows (to my untutored eye) pretty much the path described in the account: missing Cap Gris Nez, then being pushed back "upwind" of it.
    I think the Channel pilots could identify the captain/person from the picture.
    I'm fairly gullible.
  • GordsGords Syracuse, UTCharter Member
    A few years ago I read this account from John Kearney's attempt. The thing that REALLY caught my attention (please tell me if I'm misunderstanding what is written), is that after being pulled from the water and while he was resting in the cabin below deck, on the way back to England, he was yelled at to wake up and come up on deck, when just as he came up, the support boat rammed a tanker that wasn't seen.

    I have tried to confirm that part of the story, but have not been able to.


    And here's the accompanying youtube:

    I'm having a really hard time believing that part of it, or there would be more reports of the accident online.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    I came across the same information about a year ago. I brought the subject up in an online forum. The only response was from a pilot (not the one alleged to be involved) who said that it was a subject best left alone.

    As far as I can tell an incident did occur, but I am not certain of the circumstances surrounding it. Frankly, I am disturbed that there isn't more information about the nature and facts of the incident.
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    With regards to the first channel crossing above: if you look at most of the site which contains the story of Mr Collingswood's swim it is all written with tongue-in-cheek humor, complete with the picture of Gilligan and the Skipper as the pilot and crew. The story is heartfelt and appropriately serious in tone, but the fellow who writes the blog surrounding the story (which seems to be about his friend) has a similar tone throughout the site.
  • BillBill Member
    Looks like the post at the lake swim blog has been taken down...
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    The post's story appeared to be an e-mail from the crew member because I distinctly remember at the bottom the writer saying please do not disseminate this widely, just let people know he's OK. I imagine that a major reason the post is down now.

    Regardless, very frightening in how some people just do not know how to watch their swimmers, do not know the signs of danger and let them go too far off the edge.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    I think all swimmers should support a full and open discussion of what happens in a swim, both the good and the bad. It is how you build a community and it helps others learn from both your successes and mistakes. When a swimmer almost dies there should be a full examination of what occurred on the swim so that those that follow do not find themselves in a similar position. I think the people who post to this forum do so to learn and teach others. We should expect that of all the members of the marathon swimming community.
  • MunatonesMunatones Charter Member
    Bob, I have been keeping track of (or trying to keep track of) injuries and deaths in the open water swimming world since 1999. However, a full and open discussion of what occurred is always a problem in these cases for several reasons: (1) respect for the family and/or their wishes, (2) legal matters, (3) linguistic issues, (4) bureaucratic obstacles, and (5) the impression from some of implied or actual finger-pointing. In fact, discussions on perhaps the most well-known open water tragedy in recent memory (i.e., the death of Fran Crippen) were muted despite the publicity surrounding this tragedy. FINA certainly was not forthcoming and, at least in my opinion, its response was less than comprehensive and appropriate. In fact, only one individual was ultimately disciplined for the Fran Crippen tragedy...and it was done quietly. That being said, there are a few organisations around the world that do an excellent job in follow-up from my observations (our British colleagues are one example as you can see from their post-tragedy follow-up and introspection). However, because of the 5 issues above, a full and open discussion of what happened in a tragedy is usually not conducted.

    I apologize in advance for this plug, but this topic will be presented at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference. We will attempt to respectfully and publicly address the tragic deaths of over 20 individuals that have recently occurred in 7 countries around the world. These deaths occurred for a variety of reasons, but I am hopeful this discussion will be done respectfully and with the full intent of education. This presentation was originally scheduled to be given at the International Swimming Hall of Fame among a wide spectrum of aquatic professionals and administrators, but FINA nixed this presentation for political and legal reasons.

    Steven Munatones
    Huntington Beach, California, U.S.A.

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    This is a bit off-topic, but Steven, is Sri Chimnoy going to be posthumously honored at this event? Why? I'm surprised and shocked, to say the least, especially given the revelations about his dealings, manipulations, deceit, and alleged sexual abuse coming to light in recent years.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    With regard to the reasons you suggest people may withhold information:

    1) In the case of the death of a swimmer there should be a public inquiry. While the desires of the family are important, they are trumped by issues of safety for everyone. If I die crossing the EC, let this be a formal notice that I demand a public inquiry. In the event of near death, the same considerations and demand applies. (I hope this doesn't scare off my crew).

    2) The legal matters which might arise might pertain to: a) administrative maritime hearings concerning the captains performance (I am completely unfamiliar with what processes might apply); b) criminal charges (I can not for the life of me imagine how this might come to be unless the death arises from a drunk pilot who sinks his boat); and c) the negligence of people which provides a basis for the recovery of damages. So in reality what we are looking at is a lawsuit for money, which in my opinion would be a difficult case given the facts and circumstances of the typical channel swim (I could discuss this one for hours). So should important information which could save the next swimmer's life be withheld for fear that it might stir up the legal money pot?

    3) Honestly, I think linguistic issues are potentially an important hurdle and any information which comes from a translation of statements made, should be held to the highest scrutiny before circulation.

    4) Bureaucratic obstacles are very real. The old boy/girl network does not die easily. This has been a problem in many other endeavors, but the fight to dissolve bureaucratic barriers should not be given up just because little or no progress has been achieved in the past.

    5) Yes, actual or implied finger pointing is real and may occur. There is not much you can do about it, but if that were to stop investigations, we would never know why a plane fell out of the sky, a train derailed, an engine in a car caught fire, a person drowned on a public beach etc. The public's interest in preventing future harm should trump a person's fear of shame or embarrassment. I'm not saying this is not without pain, but if it could prevent the loss of one life, or prevent a near death experience and a week in the hospital, shouldn't the community demand it?
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    I was swimming once and woke up in hospital 4 hours later. The thing is, weak swimmers can give up and strong swimmers probably finish the swim before it gets serious. That leaves a whole bunch of us who are determined enough not to give up, and there is always enough strength for one more stroke. We are the ones capable of swimming ourselves to death, and we need looking after.
  • miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber
    edited July 2020

    @bobswims said:
    "We were no closer to shore than we had been when I got
    in. I watched John from the boat and by this time he had, after 14
    hours in the water, for all intents and purposes, stopped swimming. He
    was throwing his arms about, but he seemed disorientated and was being
    tossed around in the water."

    Please some one tell me why he wasn't taken out of the water?

    The rest of it is so painful to read that I am simply left speechless.

    @Haydn said:
    I was swimming once and woke up in hospital 4 hours later. The thing is, weak swimmers can give up and strong swimmers probably finish the swim before it gets serious. That leaves a whole bunch of us who are determined enough not to give up, and there is always enough strength for one more stroke. We are the ones capable of swimming ourselves to death, and we need looking after.

    Sorry for pushing this 8-year old thread up. The blog post is gone and it wasn't captured by the Internet Archive. Is the whole story available somewhere? Did John literally swam himself into unconsciousness when he was finally pulled?

    Now I'm concerned about my safety if I am to self-plan some long distance marathon swims in cold water in the coming winter, as we don't have an established marathon swimming community yet, especially in cold water. I'll be literally giving my life to the crew on board. How can I know if my crew is good enough to depend my life on him? How can I know if my crew knows if I am just having normal fatigue and should push on, or I'm out-swimming my body into death by my mind and need to be pulled out immediately?

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USSenior Member

    IMO the most important thing is to know yourself, your body, your emotions, your self talk etc, in the conditions you'll be swimming in. As much as that is possible. Before an EC swim have as many LONG cold water rough ocean swims under your belt as you can. You don't know what your shoulders, stomach and mental state can be like until you've been there. Many haven't done that and finished. But being knowledgeable and prepared will increase your chances of success and potentially make the experience something you savor instead of just enduring.

    If you know yourself well, you can communicate that to your crew before your swim. Everything from special food, drink, mouthwash, meaningful-to-you words of encouragement, and signs that you're in trouble. Experienced crew that know you well, is best. If I couldn't have that, I'd do everything I could to secure at least one experienced crew member.

    Also, decide ahead of time what will cause you to stop your swim. Get specific. I tell myself I'll swim until I finish or get pulled. Unless I am in danger of drowning in the next few minutes (big muscles cramping hard so I can barely move, stabbing chest pain, can't breath...). That's specific and easy to remember. If you're dangerously hypothermic you probably won't realize it. It's your crew's job to assess that and pull you. Make sure they have the knowledge to do that. And please, drill into your brain that if they say you have to stop, you stop.

    I very much doubt swimming even the EC will kill you, unless you have an undetected medical problem. Perhaps if you got seriously dehydrated or hypothermic, but fatigue? No. That's just one of the challenges.

    Many here are much more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. My longest swim is less than 11 hours, and I haven't swum the EC. Perhaps others will chime in.


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    I agree with all that Jswim said. I will add that the consciousness issue (at least in cold water) is a real thing, or at least has been for me. On a 9 mile swim in 16 degree water, about 5 miles in, I completely zoned out. My daughter was piloting for me and had to aggressively smack the water with her paddle to snap me out of it. By the time I "came to," I had swam in a complete u-turn and had she not been there, I may have drowned. It was literally a wake up call and I started taking in fuel more often and taking more frequent breaks to make sure I was staying alert. We did finish in our predetermined time. I would absolutely suggest getting VERY friendly with cold water and gradually building up your distances. Make sure your escort is watching you VERY closely. Your body has to work harder in the cold water and will burn calories much faster and the cold water CAN mess with your consciousness level. Making sure you know how to keep your body properly fed and that you are properly prepared is SO important. Just be careful. All the best.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I was in an 8 river mile swim a few years ago, feeling fine pretty much. Then I came to a section w a much faster flow. Got through that all right, but then on my approach to the turn buoy, I was pushing against a current for only about 15-20 yards but it might as well have been 200. Think endless pool. I'm a stubborn critter, and after 4-5 fruitless attempts to get around the buoy, I had the idea to overshoot, which finally worked. So proud of myself--but not long afterward, I began to feel queasy. I tried a feed but felt worse. I also felt chilled, even though I had been fine w the water temp until then (70s, I think?).

    At that point, I realized I might not be up to finishing even though I only had about a mile and a half left. I swam a bit more but thought if I did become more seriously ill (was still mentally not gone), attention could be diverted from other swimmers to help me. We had a lot of great support, but I respect the swim too much to put that burden on the rescue crew. So I made the decision to pull out. Once on shore and resting, I was ok. I have wondered since if I'd have finished if I hung in. But regret is at least better than risking survival to find out. Anyway, I'm still proud of having made it around that turn. :)

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member
    edited August 2020

    Knowing when to throw in the towel is one of the tougher decisions that a person has to make. Some people have the choice made for them, which might actually be easier for a competitor. But to have to walk away, not only from the event in question, but the hours and hours of work that got you there in the first place, is an extremely difficult choice. And after walking away, like @dpm50 mentions, you always will wonder if you could have pulled it off.

    It's odd to refer to "throwing in the towel" when talking about swimming. The term actually comes from boxing. The cornermen of the fighter will make the decision that their fighter should surrender and throw the towel into the ring. Fighters, by their very nature are probably the last person to recognize that they are losing and give up. They are fighters after all.

    I remember seeing a boxing match years ago by a local favorite named Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. He was really good and an up and coming star. He fought a Korean boxer who was also quite good and it was a really tough fight. Ray started getting the upper hand, but the Korean, Kim Duk-koo, would not give up. He was hanging in there and Mancini was relentless. Ultimately, Mancini hit Kim with a lethal blow and the fight was stopped. When I say lethal, I mean that Kim went into a coma and died a few days later. It was truly shocking to the boxing world and actually inspired some rule changes. Mancini was never the same after that bout and took the whole incident really hard as I'm sure you can imagine.

    Here is a moment in time when two competitors took things to the absolute limit with tragic consequences. It is important to remember that we participate in one of the few sports where a few bad decisions can lead to death. I think part of our responsibility to ourselves and our sport, is to be mindful of the effect of our decisions, not only ourselves, but on others, as @dpm50 mentions above. Remember that we can always live to fight another day.

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