"Doing a Davina"- OW newest term & a timely reminder of another of our responsibilities

loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
edited February 2014 in General Discussion
Simon & H2Open website had two articles yesterday on UK Reality TV presenter Davina McCall's 1.6 mile 6.5C across Windermere swim in a wetsuit, as part of some longer endurance event. First one the event and the later analysis which coins the term.
Some YouTube video of the dramatic end of the swim is here. You really should look at it.

Had most of us been on safety duty there, we would surely have insisted on hospitalization or a least professional medical assistance. I'd point to or question the role of her coach here. When the swimmer doesn't know enough to make a rational or informed decision, that's a coaches job. 1.5 miles for a someone who hasn't previously been identified as a swimmer is going to to take at least 45 minutes, likely closer to an hour. Add in significant cold, even in a wetsuit, fear of open water, lack of familiarity or experience with the challenge? They were lucky nothing worse happened.

This is another media event which isn't good for our sport, Doing a Davina, joining Doing a Nyad, in the realm of OW infamy.

Not as much on my blog, but in response to many personal requests and on another swimming forum I moderate, I've found myself regularly and increasingly telling people they are not ready for 5 & 10k swims. They all seem of the opinion that to just make it through is sufficient, never thinking of the burden to others, to organisers and safety crew, to the reputation of a sport they know nothing or care nothing about and certainly not thinking of the risks, or the fact that all of us here train regularly for this sport, and build experience. This was not something I had to write much even a couple of years ago, but is now a regular occurrence. And what happens? Often they don't listen anyway, and instead go ahead with the "just do it" advice for people who obviously know little or nothing.

What happened to Davina McCall and apparently her team's response is precisely this: That since she didn't die or wasn't hospitalised, everything is ok. Since they didn't know she should have been hospitalised or understand the danger, there is a Catch 22 in operation.

Everything is Okay! Until everything isn't okay.

I recently wrote a post, open water swimming is dangerous and I got some minor criticism from a triathlete because "it wasn't a positive message".

I've spent some years now writing to help people, but I take the responsibility to tell people when they shouldn't swim, because they aren't ready, just as seriously. As should we all, I think. Members of this forum show what is possible with training and preparation and all are familiar with swimming dreams, but the difference here is that we all learn, prepare, & understand the parameters and dangers.

The good thing though is that "Doing a Davina" might ironically inform some of those more foolish unprepared people of the risks.



  • TimDexTimDex Member
    edited February 2014
    I think with the rise of red bull like events and more and more people tri-ing|marathoning|century riding|mud running. There is an almost pervasive 'I can do that' attitude. Whether people take the correct road to reaching that goal or just 'go for it' is the difference between completing it to the best of your ability or finishing by the skin of your teeth. In running you see plenty of folks staggering over that finish line in complete agony whether its a 5K or a marathon. They completed it and assuming it was not a super hot day; in a few days|weeks they will be back on their feet basking in the glory of finishing said event while chewing on their third donut.

    I have little experience of long distance swimming, something I hope to change this year. However, even I, as a reasonably reserved former Britisher would have had masses of respect, for taking even a pretty short (by OW standards) cold swim across Windermere. Train, train train, acclimate, acclimate, acclimate.

    Check out the Day 3 video here covering the swim.

    I would argue that she should never have been in that water in the first place and was clearly not ready to take that challenge on, even during a balmy Lake District summer :) Whether it was the fear, fear I can only put down to someone that has very, very limited OW experience. She appears to be trembling|shivering with it? Or maybe it was the cold or maybe she had not practised in a wetsuit before. Whatever it was her arms and head are just flailing about like a 6 year old trying freestyle. Its no wonder she got so cold at the end.

    But, she'll be hailed a heroine when she finishes and more folks will think. Hey, I can do that! But please, dont do a Davina!
  • Laflamme02Laflamme02 Member
    edited February 2014
    Some YouTube video of the dramatic end of the swim is here. You really should look at it.
    That was one of the most chilling video clips I have ever seen. It was very sobering as a fledgling distance swimmer and highlights the necessity of having someone on the boat with the authority to throw-in the towel on your behalf.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    The only video I recall that was as scary with beginners involved is the video @evmo posted of Escape from Alcatraz about a year ago.


  • The only video I recall that was as scary with beginners involved is the video @evmo posted of Escape from Alcatraz about a year ago.

    I thought this one was scarier. When I saw how she was swimming in the Day 3 video along with her comments about how she couldn't breathe, I was worried she was going to die (even though I knew she hadn't).

    Living in Maine, I have a fair amount of experience with relatively cold water (though I've never attempted water as cold as her swim). However, I don't have a lot of experience from the outside as an observer/coach. I have a question for those who do observe or coach. If your swimmer looked like she did in the water in that Day 3 video, would you call the swim and make her get out?

    It does not look to me like it's a close call (in the sense that if I looked like that, I'd want to be pulled), but I wondered what someone who observes more regularly thinks.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Finally watched the video. D-U-M, dumb.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    @jbs, what makes this difficult to judge is we can't see stroke rate or time at which she was breaking down occurred. Like @Niek or others, I consider a 10% stroke rate deterioration as a bad sign, and potentially/probably the end of a swim (a small few swimmers seem able to deal with a 10% reduction, but almost certainly not beyond 15%). I haven't done it a lot, but I've pulled a few far more experienced swimmers from the water (two during Cork Distance weeks) who looked better than this video. I have also seen one swimmer during an Ice Mile who was swimming like this, where I was shouting at the inexperienced support kayek to pull the swimmer immediately and I was ignored. A year after that event also I still describe it as the most dangerous and irresponsible I've seen in person.

    If I was to base it entirely on how she seemed to look, I would absolutely have pulled her, but I would hope as as crew that I would never have let it get to that stage. We see a confused swimmer in the water who isn't swimming. Based also on my impression on the fact that she was lifted semi conscious from the water, unable to move herself, apparently unaware of what was happening. And it is on this basis, and on a mere four weeks of preparation that I criticize the coach. Pushing the limits is done on understanding what and where those limits are or might be, not putting a complete novice into a life threatening situation and using "motivational" quotes instead of sound judgement. Also, TV crews and lots of people watching increases the pressure on people to keep going.

    What responsible coach says they're going to coach an almost non-swimmer to swim 2k in Windermere in the coldest month of the year, in only a month? That's irresponsible nonsense.

    It is certainly the case that very experienced crews can still have swimmers get into difficulty, though in those cases that I know I'd say also that the swimmer was also very experienced and as importantly, very motivated to continue/finish. Think David Yudovin or @Ned in Santa Barbara or others in the EC etc. An experienced swimmer will and sometimes will swim past their limits into hypo or cold water pulmonary edema. That's not the case here.

    However the coach does say she was rewarmed after 15 minutes, which would mean she wasn't hypo. But I've written this before: Hypo is less likely to kill swimmers than cold water shock, a cardiac event or aspiration of water due to a racing heart.


  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    edited February 2014
    However the coach does say she was rewarmed after 15 minutes, which would mean she wasn't hypo.
    Perhaps it was an act? Some "swimmers" immerse themselves in melodrama.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • I wondered that too - whether she was hamming it up for the camera. Either way, though, this enterprise or hers / her show was really appallingly irresponsible. If she did no homework or her coach was ignorant & negligent, that's irresponsible because they're gambling her life. Or, alternatively, if they played it up to give her glory, that's irresponsible because her viewers might copy her, and because she's informing a slice of the public that may decide to try a swim despite being unprepared (for reference, see 'Mount Everest, circa 2014').

    Perhaps there are some circumstances here that are opaque to the casual viewer that somehow justify this swim enterprise, but...absent that, it looks like some sort of dangerous narcissism at work...
  • Those UK forum members familiar with the TV presenting style of Davina McCall will know that 'melodrama' is very much her strong suit. Not the right message to be sending re OWS in the UK in February. Temperatures somewhere between 3 and 8 depending where you are, and to be respected, even by strong swimmers who have made the effort to be acclimatised by regular swimming through the winter.

    There may be some people, who after watching this on Sport Relief will remember it the next time they've had a few too many, and pop in for a dip in their local body of water..... 'Ah, that Davina off the telly was OK, bit cold, but she was alright to swim a mile, and was fine after 15 minutes and a cup of tea'. Scary stuff, and irresponsible twaddle by the BBC.
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03yrk3b/Davina_Beyond_Breaking_Point_for_Sport_Relief/

    Recent BBC documentary that followed Davina's progress for Sport relief.

    The swim segment starts arouns 23:30
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
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    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • sharkbaitzasharkbaitza LondonMember
    I think it's fairly obvious that she should've been pulled well before she was but I would like to know how much acclimatisation she had done prior to the the swim.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    I think it's fairly obvious that she should've been pulled well before she was but I would like to know how much acclimatisation she had done prior to the the swim.

    Acclimatization? You don't need to acclimatize when you wear a wetsuit, said almost 100% of my triathletes.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Maybe your triathletes would reconsider if the temperature of the water they were going into was 6.5C. The way she reacted, especially with a wetsuit on, just showed the lack of preparation. It wasnt a short swim by triathlon standards and the temperature was way down on what they would normally swim in I suspect.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited April 2014
    Quite obvious she was virtually a non swimmer. Also mentally unstable at the start. (a sobering reminder of my last Channel attempt). It has been said she should have been pulled before she even started. But, how often do we see phrases on Facebook etc 'pain is temporary, failure lasts forever' or 'get in, get on, get out' and many others which encourage us to at least turn up and get wet, not give up, keep on swimming etc.

    Do we really want to blame the coach for keeping her in? It's what all the positive messages say we should all do.
  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    edited April 2014
    I love me a good inspirational quote on FB or Pinterest, but tend to use them for motivation while putting in adequate training & mental preparation. Not going to put myself into a dangerous situation just b/c of a cool saying I saw on the internet.
  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Err yes we do blame the coach if, indeed, there was someone designated as head hocho for such things as safety. All the guff on eg Faceook before a swim Is largely froth. Many of those who post things like "you'll smash it" without knowing the swimmer and his/her mindset are irrelevant and , in my humble opinion are best ignored. I have encouraged some EC wannabes to stay off fbook in the run up to a swim just to get these empty heads out of the way. Ones real friends know how to get a message to you anyway. I have twice deliberately kept off fbook on my solos preferring to get underway "under the radar".. The upsurge in interest and followers on fbook is something today's EC loers have to contend with that our predecessor s didn't. None of them should make us start if we aren't ready, full stop.
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