Three Swakop women brave the English Channel

Swakopmund: Three brave and daring Swakopmund women have taken the plunge to swim the icy waters of the English Channel in a never-done-before two-way swim attempt this week, after completing a gruelling 18-month training regime that has hopefully prepared them for this extraordinary feat.

Bobby-Jo Bassingthwaighte, Sandy le Roux and Ulla Gossow-Buttner flew out of Walvis Bay last Wednesday to make history as they attempt to complete the channel swim in relays, from England to France and back.

The swim will be carried out over a period of three days, notching up 30 hours of swimming time covering a 90km overall distance through the waters.

They will be the first three women in the world to ever attempt a two-way swim of the English Channel, and have been affiliated as Namibian swimmers by the ‘Channel Swimming Association’ (CSA) – the international governing body which lays down the stringent rules and regulations for anyone undertaking this channel crossing.

A nervously excited Bobby-Jo told New Era Sport, before jetting off to England, that they have finally reached their physical and mental peak to undertake such a venture, and are well prepared for what lies ahead.

“But there is only so much preparation and practice you can do to be ready for such an adventure,” she reminded us.

“What we are really nervous about are the elements, because you cannot control the weather, which can be brutal, “ she explained.

“Other challenges we face are the cold water temperatures because we are not wearing wet suits, the distance which we have to swim, jelly fish, the heavy boat traffic, sea sickness and fatigue because we won’t be getting much rest.”

She said that they have a three-day window period in which to complete the swim, which commences on the 26th (Wednesday) ending 29th, with their splash-off point from Dover. The team will be accompanied by a hired boat for the duration of the swim, with a full back-up crew, a boat pilot, a CSA observer, supplies and swimming costume change.

She also said that they have battled flu over the past few weeks, as they braved their daily swims in the cold Atlantic Ocean , and Swakopmund’s mid-winter climate, but added that they have been boosted with homeopathic remedies, which have rendered them strong immune systems.

Preparing for such an expedition has taken more than just a punishing training regime to build up fitness and endurance. They have also had to raise funds individually to cover the overall N$200 000 cost of such a venture, which includes travel expenses, hiring of the boat, and kitting themselves out with swimming gear and many sets of designer-made costumes incorporating the Namibian flag.

“Swimming the English Channel is fraught with dangers and unexpected problems, “ said Bobby-Jo who knows what she is talking about, as she was the first Namibian woman to ever swim the English Channel in 1999, and ranks as one of only 500 people in the world to successfully have crossed the strait.

The swim, which is to raise awareness for the planet, has aptly been named ‘strokes for earth’. The focus in particular is a clean-up campaign along the coastline, to help protect the stretch of beach and marine life running from Walvis to Henties Bay.