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Great Britain 30 September: Dover-France Relay Swim
Today a long cherished dream came true: a relay swim across the English Channel or La Manche from Dover, Great Britain, to the shores of France, dedicated to the ideals of the World Harmony Run, carrying the World Harmony Run torch on board and lighting it on French sands.
Zuzana Tobolkova (Czech), Viktoria Askelsdottir (Iceland), Vasanti Niemz (Germany), Abhejali Bernardova (Czech), and Jayalata (helper, Czech) in front of the statue of Captain Webb
The coastline around Dover, but also the French shorelines are strewn with memorials and remainders from WW2 - Bunkers, statues etc. In Dover, the memorial of Captain Webb, the first Channel swimmer, and the Dover Peace City Plaque dedicated by Sri Chinmoy in 1995 are some of the very few reminders of more peaceful exploits.
We got our chance on the second last day of an unusually calm neap tide. Our international relay team of 4 „girls“ from Iceland, Czech Republic and Germany could have gone three days earlier, on the best swim day of the year, but Zuzka was still fighting a lung infection. So we had to wait – and pray.
The weather held, Zuzka got better and we started on Sept 30th at 8 a.m. from famous Shakespeare Beach - a daylight swim, mostly. Every swimmer would swim for 1 hour, then the next swimmer would jump in and overtake from behind, before the first one would get out. We had to keep the order all the way to be ratified officially. Before and after each swim we would hold the World Harmony torch and observe a moment of silence, dedicating the swim. Abhejali, our fastest swimmer, startet the swim. Next in order were Vasanti (Channel-experienced), then Viktoria (who already swam with the torch in the icy waters of Iceland), and last Zuzka, our skinny but tough and determined breaststroker.
The 21 mile wide Dover Strait or Pas de Calais is one of the busiest international seaways in the world with over 400 commercial vessels per day passing up and down in two seperated shipping lanes. The strait is subject to strong tidal currents and often unpredictable changes of weather, and swimmers often have to swim an S shaped route - far more than just 21 miles.
We had an amazing day. The first 6 hours were calm and sunny. We even saw dolphins! Still, Abhejali and Zuzka got seasick right in the beginning – from the swells and the fumes. After the 6th hour we were half way in the separation zone between the two shipping lanes, geographically.
But due to the currents this may not nearly be halfway timewise. In the 7th hour Viktoria started to swim all over the place and slow down – she thought she had lost her contact lenses, but it was only water leaking into her googles. Luckily she picked up again and did great on her 3rd turn. The 8th hour was horrible. Zuzka felt still sick and had not taken any food, her lungs had filled with mucus and she looked like she felt -as if she was going to die any minute. We begged her to just stay in the water for her hour and she did.
At the same time, rain clouds were approaching and the wind started to pick up. Luckily, Zuzka recovered after she was secretly fed some non-homeopathic medicine and on her 3rd swim she was fine again.The rain clouds avoided us and the wind calmed down again and even the tides were not as strong as they should have been. The rest of the swim was extremely peaceful under an almost full silver moon glittering in the gentle waves. The French coast was approaching slowly but steadily. We were heading straight towards the sandy beaches of Wissant. Our pilot was convinced we must have prayed hard for days - “Neptun must be very pleased with you”, he repeated a couple of times.(He did not know how many friends around the world were praying for us right at that time.)
After 13 hours it was my turn to swim the remaining 21 minutes to French shore. Viktoria came with the torch on the dinghy and we lit it togetheron the beach. Some structures behind us in the dark dunes may well have been some more bunkers from the last century. Mission accomplished! (Except that I had to swim back to the boat because together we were too heavy for the dinghy!) - Vasanti
The owners of our caravan park flew our national flags in honour of our swim.
They also created a plaque for us.
The whole team with the owners of Varne Ridge Caravan Park
"... France and England
England and France
dancing their rare oneness-dance."
- Sri Chinmoy World Harmony Run Founder (from his song dedicated to Channel-swimming)
More information about Channel-swimming:
Distance: 27 miles
Zuzana Tobolkova (Czech Republic), Viktoria Askelsdottir (Iceland), Vasanti Niemz (Germany), Abhejali Bernardova (Czech Republic), Jayalata (Czech Republic)
Gallery: See more images!
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