NealRayner.com English Channel Swim 2005
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One of the most common questions that people ask me is "did you wear a wetsuit?" Hopefully this will answer exactly what I needed to get across the Channel.

What I wore
What I ingested
What did the boat cost?
What is a swimming window?
What's required?


What I wore
  1. My trusty speedo (No wetsuits allowed)
  2. Dolphin Club swim cap - white, a trinket from the Crissy Field swim. This is not an insulated cap because they're not allowed either, just a regular thin swimcap.
  3. Silicon earplugs: they help protect your inner ear from some serious problems associated with extensive long distance cold water swimming.
  4. Aquasphere Seal XP goggles, smoke color
  5. Albolene: to reduce chaffing. It's a lot like Vaseline, but without a petroleum base.
  6. One green 12-hour glowing night stick that was safety pinned to the back of my speedo so my crew could see me in the dark for the first four hours.
  7. Bullfrog Supergel sunscreen. SPF 35.
What I Ingested
  • Before: a couple of fried eggs over easy on toast. 20 oz of Cytomax Preformance. Two Advil gelcaps.
  • During: Every half hour: 8-10 oz of warmed Cytomax Apple Berry flavor. Angie expertly mixed warm water with regular water and then created a 20 oz. brew of Cytomax. She then put this into a Nalgene bottle that was for 2 feedings over the half hour. I preferred the big-mouthed Nalgene bottle to bike water bottles because I could chug the fluids. However, as you're in waves, some goes down your chin and cheeks. Hence I had her put in more than the 8 oz I usually have so that I could waste a couple of ounces. The Nalgene bottle was on a string so she could lower it from the boat without touching me. Any touching of the swimmer or of the swimmer to the boat is illegal and results in immediate disqualification. Had we done this a little better, we would have had a thin rope that wouldn't get as tangled as the string did.
  • Also, starting at hour three, I had one pack of Power Gel by Powerbar every hour. Fortunately, I finished when I did as I used all these up and should have had enough for many more hours. Angie tore the top off these and screwed them into the bottle cap. Being an advocate of clean waterways, I dumped them back into the empty bottles when I was done drinking, hence leaving no litter in the channel.
  • Lastly, I had two more rounds of Advil that were lowered to me in a Styrofoam cup that they had on board. This was not the best method as I almost accidentally touched Angie's hand when the boat lurched as she was handing them to me.
  • What I maybe should have ingested: an antihistimine for the jellyfish sting, but it wasn't super painful.
  • After: 32 oz Cytomax Recovery, Advil, Advil and Advil. Lots of water. Boiron Homeopathic Sports and Trauma pack of goodies such as Arnica Montana. I should have had this right away but didn't for 14 hours and those were the 14 most painful hours of my life, much worse than the swim. I also had Nature's Kiss Anti-Flamme that I rubbed into my sore shoulders and body.
  • Guinness: a few pints at the White Horse Tavern in celebration. You might even meet Peter, a solicitor who is a fixture at the bar and who bought me a pint!
What did the boat cost?
  • A lot!!!! Though the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CS&PF) I made a deposit about a year and a half in advance for an August swimming window. Literally on the day of the swim, I made the final payment and along with their membership application it cost around $3000.
What is a swimming window?
  • When you sign up for these swims with the CS&PF you pick a time to go during a "window" of neap tides (smaller tides, weaker currents). These windows generally last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks. The CS&PF currently has three boats. Mine was the "Sea Satin" and I had the fourth slot to go with that boat. In theory that means that once the window starts the person with slot #1 one goes, then #2 and so on. However, everyone has to wait first for good weather, a rarity on the Channel and you can sometimes wait for weeks. Next, you go at a certain time to correspond with ideal tides. Also, each slot has an allotted time so if a relay or a double crossing or a really slow swimmer is expected before you, you may have to wait longer.
  • Get it yet? Just when you think you do… the human factor works in. One must make calls and be readily available by phone to make sure you don't accidentally get passed over for your slot.
  • Just when you think you get it… you can also go before or after your window during the Spring tides. Seeing as I was unlikely to go during my window I arrived a few days early after downing "No Jet Lag" pills on my plane ride and left before my window. I bought a mobile phone and told them I was ready to go shortly after my plane landed. Go I did, all over the Dover Straits on some wild strong currents, but the weather was delightful. I recommend this, but warn that you always need to be prepared to take a few hours longer than you anticipated. Nothing sucks more than waiting to go and I had the added bonus that I had a longer vacation for me and my crew. However, I actually went before my full crew arrived and I was really bummed that Dane was only eight hours from getting into port when I started my swim.
What's required?
  • A basic physical signed off by a doctor saying you can swim the channel and a witnessed six hour swim in 60 degree water.
  • I did swims of six, eight and ten hours in San Francisco Bay which made me very confident. I of course did many other shorter bay swims, interval pool training, weight training, cold water immersion, physical therapy, and massage in preparation. I was very lucky to train with fellow channel swimmers Tom Keller and Brian Herrick who made it across during the week after me. Ali Hall also trained with us the whole way only to be sidelined by serious emergency surgery and Nigel Killeen trained alongside in preparation for his Trans-Tahoe swimming adventure. Training buddies make it much more enjoyable!!!!
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