Bad weather frus­trates cross chan­nel at­tempt

SWIM­MING CHRIS O’SUL­LI­VAN MISSES HIS SLOT

Bray People - - Sport - Paul DON­AGHY

IMAG­INE WALK­ING around a dull Dover most evenings of a week with hands in pock­ets wait­ing for a break in the weather.

Car­low-based Wicklo­vian Chris O’Sul­li­van was forced to do just that, but not wait­ing for a slot on the first tee at some golf course but a win­dow in the weather to em­bark on his Chan­nel Swim.

They on the first tee could re­tire to the bar and boast about what they might have re­turned over the 18, but Chris was stonewalled by in­clement weather from a chal­lenge he had trained to com­plete for more than a year, and may have to put on hold un­til at least July ’09.

Imag­ine the frus­tra­tion of beat­ing out the miles in pools, rivers and seas to be de­nied the ul­ti­mate sat­is­fac­tion when a pi­lot de­clares the cross­ing danger­ous and ‘pulls’ the swim­mer who has paid a for­tune in en­ergy and cash for the ‘right’ to dip into the English Chan­nel and pos­si­bly a place in the chan­nel an­nals, and an in­scrip­tion in a Dover pub de­voted to those who suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the salt be­tween Eng­land and France; and be­come one of the ten per cent of those who ac­tu­ally make it.

a‘I learned so much by just be­ing there,’ says Chris, ‘un­like read­ing ma­te­rial from e-mails. You spend the time try­ing to fo­cus on the pos­si­bil­ity that to­mor­row may be the day,’ he said, adding that the town has ab­so­lutely noth­ing go­ing for it and ex­tolling the fea­tures of Car­low, a town of sim­i­lar size but of far greater ex­pres­sion.

‘You spend the time try­ing to stay fo­cussed with peo­ple who have done the swim and whose names are on the walls of the White Horse pub, in­clud­ing sev­eral I know.’

It is a ‘wall’ chan­nel swim­mers have come to ac­cept, and for Chris the dis­ap­point­ment of a no-start was al­ways a fac­tor, and one he was con­tem­plat­ing. ‘ If I went that road (one of frus­tra­tion) I’d have packed it in. Yea, I felt like that for five min­utes ev­ery day we were there but I kept fo­cus with those peo­ple who had done it and oth­ers like me who were there to do it.’

It was a lousy week for Chris and oth­ers who had signed up for the mid- Septem­ber win­dow. They flew over on Sun­day and signed in for a Tues­day 9 a. m. start, only to hear weather fore­casts sug­gest un­favourable con­di­tions for their big day. ‘Out of the blue the wind whipped up to 20 ks per hour and it stayed like that all week,’ said Chris.

Chris waited out the ag­o­nis­ing hours and days with seven or eight other Ir­ish chal­lengers, with the last at­temptee a U.S. swim­mer who waded in on the 20th and made the French coast 12 hours and 51 min­utes later.

How­ever, there was one Ir­ish suc­cess when the Dublin Fire Bri­gade team of six made their slot and touched French beach af­ter more than nine hours.

The abil­ity to make the cross­ing is of­ten frus­trated by the loss of slot be­cause of weather, and the queu­ing sys­tem which ap­plies, and it will cost Chris at least a fur­ther eight months at least be­fore he can hope to add his name to the exclusive club whose mem­bers have crossed one of the most in­tim­i­dat­ing short pas­sages of wa­ter on this earth.

Chris O’Sul­li­van was forced aban­don his at­tempt to swim the English chan­nel due to bad weather.

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