I (Manda) come from Guernsey and when I go back I want to go sea swimming but the lack of company always stops me, so this time I decided to try and engage local groups to see if they would let me tag along and I wasn’t disappointed. Katie and Brian then joined me for part of the trip, so they were dragged along for some of these adventures!
Our trip also coincided with 30 bays in 30 days, so we tried to tick off a few of these along the way.
I was working in my Guernsey office for a couple of days, so when I saw on the “Guernsey Open water swimmers” (GOWS) page that they were meeting for a lunchtime swim, I headed on down. The plan was a mile loop of Havelet Bay, which is situated at the south end of St Peter Port and has the impressive Castle Cornet overlooking it. Fortunately there were 2 other people not wearing wetsuits so I decided to join them and I was pleasantly surprised at the temperature. We did a loop of the bay but regrouped at every buoy so no one was dropped and also ensured that me, without my contact lenses, didn’t end up in France. Being able to swim at lunchtime was a dream come true and to be able to do it in such beautiful surroundings was even better.
Pembroke Bay (Try a Tri Guernsey)
One of my colleagues in the Guernsey office was joining a group swim on Wednesday and invited me along. We were meant to be in Jersey on the Wednesday but fog ended that, so last minute (which you can do when the beach is 2 minutes away) I decided to head on down with support crew of husband and baby to make the most of the day. Laura from Try a Tri had set up a triangular course for swimming around so that everyone would stick together. This was great for me and allowed me to gain some confidence in the sea that had been lost since Majorca 2015!
Marble Bay (30 bays in 30 days)
I got recommended this bay by the organisers of 30 bays, so we googled and decided “why not?”. Why not… well we have a 1 year old and marble bay is accessible by only a coastal cliff path but after parking at Jerbourg point, we headed towards marble bay. After a beautiful walk with views of Herm and Sark, we arrived at marble bay to find no one there. We took it in turns to swim and just generally hung around living our own private beach dreams until I started dreaming of my cold drink that I had left in the car and the Guernsey ice cream at the Jerbourg kiosk. We were there at low tide and apparently it is even better at high tide, so another reason to head back.
Les Beaucamps (Swim Smooth CI / Tri 3 Fit)
6:30 Friday am, I am normally at ironmonger row baths, so I just relocated my session to Guernsey with Swim Smooth CI. I swam in the fast lane with 2 chaps and bashed out some 400s and then some 200s. It was a great pacing set, and as the co-queen of pacing, I managed to hit the target times with accuracy.
Lancresse Bay (Guernsey Swimming Club)
On Wednesday night at Pembroke, I accosted a man in the sea, as you do. He was swimming back from a swim as I was doing my laps with try a tri. I asked if they were doing other swims that week that we could come along to and he said they were swimming Friday night at 6:15 at Lancresse, so enthusiastically I told Brian and Katie when they arrived in Guernsey. We then tentatively turned up then to find a massive group of swimmers. After some discussion we headed out to the edge of the bay, which was turbulent! At which point Katie declared “I am concerned we aren’t going to make it back”. We did! But it took us 18 minutes to get back vs the 10 minutes to get out.
We wanted to get across to Herm but the weather forecast wasn’t great but we thought we would head over and see what the weather brought. We boarded the boat dry and then arrived in Herm 20 minutes later to torrential rain. We decided to go for a drink under cover and assess our options. The rain didn’t let up and thunder and lightning started, so we decided we had best get the next boat back. Brian wasn’t happy about the lack of swimming, so seeing water was just 10 metres away he decided to go for it. Armed with my camera and my water proof coat I led him to the shore and off he went. I was and still am very jealous!!
During lunch, we discussed afternoon plan, but it was still chucking it down so after seeking advice for a swim location on the GOWS facebook page we headed down to Saints bay. We were greeted by the swimmers we had swum with on Friday night and promised them we weren’t stalking them. They had just finished so handed out some advice on where to head … “head for the lion and seal” – ya what?! There is no parking at the beach so we parked by a slippery slope which we had to descend to get into the water – this turned out to be the hardest part of the swim.
Petit Port/Moulin Huet (Guernsey Swim adventures)
The swim we had come for. The morning of the swim we were greeted with wind and lots of it, which prompted the organisers to say they had already decided on a revised route and would decide 15 minutes before swim start whether it would go ahead. After descending 324 steps we arrived with shaky legs and surprise to see some chunky waves. Jacqui, from Guernsey swim adventures, said we were going to do the revised route to cradle rock and back twice through. A tide going out and a gap in the weather meant that 10 minutes to go, we were reverting to plan A. Ahhhh I had no idea what that was as I thought we were doing Plan B. So after several minutes of repeating, cradle rock, rock in ocean, buoy, cradle rock, home, to myself and Jacqui ensuring us that there was a rock in front of the headland we were off.
I optimistically galloped off into the waves as only an islander or an Irish man (Brian) can do, to find my goggles knocked off (same for Brian). Katie sensibly and cautiously walked into the water as only a proper English lady should do. We then plodded our way around the course.
We returned to shore to be greeted with rain and our winning gold caps!
Soldiers Bay/ Bathing pools
Wil, who I had met at the previous Tuesday’s swim, suggested one final joint swim from Havelet bay, via bathing pools to soldiers bay. This bay is no longer accessible by land due to falling rocks but has a great history as it is where Victor Hugo used to swim.
I arrived late at the bay (due to wedding ring removal issues) to see people swimming off but Wil still there. ‘No problem we will catch them’ errrr ok. He proceeded to speed off and I spent the next 10 minutes sprinting after him (I might have put more effort into this swim than the race on Sunday!). When we got to the bathing pools, we hopped the railings and swam through the pool that was like a wave machine. Rounded the headland corner and finally caught up with the others. Wil then disappeared off into the gullies and the others headed for home. I floated in the ocean for a while hoping he would eventually reappear. He didn’t so I decided to head back. On way back I stopped at bathing pools again and then he appeared. After a somersault off the diving board, we battled our way through the pool and then back to shore.
Time for a final bay. Bay #23 was actually bay #9 from the official 30 bays in 30 days for this trip.
A lovely sunny swim to finish off what has been an amazing and confidence building sea swimming trip.
Thanks to everyone who welcomed me/us to their swims.
If you are ever in Guernsey and want to join some friendly locals for a swim here are some resource ideas:
Guernsey Open water swimming Facebook page:
Guernsey Swimming Club:
Apart from accosting scantily clad men in the sea, I am not too sure how to find out about these swims to be honest. However, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can point you towards the social media for some members.
Try a Tri / Fry Fit:
Swim Smooth CI / Tri 3 Fit:
Guernsey swim adventures:
30 bays in 30 days:
I (Manda) decided, for some silly reason, that Italy was a better choice than the Dart 10k this year. I was genuinely sorry to miss out but I did get to do lots of awesome swimming instead, including a week of beautiful swimming in Elba. Elba is an italian island off the coast of Tuscany with approximately 150 beaches. Some of these beaches are easy to reach and some require a little more imagination. Here is my DIY Elba swim adventure.
Small but perfectly charming bay where you could easily base yourself for the day. It is also where Mimmo realised you need to breathe whilst swimming.. I’m sure the other swimmers appreciated his gasp upon the realisation.
It had so much promise but the beach itself was covered in seaweed and the same seaweed clouded the water. A 10m swim and you were clear.
This long strip of sand is home to a massive bit of water for swimming and also has loads of water sports stuff (windsurf, sup, pedalo etc) for hire. There were several other swimmers doing laps of the bay.
After spending a few hours at Procchio we decided to get in a bonus dip at Paolina. Beautiful little cove bay with a rock out in sea that makes for a post card swim view. Absolutely spectacular.
A small little beach that is separated from the larger La Biodola by just a walk and a few rocks. Despite the proximity this beach has its own different personality and is an absolute joy to swim in.
I managed to get a swim in here thanks to chasing after Mimmo on a SUP. The length of the bay from Scaglieri to La Biodola is approx 700m so lots of lush long swimming to be had.
This bay has the most crystal clear water I have found so far. It is shallow for a long way out but that didn’t stop me starting to swim. I did see my first elban jellyfish, however, after my jelly soup experience and visibility so great I didn’t panic.. Which is a first!
After winding down the wiggliest road we arrived at Sant’Andrea and abandoned the bags in the only spot available at 5pm on a rammed beach. After swimming over a few large boulders we reached clear water where we found massive fishes that wanted to paddle with us!
We were going to get in a bonus dip at Scogliera Sant’Andrea but sea urchins and no sea shoes meant no swim. No one likes prickly feet.. Right Suz?!
We arrived at this beach with intention of spending a day there but after a couple of dips the lure of visiting another beach proved too much.
We headed over to Morcone for the final swim of the day but upon arriving at a beautiful beach we saw the lifeguard and several other people standing over a bucket. I knew what it would be but Mimmo went over to join the chat and confirm… medusa! I still got in, at which point the lifeguard decided the Medusa should be ‘Libero’, which means FREE…… Er ok!! I throughly enjoyed the swim at this beach (the post swim beer might have helped). Defo one for a repeat visit.
After a small recognisance mission to Redinoce, where the water wasn’t up to our high standard ;), we headed back to Fenicia, which is pretty much on our door step. We felt a bit silly only going here on day 5 as it was so lovely, so much so we spent the day here and didn’t even make it as far as Fenicetta and Ripa Barrata which are just a short walk/swim away.
‘Que bellisimo’. After eyeing up this beach on a previous visit to Elba and still lusting after its magical waters this time, I finally went for a swim here. Apparently it is dangerous to get here but in reality it is more just that it is probably not suitable for small children. A no goggles swim as just floated staring all around.
Back to the south of the island for a few hours on this beach but alas the seaweed clouded the water, however after 230 steps down to the beach, the water was welcomed.
A speedy dip at the next beach as Mimmo reckoned it could be a contender for the best beach, however the sand led to cloudy water. Who’d have thought after years of banging on about how sand beaches are better than stone I might *just* be leaning the other way.
This is it. The last day. Do you 1) go to your favourite all day 2) ‘risk it for a biscuit’ and try some new places or 3) shout ‘oy get lost you silly thunderstorm’
Well a mixture of 1 and 3. There were a couple of places I wanted to go but sometimes you just need to chill so we spent the day at Fenicia with a beach picnic of Pizza and beer.
Last Sunday (2nd August) saw an early start for Team Mermaids. Along with friends Kate and Brian we headed down to Sandbanks near Poole to swim around Brownsea Island. We had toyed with going down and staying the night before but we decided to drive down from London on the morning of the swim, meaning a 5am start. Luckily as swimmers we are used to getting up early!
Brownsea Island is located in Poole Harbour and the swim around the island is 6.5km. The swim didn’t start until 10am but you had to register by 8am in order to get the 8.20am or 8.50am ferry over to the island.
Brownsea is really lovely. It has a cafe, gift shops etc and a beautifully old house which is now a hotel. I had the feeling that an Agatha Cristine novel could be set there – ‘Murder on Brownsea Island’!
The ferry ride over to the island was fun, not too long and really added to the adventure of the day. Once on the island we walked into the grounds of the big house as the swim started from the beach there.
The start of the swim was chaos as the whole field went off together rather than the more usual staggered start. The current was strong so we were struggling to stay behind the start line. We were all just chatting away when the start whistle went and we were caught a bit on the hoof! There was a lot of pushing and shoving as over 300 people sprinted off. It soon thinned out though and the first part of the swim was really enjoyable* aided by the strong current.
*both of us did spot a jellyfish within the first 200m.
At half way you swim past a pier, even if half of the gang didn’t see it! After this we hit a lot of chop and the current turned against us. This section wasn’t so fun! It also was quite a shallow area and a couple of swimmers, including Manda, had to stand up to get over rocks after being too close to shore.
Soon enough you were rounding the final corner and the yellow buoys of the finish appeared. The finish is water based and there are people waiting in the water to give you your finishing token (much like a parkrun). We waited for each other and then the usual post race debrief started!
Manda finished in 1h 30m and was 3rd female. A podium finish in every race so far this season (well apart from Henley Classic) – well done Manda! Brian came in next in 1h 31m followed by Katie in 1h 39m and Kate in 1h 43.
Overall it felt like a fun day out with a little swim in the middle rather than a serious race. While I can’t say in enjoyed every minute of the swim (stupid currents!) the whole event was really well organised, the setting was picturesque and I would definitely recommend this to others looking for an experience swim.
I’ve (Manda) just got back from Mallorca, where I went to take part in the annual Sa Dragonera race hosted by Neda el Mon. Kate, Brian, Pivo and Charlie (who we know from Tuesday night swimming amongst other things) joined me on the trip, whilst Katie, unfortunately for me, was busy at home.
The race is a 9.5km swim around the island of Dragonera, which is just off the south west coast of Mallorca. Charlie had originally suggested going to us in December after she heard great things about it from other swimmers. The other 4 of us, buoyed by our recent Coniston adventure, signed up. Now a confession: Despite growing up metres away from the sea, I am petrified of seaweed, putting my feet on the floor in the sea and jellyfish (even more so than the east river monster). I agreed to this swim but I knew before I even signed up that this would be more a mental than physical challenge for me with these fears.
May came around, the water was heating up in London and before we knew it we were on a plane to Mallorca on a Friday night after work. On the Saturday morning after only a few hours sleep due to a late arrival (Thunderstorm in London) and the worst rent a car company (Enterprise – please never use them) we went for a beautiful swim in Sant Elm, where we were basing ourselves for the weekend. We then headed to Cala Fonoll near Port Andratx for a bit of r&r on the beach and another paddle with a bit of synchronised swimming (because we know how much I love synchro!!) thrown in before making our way over to the race briefing.
The briefing was in Spanish so it was time to cash in on that Spanish degree and step up and volunteer to listen. At the briefing they mentioned the 2 main risks being cold and jellyfish. Now as a Brit I knew the cold wouldn’t be an issue for us hardy lot (especially as I am the only one out of this group that hasn’t been involved in some kind of Channel Swim) but the jellyfish were suddenly a possibility.
On the Sunday we met at the port for 7am and boarded one of many boats that were ferrying swimmers over to the island and then we arrived at the island to find the harbour full of jellyfish.
The organisers then did an additional briefing in Spanish but we (I) didn’t listen as we thought it was a repeat of the one the previous night. Shortly afterwards some lovely German lady told us they had announced that we wouldn’t be doing a full loop of the island. Instead we would go half way and turn back to ensure we covered the same distance. The reason for this change was JELLYFISH.. 1000s of them at the northern part of the island and there was no way we could swim through them. I had mixed emotions about this as I was relieved they were not making us swim through 1000s of them and they were ensuring we swam the full distance.. But concerned that there might be 100s over the rest of the swim.
So at 9am we casually got in. Even though we were swimming in the ‘competitive’ wave I was in no rush to get in and join the chaos, so held back and swam easy to the corner of the port, had a short chat with Brian and then off we set… Immediately into loads of jellyfish. 100s, 1000s I don’t know, but they were everywhere. My nightmare became a reality. Then after 2 minutes I got stung. Waaaah. I calmed myself down and plodded on weaving my way through the jellies. You couldn’t draft as that would potentially mean not seeing a jelly approach you, so Brian and I swam side by side.
After about 20 minutes Brian stopped promptly.. Turning on his back, he declared ‘I’ve been stung on my nose’.. His flipping nose. The pain in my hand suddenly seemed insignificant and I had a new worst nightmare. We then concluded our chat about his stung nose with:
Brian: ‘well what can I do?’
me: ‘put your hand up’
(open water swimming code for support vehicles to get you out of water)
Brian: ‘no let’s carry on’
I was gutted. I had seen a way out of this jellyfish soup but he was too hardcore to stop and there was no way I was carrying on without him.. Note to self: stop hanging around with hardcore people. If you would have got out in such situations, please get in contact, you can be my friend as I have had to bin Brian (and Katie – she would have carried on as well!)
We rounded the bottom of the island where it was a lot choppier but jelly free and then ploughed down the other side to the turning buoy in 1:15. I was happy that we were now half way there but was aware that we had to swim back through the 2 mile section now known as jelly soup before we would be home.
The chop increased and had the added bonus of rolling waves, which meant at points it felt like we weren’t even moving. I seriously considered letting my frustration out with a roll onto my back and a shout of ‘you’ve won sea YOU’VE WON’.. dramatic, moi?
Once we were back in the jelly soup we swam slowly and cautiously, weaving our way through the small empty gaps hoping to not get stung again (we did!)
The finishing point was the final challenge as the jellyfish had got trapped in the harbour where we were finishing and I seemed to be one of the only swimmers who didn’t get stung in this section (Charlie took a sting to the face 5 metres from the end). After 2:40 I was back on dry land.. I actually face planted dry land… But doing things stylishly is never my strong point.
At this point the German lady, who had told us of the change of course, told us that swimmers had got out post the start of the race due to the conditions. Suddenly I felt better and me and Brian, with his stung and swollen nose, high fived and said a little “go us”. Suddenly I was super proud of myself (and the others) for having finished. Gone was the emotional fatigue and the small disappointment over the speed/time. I had met my demons head on, literally, and hadn’t got out, despite wanting to. A certain Canadian sportswear brand says do one thing a day that scares you and quite frankly I think I’ve done enough for one year thanks.
The others came in triumphant having finished. Tales of stings started and some even resembled the shape of the stingers, which I know will be boasted about for years to come.
Whilst watching and cheering the other swimmers come in there was suddenly an “amandared” being called to the podium. I had only gone and won the female race.
We made our way back to the Mallorca and then Neda El Mon put on a feast of pica pica, paella and donuts for lunch (€17pp). After a dip back in Sant Elm’s bay (we are obsessed and with the water as beautiful as it is in Mallorca we needed to make the most of it) we debriefed over aperol spritz and more food before getting a well-earned night’s sleep.
Sunday morning we went for a recovery swim to a smaller island off Sant Elm… we can’t help it, sorry, before heading to Cala Illetas to chill out on the beach before out flight home.
Lovely weekend with some great people and as the Barkers say: “it’s all about making the beer taste better”
Thanks Neda el Mon for having us – I’ve already started eyeing up there Prades Suirana swim for next year 😀
Cost: The race cost :€69, which in comparison to 10k races in the UK is an absolute bargain. To get to Mallorca we used EasyJet to Mallorca and despite being half term were incredibly reasonable. We ended up using Hertz for 3 days of hire car which cost €147 and accommodation was €99 per person for the 3 nights based on 2 people sharing.
Organisation: The organisation was good. There are always challenges faced when racing abroad but neda el mon accommodated non Spanish speaking participants by ensuring all communications in the run up to the event were in English as well. Additionally, post the briefing that took place in Spanish, they stuck around to ensure all English speakers questions were answered.
Challenge: The 9.5km swim will always be challenging to most, but with the other potential, not guaranteed, challenges that can arise in sea swimming, the challenge will only increase. They also offer a 3.2km option, which is a great shorter alternative.