Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bangla Channel 2012: 3h46m single crossing, double crossing attempt aborted

Back from Teknaf and the Bangla Channel Swim. Managed a single crossing in 3 hours and 46 minutes. Piloting by my Taratari Shipyard crew (Thibault, Alexandra and Mr. Roy) and their Sampan boat was perfect, the weather sunny and not too much wind. Four swimmers: Lipton Sarker, Everest climber Musa Ibrahim accompanied by cameraman Moniruz Zaman, and I set out at appr. 7:00 am, watched from the Teknaf fishing jetty by local people, including a number of women in burkas. The other three all did 'snorkeling swims', i.e. in snorkeling gear including fins. Looks not very helpful to me, but Lipton has crossed the Channel this way already 6 times.

The first two hours were fine and fast, helped by the outgoing tide. It started to get difficult and more tiring already in the third hour, much earlier than I expected. It didn't get much better in the fourth hour, and it turned out that the water was teeming with 'stingers', invisible little jellyfish that feel like a thousend pinpricks, like rolling your face in nettles!  I was relieved to arrive at the beach on St. Martin's Island, where I was received by Hamid the race organiser, press including two TV-crews (!), and a crowd of onlooking locals. I still wanted to make the attempt for the double so I didn't linger: applied some fresh grease and sunscreen, gave one - not very coherent - reply to a TV crew, and was off again. I don't think my arrival was all that impressive: I was quite tired and came onto the beack stumbling.

The attempt at a double crossing had to be given up: just off St. Martin's Island we got caught in a countercurrent combined with a headwind and rougher sea. For 1.5 hours I felt like a hamster in a treadmill as the island seemed to remain exactly where it was beside me, instead of disappearing behind me. While I could have continued swimming for a few more hours to see if I could get out of the current, or for the current to turn, I realised that after that I would still need another 4-5 hours to get back to the mainland. That seemed a tall order in view of the modest volumes of training I had had in the past couple of months and last week's short but nasty bout of stomach flu, which had sensibly undermined my reserves. So I called it quits five and a half hours into the swim while I still felt reasonably well and lucid. On our way back we almost lost the way on an ever rougher sea and were joking that we would land in Birma and spend time in a prison cell...
Lipton arrived at St. Martin's Island after 5 hours and 10 minutes, and also turned around for the double. But he must have swum into the same current as I and aborted his double crossing attempt shortly after me. Musa and Monir arrived at the island both after more than 8 hours - on our return to the mainland we saw them swim and they looked utterly spent - bravo for finishing!

I can't help but feel a little disappointed: this is the first time I do not (fully) finish a swim I had set my mind on, but I am quite sure it was a sensible thing to do. I spoke to Lipton over the phone and he wants us to try the double again next year. We'll see - insh'Allah.

There were a lot of photo and film journalists active, but I haven't seen a single photo or any footage online so far. Will try to post some as soon as I find them.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Milko!
    You swam a fast time on the first crossing, maybe the little jelly-fisches gave you that extra motivation to reach shore asap. A pity that the tide was against you, but what to do. Cannot fight nature! Trust you enjoyed the swim and hope to join you next year. Am looking forward to some pics! Tobias,