Tom Chapman - Bristol Channel
Porthcawl to Glenthorne
26.2 km (16.3 miles)
11 hours, 57 minutes on 16 September 2021
Observed and documented by Ros Edmonds
- Name: Tom Chapman
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 39
- Nationality: British
- Resides: Porthcawl, Wales
- Colin Hughes - support crew
Ros was a judge 1 at Swim Wales indoor meets in 2015/16 adjudicating level 1,2 and 3. She also did an open water official course and adjudicated at the Swim Wales open water Championships in 2017.
Ros is a prolific athlete and swimmer, having completed 6 Ironmans, many marathon swims, several ice events, completed two English Channel Relays, several events like the Humdinger 6 hour swim and infinity’s ‘hit the wall’ camp as well as the Guildford 24 miler. Her most notable solo swim is a two way Windemere (BLDSA ratified).
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (Oddballs brief), hat, goggles.
- Body of Water: Bristol Channel
- Route Type: one-way channel swim
- Start Location: Sandy Bay, Porthcawl, Wales (51.476206, -3.695077)
- Finish Location: Glenthorne, Devon, England (51.237124, -3.748071)
- Minimum Route Distance: 26.2 km (16.3 miles) (map)
LongSwimsDB: Bristol Channel.
- Start: 16 September 2021, 08:31 (British Summer Time, Europe/London, UTC1).
- Finish: 16 September 2021, 20:28
- Elapsed: 11 hours, 57 minutes.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (C)||16.2||16.9|
|Air Temp (C)||14.6||19.3|
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Feed on 250mls of maltodextrin and fructose with fruit squash, first feed on 1.5 hours, subsequent feeds after 45mins.
by Ros Edmonds
All feeds liquid: 250ml of CNP Maltodextrin powder mixed with fructose, water, and fruit squash, warmed for each feed.
Tom Chapman’s goal was to swim from Porthcawl, Bridgend, Wales, UK, across the Bristol Channel to Glenthorne Cove, Devon, England, UK.
The feeding plan was to liquid feed only, on 250ml of maltodextrin powder mixed with water and fruit squash supplemented with fructose on each feed. The first feed after 90 minutes, then every forty-five minutes until the end of the swim. Some solid food was on the boat should he need it. In the event the feeding was exactly as planned, all liquid, no solids. Both a stopwatch and a Garmin watch on the boat were started to record both the time and the track of the swim.
He started from the beach at 08:30 at Sandy Bay Porthcawl, he swam from the boat to the beach approximately 300 metres, to start. In the shelter of the bay, it was relatively calm, but that soon changed as a westerly wind began to pick up which remained all day.
His swimming was consistent throughout, he navigated a few large patches of seaweed after the first few hours. The wind gradually increased through out the day and Tom was constantly buffeted around by the swell and breaking waves. Despite this his swimming was always strong. Feeds were normally quick, however at times it was difficult to keep Tom close to the boat with the wind and tide. Tom was also concerned about going the correct direction and was obviously quite worried at times as he would question the pilot at some feed stops.
In the latter part of the swim, it was difficult to keep the boat straight with the westerly wind. The boat was to the east of the swimmer, the Pilot was concerned that if the boat went the other side, it could get blown on to the swimmer. Towards the end of the swim when the light was fading and the wind calmer due to the shelter of Foreland Point, we did change sides. The final push was the smoothest water since leaving Porthcawl that morning.
The landing was tricky in the dark, onto boulders at the bottom of the cliff. Fortunately, with the calmer sea it was possible for Tom to navigate the rocks and climb out onto them aided by the light from the boat.
In summary a strong swim in difficult conditions. Tom returned to the boat fresh and only complaining of a painful throat due to the saltwater.
by Tom Chapman
What inspired you to do this swim?
Ive lived in Porthcawl for the last ten years, swum the English Channel and have been planning on swimming the Bristol Channel for the last few years. Last year I observed a swim For Kamil Resa going the other way on this route, this was the first swim for many many years, that kickstarted my plans!
I wanted to swim all four previously swum routes across in one season. The first two swims, Penarth to Weston and Penarth to Clevedon where fairly straightforward. This swim, is very difficult. I was trying to replicate Kevin Murphy and Ted Keenans swims from the 70’s, they swam from Glenthorne just inside Devon to Porthcawl to BLDSA rules which means you need to land within 800m!
Please describe how you planned for the swim.
The tide at Porthcawl runs almost NW to SE due to the shape of the coast and with the second highest tidal range in the world, it runs very quickly!! You need to be in the right place when the tide turns to catch the run to Porthcawl. I first attempted the swim 6 weeks ago back in July but the boat essentially took me up and back down the channel rather than across it so after 8 hours, I was no where near catching the tide and would not have made Porthcawl, so I abandoned. Fast forward to September and the 16^th^ was the first chance I got after the first attempt. This time I opted to go North to South, this means it’s a lot less critical where you are when the tide turns and just by swimming South I should always be able to land as the tide runs due E-W on the Devon side.
How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?
In the time between the first attempt and the second, I did very little training as I needed to recover from the first swim and was also constantly on standby. When I finally got the slot, I had a small doubt in my mind I was capable of swimming for 12 hours but as soon as I got in the water, that went totally out of my mind! Almost straight after leaving Porthcawl the wind started to get up. It wasn’t bad but the sea was a little bit choppy and I could feel myself being pushed around.
The first two feeds I didn’t seem to be making any progress down the coast, it looked to me I was still directly out from Ogmore by Sea. On the third or fourth feed I could see Witches point at Southern Down and the cliffs of Monk Nash where Kamil landed so I knew the tide was starting to push HARD!
A few more feeds and I could see the lighthouse of Nash Point behind me. I knew now it was 10 or so miles of open sea to the other side. I expected the boat to push me due south which would probably land us in Somerset. As it was the wind was starting to get up and the boat was really starting to struggle holding a position next to me. One driver was pointing it due south, the wind blew the bow away, they would drift off 50 feet then motor back. The second driver was pointing the nose 45 degrees into the wind.
I settled for picking a spot on England I thought was the closest and just keeping the sun at the same. I had a few chats with the boat on feeds but they told me to carry on doing what I was doing. As I started to get to Devon, the wind seemed to get stronger and the sun started to go in, and then to go down. Navigating was becoming harder and harder. I was told there was 4.5 miles to go which should have been about 2 hours…but 7 (45 minute) feeds later I was still 2 miles out! As the sun went down the boat finally came along side me and started pushing my direction. It felt to me like they were trying to direct me back up the channel but the track shows we were now going straight in as a pose to swimming down the channel, I should have been going this way all along!!
As night fell the water flattened out as I came into the shadow of Foreland point and finally the boat left me to swim in. I landed in a large boulder field, picking a line between some large boulders and just about managing to climb out and clear the water after 11 hours and 57 minutes.
I never intended this swim to be a point to point, landing at Glenthorne, I just wanted to get across but the difficulty in navigating with the wind meant I got in just past Glenthorne house! Finally, the swim I had been planning for the last few years was done.
I live in Porthcawl and now everytime I look out to see, on a clear day I can see the lighthouse on Foreland Point. There. That’s where I swam to! Third Bristol Channel swim complete!
Click to enlarge.