If at first you don’t succeed……….. Barry Feyder and I first conceived the idea of swimming from Palm Beach to Manly after completing the Lake Argyle 20 km swim in 2013 and a Bondi to Manly 14km swim in 2014. We swam both of these highly enjoyable events as a duo relay. When I suggested the swim to Barry late in 2014 it seemed a logical progression for both of us. He agreed but from then on it went pear-shaped.
Originally slated for March 2015, the event was postponed as I broke my leg, in Janaury. Various other ailments plagued us through the latter part of 2015, including a painful ulna nerve problem for Barry and cervical spine problems for me, possibly brought on by the training. An attempt in late Spring 2015 was abandoned. When finally we were set to go in March 2016 I developed a bad rotator cuff and Barry a sudden blood disorder. Hey, it wouldn’t be the Balmoral Beach Club unless people had ailments to share.
But finally on Friday April 29, 2016 we decided it was time to go. Palm Beach that Friday morning was an exhilarating moment for me. By tradition long-distance ocean swimming begins with your best swimmer off first. This certainly did not happen on this occasion as Barry very graciously offered me the chance to leave Palm Beach to open the batting. There was a gentle one metre swell rolling over the bar at Palmy with the beach deserted except for myself and some stalwart BBC members Adriana Feyder, Christine Beard and Brian Davidson. Brian and Christine are also directors of the Pain Management Research Institute, the charity we had chosen to support with the swim.
As I headed round the point, Alex Korjavine, our kayak paddler loomed up out of a blazing sunrise. Alex is our indispensable, go-to guy at the BBC when we need help. Long Reef appeared a long way south through the dawn sea haze.
“It’s going to be a long day,” I thought. I was encouraged by the gentle nor- nor easterly swell and the following breeze and the conditions certainly were benign.
We had decided on a plan for the swim that we had never tried before – one-hour legs. Usually it is half an hour or 20 minutes and this can be tough as recovery time in the boat is often frantic. We planned that each of us would swim two one hour legs, at the beginning of the journey.
The morning wore on and the swim unrolled as they often do as the rhythm of getting in and out of the water is established along with the on-board chores of hydration, electrolytes, food and energy gels. Our coach, Charm Friend, who had been with the journey since its beginning, was unfortunately unavailable but we had great assistance from another BBC supporter in Denise Elder. Denise was a constantly cheery presence on the boat and made sure that we were well looked after and passed messages back and forth between Barry and I.
“I thought the swim was very enjoyable and free of stress,” Barry said afterwards.
“Denise was very cheerful on the boat and I never felt any pressure. The boat skipper Alex Lefterescu was terrific. He took a good line, although it was much further off shore than we intended, mainly to get the boat safely around long Reef which sticks a long way out into the ocean,” Barry added.
Barry and I thought we might not be able to finish the due to our health issues, so we had Barry’s friend Robert Suares join us as a back-up swimmer. Fortunately, we didn’t need to call on Robert for help.
“Kieran was very worried about his shoulder, which he injured during our training and had doubts he would make the distance, but swam strongly the whole way.”
The turning point for me was my swim down to Long Reef. After that we seem to fly into Manly aided by the swell, which was picking up and the wind, which was now directly behind us. The skipper was an expert in handling the boat and giving guidance to Alex on the kayak. This sort of event should never be attempted unless the people involved know exactly what they are doing. No matter how hard the swimmers train, the event will fall apart without an experienced support group.
Finally, we pulled into Shelly Beach at 2:10 PM. A swim that was expected to take at least 10 hours ended up taking us 7h 25m. Personally, I was touched that when we stood up at Shelly Beach we were greeted by fellow BBC club members including English Channel swimmer Duncan Adams, Charm Friend, Brian Davidson, Tim Burnett and Shaan and Geoff Verco representing the Pain Management Research Institute.
We were joined at Manly Wine bar shortly afterwards for a wind down attended by BBC president Rob Johnson and a host of well-wishers, including Chris Webb, David Healy, Ron Wilson, John and Eve Bagnall. Mark Simkins, Heather Kent, Jan and Rowan Davies and Marg Carney. The ever-supportive Ian MacNamara and Lee Kelly from the ABC’s Australia All Over also turned up to wish us well.
Barry and I would like to thank our terrific support group, Charm, Denise, Alex Korjavine, Robert Suares, Adriana Feyder, Brian Davidson and Christine Beard. We could not have done this without your help.
At 24.5 kms, the route was considerably shorter than expected mainly due to the very direct line taken by the boat. It took us 7h 25m – which is 18mins per kilometre or 3.3km per hour. Water temperature was a relatively balmy 21°C. Alex paddled the whole way without a break – legend!