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Followers of articles in The eBoomer and postings on Facebook would know that at 1am London time on 1st August 2022 Nick Martin, Life Member of the Club, swam across the English Channel. The line-of-sight distance from Dover to France is 34km but can increase markedly depending on tides and weather conditions. Nick’s swim was 48km.
Nick has been a member of Portsea SLSC since completing his Qualifying Certificate (now called SRC) in the late 1970s and patrolled for many years thereafter. Nick recollects that Mike Shepherd was the Chief Instructor that season but that no other members of subsequent notoriety were on that Bronze Camp. Nick became a very capable competitor on malibu and surf ski and gradually improved his swimming skills over time. After a great presence in Open competition culminating in a Gold Medal in the Patrol Competition event at the 1991 SLSA National Titles at Scarborough Beach, Western Australia, Nick then went on to compete in Masters supporting a strong Portsea team. In 1992 he represented Portsea SLSC in the inaugural Uncle Toby’s Ironman Series at Portsea.
I recently interviewed Nick for this article:
Ian. Hi Nick, you have been a strong contributor to Portsea’s presence on our beach, do you recollect a rescue of significance that you performed?
Nick. I jumped into the surf halfway between Hewies and London Bridge to go to the assistance of a man who was in real difficulties. While the IRB was being readied to enter the water, I swam 200 meters out to sea and secured this man and fought to keep him on the surface until the IRB arrived. Tim Hart was the IRB crewman on the day and we successfully hauled him out of the water and into the IRB when he turned back towards me and vomited all over me. Still, a life saved!
Ian. You were on the committee for a number of years, in what roles?
Nick. I was appointed to the position of Junior Club Captain in the early years, and also served on the fundraising committee with Simon Knight. In 1982/83 I was appointed to one of the Vice President roles. In 1983/84 I was Competition Manager, a position I filled until the 1989/90 season and from there I was part of the Portsea Swim Classic team. I was also part of the fundraising team for the recent clubhouse rebuild.
Note: Nick went on to drive the Portsea Swim Classic to be amongst the top mass participation swimming events in Australia
Ian. Enough of your history, what prompted you to attempt the English Channel Crossing?
Nick. During COVID lockdowns swimming at the Portsea Front Beach became a really important activity that kept a number of the Portsea Winter Sharks swimming community engaged and connected. In November 2020 a few of Sharks being PSLSC members thought we’d try swimming 10kms (8½ laps of the Front Beach) – the idea of the Channel swim was born and I upped my training. A shoulder issue that was fixed by surgery in August 2021 kept me out of the water for 3 to 4 months but once back training at Christmas 2021 the Crossing started to firm-up as a do-able challenge.
I was Introduced to a UK based open water marathon swim trainer and with the help of the front beach swimmers and my supporter/feeder, Sally Clapp, I stepped-up my training to aim for a 2022 crossing slot.
Ian. Other than getting the miles up what else was required to prepare you for the swim?
Nick. In short, lots of long swims at Portsea Front Beach, in cold water, windy conditions, choppy water, and in the dark. My longest training swim was 25km – 21 laps of the Front Beach. I submitted my training log to my UK based trainer, and we had regular Teams meetings. I engaged a marathon swimming dietitian who assisted my diet, to prepare for and maximise my recovery from each training session. I had to learn to feed whilst treading water – typically warm fluids to keep my core warm. The aim is to carry a bit of fat during the swim to insulate against the cold and to ensure that fat is expended rather than muscle mass. I put 6kg on in the lead up to the swim and lost it during the swim. In the final weeks it was lots of fine-tuning to have the right sugar and energy levels. I did a lot of mental training to get me into the right mental and emotional state.
Ian. Why did you select The Portsea Camp as benefactor of your swim?
Nick. It was important that the challenge of the Channel Swim had a real purpose, beyond a personal challenge – to create a greater level of responsibility, accountability, consequences and, ultimately, relevance. Supporting an organisation that delivers so many great opportunities to kids of different circumstances, and a local organisation to the Portsea area was the ideal charity to get involved with. The Camp came to Portsea SLSC’s assistance during the clubhouse rebuild so it was a no-brainer. At the time I hit the water at Dover the generosity of fellow swimmers, the PSLSC family, friends, family and supporters resulted in around $70,000 being raised for The Camp. During and after the Swim that amount swelled to over $130,000!
Ian. You have mentioned your training partners and supporters earlier, this focussed training regime must have put a strain on your family? How did they cope?
Nick. I could not have done this without the support of my wife, Julie. She was constantly encouraging, enthusiastic, calming and supportive. The training was hard, really hard – you can’t undertake regular training swims of 5/6/7/8 hours without pre and post training support. So her support over two years was critical. She was also a huge help in the final days prepping in Dover. I I also want to thank friends from BDO, Honan Insurance, KordaMentha, M&A Partners, Mills Oakley Lawyers and Port Phillip Ferries for believing in me.
Ian. How did you feel in the days leading up to the swim?
Nick. During the week leading up to the potential swim date I was excited as I had done the training and had prepared mentally and emotionally. There was no reason I could see that would stop me from completing the swim. I must say that on the day of the swim the conditions were a bit messy but nothing I had not swum in during my training. I believed my training sessions at Portsea were ideal for the actual Channel crossing.
Ian. What employed your mind during the swim?
Nick. Not a lot really, just keep rolling the arms over and keep on going. I got stung by jellyfish, got the shivers and hit some dark places during the swim – you do need to identify them and utilise techniques to deal with them and move on. Hitting the water in Dover at 1am and swimming in the dark for five hours was daunting, but sunrise in the middle of the Channel was pretty special. As hard as it was, it was also important to find moments of enjoyment and ‘Wow’ like seeing enormous cargo ship going past. Knowing and seeing my mate Damien Honan on the pilot boat was re-assuring. He had travelled to Dover just to be a part of the swim – very special.
Ian. What time did you make on the swim?
Nick. I completed the crossing in 11hrs 22 mins but the time was not important to me. Finishing the crossing was the key.
Ian. How did you feel when you came ashore after the swim?
Nick. I felt relieved that I had made it but no monumental jubilation. I guess it was a bit of an out-of-body moment but later I had an immense feeling of achievement and pride in what I had done.
Ian. What is the next challenge?
Nick. To improve my golf performance. The Channel may well be easier than dropping my handicap.
Ian. Thanks for joining in the interview Nick. You now join Portsea Member, Sam Paynter, as successful English Channel conquerors.