Just over three years after Meghan Chisholm became the first Saskatchewan swimmer to cross the English Channel, she is poised to make another trip across the world’s busiest seaway. But unlike her first solo Channel crossing, Chisholm will be part of a three-person relay team who will attempt to make the 34-kilometre crossing from England to France.
Chisholm, now 22, successfully completed her 2014 swim in 14 hours and 39 minutes.
“When I went there three years ago I had asked other swimmers from around the world how they trained. They all said that first they did a relay and they did some sort of open water endurance challenge before they attempted the solo swim. I thought I was getting too ahead of myself and did the solo,” she explained. “I ended up looking at the relay versus solo swims and it is a totally different experience and I thought it would be fun with the team and people that I grew up swimming with, if they wanted to go into the open water swimming, they could get a feel of how the relay is. I thought that it would be fun and I love swimming across the ocean.”
Chisholm will be joined this time around by Vaughn Golden and Erin Hilts. They will swim in one-hour increments with Hilts set to swim the opening leg, Chisholm slated to swim second, and Golden scheduled third.
“I am getting excited. I have been waiting for so long. I have never actually swam in the ocean before, besides just kind of relaxing in Mexico, so this will be a completely different experience,” said Golden, 21.
“I think the closer it gets the more nervous I get,” added Hilts, 22. “At first it was just excitement, I wasn’t nervous at all. Now that it is a week away it’s, ‘Oh am I ready for this?’ Everybody keeps asking am I ready and it’s hard to answer that because I don’t think you can ever be ready for a swim like this. You just have to take it full throttle and go in with your whole heart. We have worked hard, so I think that we will be ready when the time comes.”
The trio were set to depart for England on July 26. Their window for the crossing is slated for July 29 – August 5 and they are the fourth group scheduled to make the journey over that period.
The group have been busy preparing for their relay attempt and all three were in the water at Fairview Pool on July 18.
“We have kind of all been doing different things because our schedules are so different. We swim as much as we can, try and swim every day if we can and do some stuff at home as well, exercising at home and going to the gym. Your eating patterns are obviously going to change just so you can have that endurance build up for the swim,” explained Hilts, who was a teammate of Chisholm with the Swift Current Stingrays Swim Club growing up.
“I have done a lot more than just swimming. I have been biking and a little bit of running. I try to get in the water as much as I can though,” added Golden, who swam with the Barracudas Swim Club as a youth.
Hilts and Golden both have the benefit of learning from Chisholm’s successful attempt three years ago.
“That swim, a lot of things went wrong and a lot of things went right. Things that went wrong were I got nauseous and seasick in the water and then out of the water after the swim. I got discouraged at the end when the current wasn’t going my way at the very end and I had to be not only physically focused, but mentally focused as well. The things that went right was my swim cap didn’t get off my head, my goggles didn’t fog up once, I didn’t swallow any salt water, didn’t get any salt water in my goggles, which was awesome,” explained Chisholm.
One of the obstacles Chisholm overcame in 2014 was an encounter with a swarm of jellyfish and she was eventually stung during her swim.
“Jellyfish, I don’t really want to be stung by them, but I don’t think it is going to be avoidable,” conceded Golden. “That and the huge body of water. The English Chanel is the busiest shipping lane in the world. It will literally be like playing Frogger.”
Hiltz laughed that she was also concerned about the jellyfish. “I always joke that I hope it isn’t during my hour because we swim in hour increments. I don’t wish that on anybody. I hope that we can have a clean swim with no bites or stings from any creatures out there.”
“What I definitely took away from that first swim was the mental capacity and mental concentration,” added Chisholm. “We all are physically fit, but are we mentally?”