Victoria Hamilton’s Channel Swim

2017 Jessica Ma Award Runner Up

It was 8:30am when my phone rang while I was starting my day at work. “Can you get to Dover for 2am Saturday?” “As in tomorrow? No, I can’t get from Pitlochry in that time!”. “oh…. How about Sunday at 2am?”

That was what started the journey that I had been hoping for.  A month earlier I had been sitting at Dover waiting for a chance to swim across a stretch of water to France.  Unfortunately the weather had been awful and no one was getting the chance to swim.  But now here I was having mustered two friends waiting for my pilot to arrive on a dark jetty in the harbour town at 2 in the morning.

I’ve always swam; through school, through university, through work and between countless operations on my CMN.  I was born with a naevus covering most of my back, stomach and the tops of my legs along with numerous satellites.  The swimming pool was actually a really hard place to be for me with staring and whispers behind my back but I just loved the feeling of the water and the freedom it gave me.  I found my home in open water where no one cares what I look like and everyone is treated equally.   I’ve been swimming outdoors for years and after a really fun relay with a bunch of friends, the idea of swimming solo across the English Channel lodged in my head.

And now here I was ready to start.  It wasn’t a great start, the light from my boat was annoying me and I just felt drowsy, probably from the seasickness tablet that I’d taken in panic with the waves before I started.  But a few hours in, my rhythm was back and I was loving the water again.  The sun started to rise over the water and my crew kept me laughing with messages from friends and family.  I gave them laughs as well with my reapplication of suncream mid channel.  It’s hard to know where you are and how far you have to go but the massive ships passing around you give an idea of how small you are and how large the channel is.

15hours and 16minutes after leaving the beach at Samphire How, I landed two feet in France to the applause of bemused dog walkers on the beach at Wissant.  I’d hadn’t originally planned to raise sponsorship during my swim but since it was Caring Matters Now 21st birthday, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.