Severe Sea Sickness Fails to Stop Super Channel Swimmer Laura

Henley Mermaid Laura Reineke who swam the English Channel last Wednesday in an amazing time of 15 hours and 23 minutes has shared her experience with us.

Laura set off at 2.38am from Samphire Hoe without any sleep with her support crew of fellow Henley Mermaid Joan Fennelly, training partner Lee Saudan and friend Debbie Frazer on the pilot boat. Before entering the water, her support crew covered her in channel grease (mixture of lanolin and Vaseline) to stop any chaffing and applied sun cream to her back.  Laura also took a number of medications to get her through the swim which included antihistamine for jelly fish stings and sea sickness tablets.

Laura said, “When we left the port, it was a dark night and I couldn’t see where the sky or sea finished so I had no point of reference and although the sea wasn’t choppy there was a massive swell which caused me to have sea sickness for the first 3 hours.  I’ve never had sea sickness before and I retched which I had to hide from the crew so they wouldn’t pull me out.  My demon head took over as I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep my food down and I wouldn’t be able to control my body from getting cold, but after I was physically sick I started to feel better.  I couldn’t control at that point what I was feeling and the lack of sleep was the hardest part as this also makes it difficult to control your body.  I then told myself off and pulled myself together and started to think more positively and it helped when the sunrise started around 5.30am and I began to feel better and warmed up after feeling cold and shivering.”

During the swim Laura was fed via feed bottles and pots which were strapped on to a line which were made up of a mixture of things including squash with carb or protein powder.  She also drank milk shakes and water based gels to keep her energy levels up.  Laura commented, “I couldn’t really eat anything apart from a bit of cake which had some medication in and 2 jelly babies that went down well as most of it felt like you had sand in your mouth.” The crew also wrote messages of support received on the WhatsApp group onto a whiteboard so that Laura could read them.  Laura comments, “These were brilliant and really important to keep me positive and to push on.”

Laura has been training with Lee, and Sophie Whitworth who wrote her swimming plan.  Laura said, “My swim stroke throughout was strong and the same rate.  Sophie’s training was bang on.”  Lee joined Laura in the water at around 9 hours to support her through the tide change.  Support swimmers are allowed to swim up to 3 hours in 1 hour shifts with 2 hours between. Laura said, “Lee swum the Channel last year.  We swim and train together but we’re also best mates.  The observer commented that we were the best swimmer and support swimmer he had ever seen as were exactly in time with each other.”

Getting to half way through the separation zone (the safety space between the English and French shipping lanes) went well although the temperature of the water went from hot to cold, hot to cold ranging from 15 to 18 degrees. Laura’s shoulder which was giving her problems before the swim was very painful towards the end but the strengthening work she’d done before had helped her get through the swim.

Lee joined Laura to swim to the beach in France because the safety boat tender which normally accompanies swimmers was broken.  Laura was met by Patrice, a renowned greeter of Channel swimmers who is a swimming coach and Channel Swimmer himself.  Laura commented, “Patrice is well known in the channel swimming world and it was lovely to have a photo with him.”

On hearing her time was 15 hours, 23 minutes, Laura said, “I was really chuffed.  We’re not allowed to be told how far we’ve swum or for how long whilst we’re swimming.  When Lee got in at 9 hours I thought I had been swimming for about 12 hours.  The first 3 hours when I was feeling sick also felt like about 8 hours. Lee did tell me that it was nowhere near 2 x eight hour training swims at the time.”

Since completing the epic swim, Laura has caught up on her sleep and her bad salt tongue has recovered and she’s been celebrating with her family and friends. Her Mum and Dad, 2 of her children and Henley Mermaid Susan and her son came to meet her in Dover after she returned.

What’s next?  Laura has already swum the Bristol Channel and the length of the River Thames with the Henley Mermaids, the North Channel with Mermaid Joan, Robben Island to Cape Town solo.  Laura replies, “Next summer I want to swim under 20 bridges around Manhattan Island!”

Laura was swimming to raise money for The Henley Community hub, the refurbishment of Trinity Hall on Harpsden Road into a permanent base for Henley Music School. So far Henley Mermaids have £5,000 for this cause.  You can donate via https://www.gofundme.com/f/henley-community-hub-henley-mermaids

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