On Monday 2nd of October I took part in a unique race, swimming to Burgh Island in South Devon with friend and double World Champ Keri-anne Payne against the new Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV. Why? Because it seemed more exciting than swimming another 30km in a swimming pool is the honest answer. But the challenge also gave me an opportunity to learn about waves, weather and to swim in the worst conditions the Devon coastline could throw at me. All as I prepare to swim 40km from Martinique to St Lucia in November, pulling a 100-lbs tree.
Was this an odd way to spend a Monday? Most definitely! Was it a valuable training session? Absolutely. Which is why I wanted to write this blog post to detail the wave-based wisdom I acquired and why I want the new Range Rover Sport as my support car on future swims.
THE STAGE IS SET
Devon’s coastline is stunning. Home to rugged cliff faces, lush hillsides and some of the best ice cream in Britain. I have many fond memories set among the sandy beaches, medieval towns and moorland national parks. But on a blustery autumnal Monday morning I couldn’t appreciate any of this, because I was preoccupied getting hit in the face (repeatedly) by 3-ft waves that were making my usual 1km swim feel like more like a wrestling match. Yes, I’ve completed many an open water swim before, but the lakes of Cumbria and Loch’s of Scotland have nothing to rival the crashing waves of seawater that contorted my limbs as I tried to swim.
ROVER LAND AND SEA
In essence, Keri-anne and I were taking part in a Top Gear-style challenge, swimming a direct route across the sea to Burgh Island, while the Range Rover Sport PHEV took a longer inland route – culminating with a crossing of the causeway that links Burgh Island to Bigbury Beach as the tide swept in.
THE RACE IS ON
Taking off to a sprint start we decided against all pacing strategies and instead went out hard from the very beginning. With no way of knowing how fast (or slow) the Range Rover Sport was travelling along the winding Devon roads, we decided the best option was to blindly (and optimistically) battle the waves, establish (what we hoped) was a lead and get to a point where we could see the beach at Burgh Island as quickly as possible.
As we approached the shore we could see the bottom of the seabed and knew within another 100m we would be able to stand and sprint to the finish. It was at this point we both took another look at the Range-Rover-less coastline and put our heads down to achieve what we thought was a victory for the swimming community. Unfortunately Land Rover engineers had other ideas. Transitioning from the road to the beach and to the sea, the new Range Rover Sport didn’t even break stride as it left the tarmac and began wading through the water. How close was the finish? Take a look at the video to see for yourself…
THE LESSONS LEARNT
So what did I learn about open water swimming in rough water? Firstly “rough water” is a pretty broad description that varies according to wind direction and swim direction. Big swell with no wind will not produce rough water, where no swell and wind will. Rough water is a product of wind, usually onshore or cross-shore, and often caused by that much-disliked (by open water swimmers, anyway) phenomenon of wind-against-tide. Swimming into head-on wind is different to following wind and different again from a crosswind.
But it was the former we experienced in Devon that day.
HEAD ON WIND
Head-on wind is both tiring and potentially injurious and will slow you down. It will also affect the normal balance of a stroke, with the effect of making the stroke shorter. With asymmetric short period waves, there will be no discernible pattern of waves to the swimmer. Sometimes having cleared one wave, you will crash immediately into another. Repeated impact across the head and shoulders can be the main problem. Also, the timing for sighting and breathing is changed.
More specifically, you need to learn to adjust your stroke. In head-on chop I drop my head lower than normal, and make a point of keeping low and maintaining rotation (difficult in the circumstances) to go partially under some of the chop and small wavelets, which minimises the impacts. Other swimmers may have different techniques. As with all open water, try to separate your breathing from your sighting. In head on chop, as soon as you sight, you may have a sudden wave directly in front of you. Try to time your sighting from the top of a wave.
ABOUT THE RANGE ROVER
The Range Rover Sport is available for the first time with an advanced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain. It gives the P400e version an EV range of 51km, combined fuel consumption of 101mpg and CO2 emissions of 64g/km. The Range Rover Sport P400e is the first model to use Land Rover’s advanced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology, combining an 85kW (116PS) electric motor and a 2.0-litre Si4 300PS (221kW) Ingenium petrol engine to produce 404PS (297kW) and 640Nm of torque. For more information visit: www.landrover.com