Mid December I got caught at a weak moment by Anna Tredant, herself a marathon runner, asking if I would like a place with Variety, in this years Virgin London Marathon.....and I said YES!!!!! 2 days later - after a hard gym training session, I ended up with a horrendous chest infection which prevented me doing any training at all - until January 16th 2011! NIGHTMARE!!!!
Having always been a swimmer - and never a runner, this was always going to be the biggest challenge I was to ever undertake.
Therefore I needed as much time and sensible training as possible.....
Sally puts the 'long' in long distance swimming . . .
The long and rather moist salt laden road that leads swimmers from around the world to initially contemplate and for many to undertake a crossing from England to France, or reverse, started for 18 year old Sally Minty on 18th August 1975. One hundred years previously at 12.56pm on August 24th Capt Matthew Webb, a 27 year old Merchant Navy officer had struck out from The Admiralty Pier which forms part of the western entrance of Dover harbour for his second attempt to become the first man in history to cross the Channel unaided, apart from his fortification of ‘beef tea, hot coffee and a little old ale’. He had come ashore on Calais Sands at 10.41am on Wednesday 25th August 1875 after 21 ¾ hours of swimming. His famous epitaph which brings the faithful to Dover in pursuit of his and their common dream rings as true today as it did then ‘Nothing Great is Easy!’
During the summer of that year one hundred years later The British Long Distance Swimming Association, the governing body of open water swimming events in Britain put together a mass entry relay of thirteen teams to compete in the swim from Wissant beach to the east of Cap Gris Nez in France and its closest point in England, Shakespeare Beach, west of Dover. Among the teams competing were a team of youngsters from the Channel Island of Jersey whose average age barely rose above fifteen. Swimmers from America and Egypt vied for success amongst relay teams from the British Isles.
The Jersey team swam to a very creditable third place, in a time of 9hrs 50mins. From among that team emerged four future Channel swimmers; Linda Devereux, Jane Luscombe, Robert de St Paer and Sally Minty. Following the relay Sally and Linda were back across the Straits within a fortnight. Linda clocking up 12hrs 5min and Sally who swam a day earlier in 11hrs 57min. Robert was to wait a full twelve month before he recorded 12hrs 7 min with Jane holding back for yet a further two years before recording the fastest time of the four in 11hrs 53min. All four returning quite remarkable times for such young swimmers. Their collective coach Maurice Lakeman a Physical Education teacher on Jersey must take much of the credit along with Sally’s father Leslie, a swimming teacher and sportsman of the highest calibre who had represented the Island at football, cricket, swimming, waterpolo and tennis.
In 1966 Denize Le Pennec from Jersey had become the first Channel Islander to swim the Channel. In a remarkable show of determination and courage she swam without goggles, breast-stroke for 20 hours 50 minutes from France to the most westerly landing ever recorded at Dymchurch. Denize had been coached by Maurice Lakeman and wrote her personal achievement not only the history books but a chapter in Channel Island’s sports which will never be erased. From her swim grew the formation of The Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club. It has grown to be recognised world wide as a spectacularly successful club, with a record of 23 Channel crossings by 18 swimmers to date as the most successful club per capita of the 85000 inhabitants of the small nine by five mile Island.
Sally was born in the Belgian Congo on 16th July 1957 where her father was the manager of a rubber plantation working for Unilever. Almost before she could walk Sally was learning to swim alongside elder brother Chris in a home made canvas lined ‘pool’ devised by father Leslie, deep in the Congolese jungle. A small elephant and a colourful parrot stood out from a small menagerie of family pets. She emerged to return to Jersey with the family when the unpleasantness of civil war erupted. Jersey at that time had no indoor pool and the Minty family swam in sea pools and off beaches where her skill was honed. As a teenager she became a very successful competitor with the Jersey Swimming Club, racking up records some of which have survived until recent times. Built to stand the rigours of wind and ocean swell she became a natural open water swimmer and thus began her long career at sea.