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We did it!

Photo by Thomas Voller

‘A bad rehearsal is a sign for a good performance’ – so goes the saying, as my friend and photographer Thomas Voller reminded me the day before my crossing. And indeed – the last 12 months of preparation had been quite a challenge, with my herniated neck discs, my jaw surgery and a severe strain in my back muscles (that chose to recur only a few days before my swim ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ). Moreover, the weather has been a catastrophe in Denmark this year, with July not having a single official summer day for the first time in 38 years.

My confidence and my hopes were at their lowest. I kept considering cancelling my crossing every second minute. So those last few months, my team had had their work cut out for them, making sure to keep me going. Right until the very morning of my swim when we left home at 3:00 in the morning and the battery of one of our cars died 10 minutes later; right until we arrived in Rรธdby and the pilot was sad to announce I would have the currents against me all the way; right until the end, my team never lost faith. And they were right – when I set off on my swim around 5:30 am on 1st August 2017, the spell was finally broken.

Photo by Thomas Voller

This year’s crossing between Denmark and Germany (“Beltquerung”) is the most undramatic swim I’ve ever had so far. The water temperature was 16.6 ยฐC (and even reached 18 ยฐC at some point โ˜€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜Ž). There was barely any wind. It was rather cloudy, but the special light made the sea shine like quicksilver. And we even had a few hours of sunshine. The conditions were perfect.

Photo by Thomas Voller

The only challenging factor was the head currents of 0.5-0.75 knob. I was supposed to swim from Germany to Denmark this year, but for some cryptic reasons, the captain decided to change direction the night before, exposing me to the continuous, but stable currents. I felt rather frustrated at first. Of all the scenarios I had been practicing mentally and physically with my trainer Susanne, this was definitely not one of them! At around 5-7 km, I had almost lost my spirit. My strained back muscles were aching and I felt I was going nowhere. But as my team pointed out, I couldn’t dream of a better day to swim. I had no choice but to accept the situation and keep my mind at peace. If I could maintain a steady pace all the way, we knew I had a chance to make it. Slowly but surely. One stroke at a time.

Photo by Thomas Voller

All in all, we had the smoothest crossing ever. Britta sat at the front, keeping an eye on my flow and technique while helping the pilot to keep pace with me. During my first feeding an hour into the swim, we realized how quickly I was drifting away, so we decided to keep my feeding breaks around 20-30 seconds. No time to pee or chat, but thanks to our whiteboard I received all kinds of encouraging comments from family, friends and my amazing Formel76 members. Besides, my team was extremely creative and found a thousand ways to support me along the way, including some pretty hot (and hairy) mooning! ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜‚

 

I reached Germany after 9 hours and 55 minutes. I don’t know the exact distance I ended up swimming. The official swim route is 21 statute kilometres and that’s the only valid distance. The actual swim track doesn’t matter. According to the rules, only the swim route is recognized by the Marathon Swimmers Federation. As Evan Morrison says, you donโ€™t get to take credit for going off-route. But I wish… ๐Ÿ˜œ

Interestingly, the most touching moment for me was not when I cleared the water and Ursula, one of the event organizers, greeted me officially as the first Belgian to cross the Fehmarn Belt. Don’t get me wrong – I did feel honoured and I was all over the moon. But the most touching moment for me was when I saw my team take on their wetsuits on the boat and get ready to swim the last 500 m with me. This is when the magic happened for me. I knew we had done it. Three years of intensive work had finally paid off and I got to share the very last minutes with them. Swimming ashore with my team literally covering my back until the very last drop of water, I’d never felt so happy and privileged. Love is everything.

Photo by Thomas Voller

After this successful swim, my passion for open water swimming is more alive than ever. I’m ready for so much more! When, how and where – I don’t know yet. At the moment, I’m recovering together with my family and friends and I’m enjoying the fact that I don’t have any specific plans for the nearest future. It’s great to feel free again.

My next step will be to find a date for my English Channel crossing, but I think I’ll wait a bit before making any decision. Right now, it’s not about me anymore. It’s all about the ones I love and care for and about the sweetest reward of all – a Dalmatian puppy that will move in with us tomorrow. From now on, you can call me Cruella De Vil of the Seven Seas! ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

(See below for more pictures and video from Thomas Voller โ˜€๏ธ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿ›ฅ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ)

 

Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller


Photo by Thomas Voller

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Categories: Latest News, Must-Reads

3 replies »

  1. Dear Francois

    What an inspiring reading of your success. Congratulations to you and your wonderful supporting Team. Enjoy your achievement with your dear and loved onesโค๏ธ

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