The weather forecast for Studland Bay that morning was for a calm start, getting windy later. In the event, the wind turned up a bit earlier than expected and made things a bit interesting out there. To quote my friend Alice, of A Lotus Rises, the sea developed a nice bit of personality. I have to say, I do very much like this way of describing it. It has a playful, accepting air which seems far preferable to getting upset because the sea isn’t the way you think it should be, which was partly my reaction to getting onto the second lap and finding that it was quite a bit rougher than the first.
Well, I say “rougher”; “rougher” is a bit of a misnomer, actually, since the sea was by no means rough and certainly at the lower end of the roughness you might experience in sea swims. However, with my limited experience it felt quite rough enough. The swell and current was still there but it had been joined by a frisky bit of chop which was Dad dancing in a completely different rhythm and style to everything else. The first leg wasn’t too bad, but I knew that on the more exposed second leg swimming into the tide and wind it would be harder, and I was right.
The second leg was pretty much like swimming into the swell at Burgh Island had been, only for longer. The chop was coming straight into my face, and whilst this had the advantage of giving me something to dig into and swim against, it didn’t feel like exactly fun, especially when a large lump of very salty water dumped itself down my throat, as happened twice in the course of the next kilometre. At first I got a bit panicky and wondered if I could actually do it; the next buoy seemed very far away, and it was only the first of two along the back straight – I had another buoy to swim to before things improved.
Fortunately, I could very much do it, and once I realised this I buckled down and got on with it. I still didn’t enjoy it, but I was swimming and making steady progress. And in addition, a sort of orneriness got into me – I decided that this stupid sea wasn’t going to beat me, not even when it tipped salt water down my throat. ESPECIALLY when it tipped salt water down my throat!
I passed the second buoy, then the third. By this time I was devoutly thankful that the race was only 3.8 kilometres and that I didn’t have to go round again. And once I passed the third buoy it was easy – I was swimming with the swell and the wind onto the shore to finish the race. For a while I was swimming with another woman who was swimming skins, and I was all prepared to let her go first into the finish funnel, on the basis that skins take precedence over suits in the same way that sail takes precedence over steam at sea. However, as we approached the finish she sped up and swam away from me. I’m normally quite competitive, but the sea had knocked the competition out of me; I was fed up with fighting it, and as I far as I was concerned, if she wanted to be first, she was welcome.