Sarah’s Big Swim – Part 2: Australia is hot


It has been a hot dry summer, like when we were kids.


But yesterday was the autumn Equinox, the traditional time for updating the progress of swimmers planning to traverse the English Channel during the northern summer. It’s the time when the notion of the FLW really starts to hit home and those who’ve taken up the challenge need to push through all the emotions associated with concepts like self-awareness, dodgy life decision-making and failure to offer variety in school lunches.


Sarah Wapling has never told me where she was when a voice in her head said, “I am going to swim the English Channel,” nor has she mentioned what she was doing at the time. There is a (traditional) time for that too. I’ll keep you informed.


But here’s what Sarah’s been up to over the last month.


In late February, Sarah entered the Cerberus event at Half Moon Bay. She had to go in the sprint because she’d had too much red wine the night before it fitted in perfectly with her training regime. The sprint was 1.2km. She secured a place on the podium but felt a little light-headed while up there.


The first week of March was a recovery week. One in every four weeks Sarah needs to recover by swimming just 20km. She managed 6km. She met her target. While, it appears to me that this was a particularly successful recovery week, her coach Trent Grimsey didn’t see it that way. Apparently, though, she had an undiagnosed case of what sports medicos call the CBFs.


During the second week of March, Sarah got through a six-hour swim at the Prahran pool. She was encouraged by Harry’s Flounders, a swimming group based up the road at the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool. For those who don’t live in Melbourne, this is not a made up name.



These are the exceptional swimmers who make up Harry’s Flounders:




Trent Grimsey flew down to Melbourne on the Labour Day weekend to monitor Sarah’s red wine consumption attend The International Marathon Swimmers’ Hall of Fame Dinner. Trent holds the record for crossing the English Channel in the shortest time. That Sunday Sarah swam in the Mentone Marathon which attracted hundreds of swimmers and thousands of blue blubber jelly fish.


This is what a blue blubber jellyfish welt looks like on Sarah’s leg:




Because of the proliferation of jellyfish, Sarah headed Up North to the Sunshine Coast where she did an 8km ocean swim in such magnificent conditions someone said they saw Brooke Shields coming out of the water.


(That’s Sarah in the shot. More on Sarah’s new technique soon.) The water might have been beautiful but Sarah came face to face with a sea snake, a turtle, a shovel nose ray, another stingray the size of a Persian carpet, a gazillion fish and a few surfers. The tiger shark which lives off the head of Granite Bay kept its distance. Sam Penny, who clearly has an affinity with wildlife, organised the swim. He is crazier than Sarah. He’s doing a double Channel crossing this July.




I asked Sarah to explain to me how she thought swimming in the 26 degree water of the Queensland tropics was in any way helpful when preparing for the Channel which is at about 16 degrees in July, but she assured me that she’d addressed the temperature discrepancy by throwing the ice from her gin and tonic into the Pacific shortly before diving in.


This is a gin and tonic:



We will hear more of Sarah’s cold water preparation in the weeks to come.


And we may hear Sarah on Macca just before 6am this Sunday morning.


If you didn’t read the first instalment of the story this epic adventure here it is.


Sarah’s Big Swim – Part 1: This is Sarah


Read more pieces by John Harms HERE – including his recent tribute to Les Carlyon.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Good on you Sarah, you’re an inspiration to us all!

Leave a Comment