17 Sep 2014Sri Chinmoy Golden Jubilee-Relay
The Sri Chinmoy Golden Jubilee Relay swam to France in 16 hours and 34 minutes
Sri Chinmoy Golden Jubilee-Relay
4-person relay, September 17th, 2014, time 16hrs, 34 mins, Swimmers: Abhejali Bernardova (CZ), Jayalata Dadkovikova (CZ), Harita Davies (NZ), Ritadyumna Tobolka (CZ)
by Harita Davies, New Zealand
I felt extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of a 4-person New Zealand/Czech relay swim of the English Channel. We wanted to swim in honour of our team founder Sri Chinmoy’s 50 years of inspiration and peace service after his coming to the West in 1964, and so we called our swim the “Sri Chinmoy Golden Jubilee Relay”.
In the Dover swimming community the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is quite well known since the 80ies for our solo and multiple Channel swimmers like Vasanti, Vedika, Vijaya, Karteek and others. It was a great honour to be connected to these champions and to the big international open water swimming community in some small way.
Being in Dover was a thrilling experience! We had many opportunities to look out over the famous white cliffs offsetting the beautiful, powerful, inviting yet dauntingly intimidating stretch of water known as ‘The English Channel” or “La Manche” in France.
As we trained in the harbour we met many channel swimmers from all over the world - some retired and many preparing for their own challenging journey. It is a wonderful experience that sport gives us, linking together individuals from vastly different worlds with the common goal of challenging themselves – of selftranscendence in all its shapes and forms. And as Sri Chinmoy showed us in many ways, this one commonality gives life to a beautifully rich and heartfelt community spirit, where every person’s role and goal is given great value, respect and encouragement.
As the date of our swim window was upon us, the weather was not looking agreeable. Our pilot was hesitant due to an entire season of almost constantly unrelenting wind and waves. We decided to wait, but looking at the forecast, it seemed like there might be a window around noon the next day. And sure enough, we were woken by a text at 1am in the morning saying conditions had changed and he was willing to take us. We unanimously agreed to go for it, which meant being at the boat at 12pm…knowing this made it pretty hard to go back to sleep!
After boarding Gallivant we headed straight to Shakespeare beach to drop off our first swimmer, Abhejali, the fastest and most experienced member of our team (EC relay 2009, solo 2011, as well as MIMS 2012 and several Zurich lake marathon solos) . She swam to shore, meditated for a moment, and the official timing began!
The water was calm, the sun was shining, and leaving the harbour the conditions seemed idyllic. We were all swimming for one hour at a stretch. The CSPF had an official observer on board, and we had 3 experienced pilots, so we knew we were in good hands. Our head pilot, Mike Oram, has guided quite a few Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team swimmers to France.
We also had two wonderful helpers, Haribala from Czech Republic, and Bahula from New York. Bahula immortalised herself in the Dover swimming community some years back when she was helping Vijaya. As a super enthusiastic helper, she lent a little too far over the side during a feed and actually fell into the water! It was Mike who reached over and pulled her back in.
After Abhejali, Jayalata swam second, then it was my turn… I stood on the edge of the boat for the countdown..30 seconds, 20, 10, go!! I leapt off the edge into the great stretch of Ocean, and started swimming.
I had not noticed that the waves had risen in size and also become considerably more uneven as a cross wind picked up the surface chop. I felt increasingly grateful for a lifetime of swimming in the Ocean, as pool training is of little value in these conditions. I wondered if I was actually moving forward at all, and staying next to the boat is harder than you would think in the swells, but all you can do is keep swimming! The hour went surprisingly fast and I was signalled to head to the ladder as our forth swimmer, Ritadyumna, jumped in.
Back in the boat my main tasks were getting warm, trying not to get seasick, eating and drinking. Fortunately for me I largely escaped seasickness - the other girls were not so lucky, in spite of ear patches and sea sickness pills!
By my second swim the sun was already beginning to set. A glow stick was attached to my swimsuit and there was a big spotlight from the boat, so I felt pretty safe. Now I also felt more confident. I knew I could stay in for an hour without freezing, and I knew what I had to do - swim as fast as possible towards France!
This experience really encapsulated the goal of living spirituality for me. There was no time for self doubt, no time to worry what anyone else was thinking, I just had to jump into a seemingly beginningless and endless expanse of water and do my very best - focus only on the boat and have unquestioning faith that the pilot was leading us to the destination.
I also got a lot of joy and strength from being part of a team. There was no option to consider quitting - I could not let the team down, and I knew all of us felt the same way!
After about 15 hours the lights of France came really close - what a thrill! There was no stopping us now! We were expertly guided towards the shore and Abhejali, our great champion who stayed so strong and cheerful despite unrelenting seasickness throughout the journey, swam the final stretch, making our official time 16 hours and 34 minutes!
We are all so grateful for the experience, to our incredible helpers Bahula and Haribala, to all our friends and supporters around the world who watched and encouraged us, to the great boat crew and our pilots James Willi and Mike Oram, and most of all to Sri Chinmoy for giving us the inspiration and courage to do something so special in honour of his 50 years of dedication to humanity’s loftiest goals of individual and collective self-transcendence, happiness and peace. “If we believe in our own self-transcendence-task, Then there can be no unreachable goal.”
In our self-transcendence
Is our tremendous joy.”
Humanity at large.”
Sandettie Lightship Observations
7pm, 24th April 2017
Water: 51.3 °F (10.7 °C)
Air: 49.3 °F (9.6 °C)
Wind Speed: 15.0 kn (27.8 km/h)
Wind Direction: WSW (250°)