The arm of Atlantic Ocean — English Channel — went on to embrace the Indian Air Force’s Swimming Team ‘Delphinus’ for the second time on July 5, 2012. The first brush with the infinite waters of The Channel happened when the team of four from Indian Air Force, took a valiant dip on June 26, 2012. And within eight days they tasted success twice beating their previous record and becoming the fastest Asian Relay Team ever. ‘Delphinus’ that means dolphins, has four members with Wing Commander Paramvir Singh as the team leader and three other members — Flight Lieutenant Narayanpethkar, Corporal AK Patel and Corporal S Srihari.
The strong undercurrents added to the struggle. The Channel has the world’s busiest sea traffic. The ripple effect caused by the vessels that accompanied us in the relay tossed us and sometimes swimmers end up landing in the vessel.
The second attempt requires more courage as one knows the tough points. “We thought let’s do it!” Singh says. Post the big dip the team leader looks fit, as if the Relay was child’s play. “No, it wasn’t easy. The English Channel comes in the category of extreme adventure zone. The success rate of crossing it is quite low, to go by figures since 1875 only 1,200 odd people have taken the challenge of crossing it,” says Singh. The first time they completed the job in 12 hours 14 minutes and broke the previous Asian record in Relay category, and the second time the Indian Air Force’s Swimming Team crossed clocking 11 hours 25 minutes outdoing themselves.
The team of all men, with no woman… Are waves of the channel harsher to women? He is quick to correct, “It has nothing to do with gender, in fact, the swimming secretary at the Channel Swimming Association is a woman Dr Julie Bradshw, she holds world titles, first crossed the Channel at the age of 15 and in 2002 swum again with the Butterfly stroke. All you need is a will,” he said.
Indian Air Force:
The season of covering The Channel starts from June to September and the time when the Indian Air Force Swimming Team went — June-July — the temperature of the waters was as low as 8-10 degree Celsius. “That was tough. We shivered for hours after coming out of the water, such was the effect of the chill.
We had to battle the speed of the wind, rain that clouded the visibility and not to forget the sting of jellyfishes. There are different varieties of it and the most poisonous being Box Jellyfish, it has a deadly sting,” he says, adding, “The strong undercurrents added to the struggle. The Channel has the world’s busiest sea traffic. The ripple effect caused by the vessels that accompanied us in the relay tossed us and sometimes swimmers end up landing in the vessel.” It was not the plunge in the pool, so preparations for the big dip started much in advance. They had to put on weight. They ate red meat and worked out for an hour every day.
Finally, their hard work paid not once but twice, and the Indian Flag was unfurled at the Varne Ridge Channel Swimming Holiday Park and Bungalows going higher than the flag of England, “That was the moment of pride,” he says. They are eagerly waiting for the announcement of “Endurance Trophy” that is announced to honour the toughest crossing of the season.
A relay is more difficult than the solo crossing, “Because in a relay the participant stays in water for an hour and it takes about that much time to acclimatise to the water temperature. So by the time the swimmer is ready to conquer the waves he is called back to the vessel so that the next one can go for swim.
On your next turn you start from the scratch,” he says. Adventure is becoming a great tool to usher in bonding among people in the same team, “Importance of adventure has been realised by the corporate world and they take their team out on adventurous excursions and expeditions to enhance the bonding. We as a team cooked together and ate together. Adventure, surely a way of having people in the team glued,” he said. Come let’s take a plunge!