Sunday, May 21, 2017

12km Samui Channel Charity Swim

Swimming from Ko Pha Ngan to Ko Samui, this was the best swim event I have participated in and we have done Bali 10km twice, Oceanman Putrajaya 10km, Tanjong Rhu Langkawi 6km, Kapas Marang 6.5km, P.D., Pulau Perhentian Solo Swim 16km, Labuan 5.4km twice etc.
A close second best swim event ever, is the Pattaya 10km also organized by the same organisers, Thailand Swimathon.
The best news is that, the Samui swim will most probably be repeated next year from the mainland to Koh Samui (16km) with the same luxurious boat "The Escape" as support. Life doesn't get any better, believe me.
What made it the best event yet?
  1. Having The Escape as the support boat didn't hurt. One can immediately sense the big heart of the owner, Scandy Andy (Andreas Hvass) when he starts talking. His kindness oozes. THANK YOU kind Sir. The boat is especially important for our supporters and when you are swimming all alone and you see this huge monster boat shadowing you, well its was one of my best feelings ever.
    The Escape yacht provided luxurious support
  2. The Organisers Thailand Swimathon  / Sports Buddy. A large group of volunteers (unpaid) who worked very well together. I didn't see any dissent or disagreement amongst them. They worked hard and they knew how to party too. This event of such high quality could not have been done by a "for profit" organization. WELL DONE to the Organising Team. Some of them are Race Director Auttapon (Navy),  Anusit  (The Events person), Pook (the English MC), Chaiwat (photographer and speedboat support and good English speaker) and many more.
    The incredible organizing committee
  3. Full transparency with where the money went. A few days after the event full accounts were disclosed with photos of accompanying invoices showing where every Bhat went. The Committee were very aware of the need to make a profit to be remitted to Charity. At the end, THB 33,395 will be donated to the National Cancer Institute. WELL DONE COMMITTEE. Costs were minimized. A lot was provided free (The Escape, equipment, kayaks, SUP etc). The Organising Committee worked on a volunteer basis and were not paid but they were smiling all the time. What a big heart they have.
    Full transparency by the VOLUNTEER Committee. Next year I must do something for them.
  4. Free top quality photographs  providing cherished memories for a lifetime by Thailand Swimathon. The main photographer being Aniwat (Navy) supported by Chaiwat. I remember just average photos costing an arm and a leg at certain events a few years back.
    The Organisers provided numerous free quality pics
  5. The sunrise. We left the Samui Pier at about 4.30 am (woke up at 2.30 am) and there was this amazing sunrise as we approached the tip of Ko Pha Ngan. No such sunrise from where I come from ha ha. 
    The sunrise just before the swim start
  6. The swim course from Ko Pha Ngan to Thongson Bay, Ko Samui. I have never seen such a beautiful flat sea, again I have never seen such a beautiful flat sea. Its surface glistened. There was no wave or white surf. It made for such a super fast and safe swim course. I have been to Ko Samui twice before for  running holidays. Whilst I liked the cute airport, I wasn't quite sure what the fuss about Ko Samui was. Now I know, its the Sea, not what's on the land. The fuss with Ko Samui is the sea.
    Flat and calm sea
  7. Safety and medical support by the Thai Navy. Very visible in their yellow attire, they provided kayak and medical support. So good were they that everyone finished, a 100% success rate.
  8. Wonderful friends. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, even me. The Thais are easy to smile. This rubs off on everyone. I know, I married a Thai.
Group pic of everyone after the swim
The Malaysian swimmers and supporters after the swim
The Malaysian swimmers (Ghazali, KL Tan, Chun, Philip, Me and Thong)
before the start
Happy swimmers about to jump in

Doctor / Professor Ghazali whom I have not met since more than 25 years ago at UM pool.

We have got closer to the family of Philip, Joey and Elysa
Wonderful people

Enjoying the beautiful gardens of Ibis Hotel upon arrival
Friday, 12 May 2017: 
  • Registration was from 2pm. Very well done in a nice function room at the official hotel (Ibis Hotel).
    Oops someone dropped the official soap bar during registration
  • 4pm. Official practice swim. It looked well done but I was tired from the travelling and gave it a miss.
  • 5pm. Race briefing with professional looking slides. I knew from the Pattaya 10km swim event that they would do a brilliant job. Swimmers would be released in three batches 5 minutes apart. The first batch would be for those swimming below 1:59 per 100m (not me). The second batch 5 minutes later, those swimming 2:00 to 2:30 per 100m (that would be me). Then everyone else would go another five minutes later. Two swimmers of similar speed had been paired (me and Khun Piak, we finished exactly the same at Pattaya 10km, so our pairing made sense) with a Navy Kayaker. We would keep our feed on the kayak. Good system, it made sense.
  • 6pm. Hotel buffet dinner.

Saturday, 13 May 2017 (Race Day)
  • 2.30 am, Saturday, 13 May 2017 everyone woke up. Luckily I had a good short sleep.
  • 3.30 am left hotel for pier.
  • 4.30 am. "The Escape" yacht left the pier for Ko Pha Ngan.
  • 5.30 am. Final race briefing by Scandy Andy (boat owner and twice Samui Channel swimmer). He told us to sight for the highest mountain tip on Ko Samui. That was easy, to have a mountain for sighting.
  • 6.05 am. Swimmers jumped into the sea.
  • 6.15 am. The first batch of swimmers left.
  • 6.20 am. The middle batch (me),  left.
  • 6.25 am. The last batch left.
  • 9.09 am. The first team of two swimmers (Tim from Bangkok and Lauren from Samui) and their kayak finished 2 hrs 54 mins.
  • 9.14 am. The second team finished. 2 hrs 59 mins. Ghazali from Malaysia (this guy is going places, specifically the Straits of Malacca solo is his target) and his swim partner, a Thai Air Asia Pilot.
  • 9.20 am. I finished alone 3 hours 0 mins. It was too easy ha ha. I quickly drank a most delicious coconut drink, ate tuna sandwich and swam back to "The Escape" as my wife was on it and it was our wedding anniversary. Had a great chat with Tip's new friend, Kamma from Canada. Everyone on the boat was worried for me as I was swimming alone and apparently a big cargo ship was nearby, ha ha I didn't see it.
  • 11.45 am. Everyone (100%) had finished and swam back to the boat. More soap dropping during the shower ha ha.
  • 12.00 Simple lunch on boat. I think I will sponsor a better lunch next year.
  • 12.15 pm. Finisher's T Shirt presentation by Scandy Andy. A wonderful moment for everyone.
    Scandy Andy (Andreas Hvass from Sweden)
  • 2 pm. Arrived back at Pier on Ko Samui. Back to hotel.
  • 6 pm. Dinner and presentation to all swimmers by their respective kayaker.
    The specially engraved award was already ready

    Party time but it was bed time for me

The Malaysian swimmers with the Race Director
(In the real world, he is a Chief in the Navy)

Sunday, 14 May 2017, last official day
  • 7 a.m. Breakfast and goodbyes (though we stayed another night).

The swim format was that one kayak would accompany two swimmers of similar speed. Swimmers' nutrition would be placed on the kayak. It would be up to the swimmers and kayak, how frequent the feed stop would be. I specifically chose Khun Piak as my swim buddy as we finished roughly the same times at Pattaya 10km and Putrajaya 10km.
Swimmers would go off in three batches 5 minutes apart. Fast swimmers (below 2min per 100m), medium swimmers (2:00 to 2:30 per 100m) and the slowest swimmers. Cut off was 5 hours 45 mins. All swimmers had been pre-selected by the Organising Committee.
The Escape yacht would shadow the swimmers from a safe distance. Medical personnel would be on The Escape yacht. There would be roving speedboats, a catamaran, SUPs etc for the safety of the 33 swimmers.
The roving speedboat which actually became my feeding boat
The swim route was from the tip of Ko Pha Ngan (Haad Rin Pier) to Thongson Bay (12km). The water was completely flat. An outgoing current pushed the swimmers along. The highest mountain tip on Ko Samui was the sighting target. Ship traffic would be minimal. It was the most perfect conditions possible for open water swimming.

First 5 minutes
I started at 6.20 a.m. with my swim buddy and paddler somewhere in the middle of the 33 swimmers. I noticed straight away that my swim buddy wasn't swimming right. He was swimming with his head down like in a swimming pool. You know, in open water swimming we have to sight all the time, as frequent as every other stroke. We don't have a natural sense of direction in the water and if we don't sight, we will very quickly go at a tangent. The kayak also was not heading for the mountain tip. So I realized very quickly I had to do my own swim going in the direction of the mountain tip.

The start
Soon after the start, I decided to go for it
After 30 mins
The roving speedboat told me to go back to my swim team. I couldn't even see them. Anyway I swam backwards and found them. Again I noticed they were not going in the direction of the mountain tip. What the heck, I left them again and went off on my own.

Me and Khun Piak. Similar speed and swimming style
I then just swam on my own. I couldn't see any other swim team, its possible I was in front. Its lonely when you are on your own in the big empty sea. The mind starts playing games.

One hour
I looked at my watch, slightly more than one hour but going at a very fast pace. It would take me slightly more than 3 hours at this pace. I did many 9km swims the last week, one of them without stopping at all. It wasn't a hot day, the sea was flat, I felt strong and I have my safety float. I can do this 12km, all on my own without any feeding, I thought.
The massive looking boat, The Escape came close to me and seemed to shadow me for such a long time. It was an incredible feeling to have this huge monster checking up on you. I'm sure my wife was watching.
1.5 to 2 hours
After 1.5 hours the roving speedboat came again and this time accepted I wasn't going to swim backwards. They said I was doing well and gave me some water.
At 2 hours another boat came and I gobbled down two bananas. This time I saw other swim teams. Heck I'm going to go as fast as I can since I'm now full of bananas.
2.5 to 3 hours
At 2.5 hours another roving boat came and told me to head for "the red house", which actually was a red roof. I had to adjust my direction. The red roof was very visible though and there was no problems heading for it.
Pretty straight, only 10.5km for me.
A slight curve at the end as we were told to head for the "red house"

Finished 3 hours flat
Finish at Thongson Bay. The lady recorded it Live on FB.
I thanked the Organisers for another amazing swim event.
I finished in 5th place. It was quite an easy swim, not really what I expected from a 12km swim. There was delicious coconut water and tuna sandwich. I had them quickly, said hello / goodbye to everyone and swam back the 700m to The Escape yacht as my wife was waiting and it was our Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary.
Our Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary

Everyone finished. The kind Scandy Andy presented the Finisher's T shirts to everyone. We made great new friends, Tim and Kamma from Bangkok. Everyone was in a good mood.
Kamma and Tim

Some of the comments on the Thailand Swimathon page included:
  • "You guys are the best. Thanks for an amazing event".
  • "It was a perfect event. We enjoyed it very much. Thank you".
  • "Best team yet".
  • "How can I help next time".
I think we are all tingling with excitement eagerly waiting for the next event.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO THE TEAM OF VOLUNTEERS FROM Thailand Swimathon, you have given us our best swim event ever. Thank you.

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