The decision to swim the English Channel is not a rational one.
Over days, weeks and months, every aspect of the training programme is calibrated – hydration and nutrition, endurance, speed, strength, body composition, flexibility (ha!), psychology, you name it. You track the data and refine the plan.
But all the discipline and data in the world might not be enough. There are countless ways the whole enterprise can come undone. The tides are so extreme they can drag you hundreds of metres backwards in the time it takes to suck back half a drink bottle. There are container ships carving across your path. The fog can descend in minutes, wiping out visibility. It’s a good day when it’s 15 degrees in the water. And even getting into the water assumes you have miraculously come through the weeks and months beforehand in rock-solid mental and physical shape.
This means that taking on the English Channel demands an extravagant delusion - or as I prefer to think of it, wilful optimism.
The fight for malaria elimination requires the same wilful optimism. Its scale – over 1,000 deaths each day, most of them children – surpasses any sort of ordinary understanding. If you take the “charity begins at home” approach, malaria doesn’t really rate: 500 cases a year in Australia. Twice as many Australians fall out of trees each year for Christ’s sake. But’s a global cause. It’s something I spend most of my working life thinking about. It’s my cause.
I believe in the fight against malaria with the same wilful optimism that I’m using to take on the English Channel.
Recent progress towards the total elimination of malaria has been staggering. The global effort to develop, improve and distribute drugs and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets has halved the number of deaths from malaria since 2000. But there are emerging challenges threatening this progress, as insecticide and drug resistance are developing. It’s as if the elimination effort has done the training, it’s swum through the second shipping lane, it’s approaching Cap Griz-Nez, but the tides have turned and it’s at risk of being pushed to Belgium.
So I’m asking you to join me in supporting the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). This charity provides funding for long-lasting insecticide-treated nets that repel and kill mosquitoes. Importantly, they’re providing nets for trials that test new insecticides to combat resistance. Givewell rates AMF as one of its top charities because it supports an evidence-based, effective intervention and the organisation has been thoroughly vetted. And that’s before they have even considered that the Chairman is an English Channel soloist.
If you support AMF, you’ll be in my thoughts as I wade into the inky, frigid shallows of Dover and lay into the long hours of wind-milling towards France. And even if I don’t make it to France for whatever reason, AMF will be able to do more because of us and our wilful optimism.
Want to track my swim?
Be warned: long distance swimming is not a spectator sport. But you can keep the tracker on in the background. Open it up when you get to work. Refresh it at coffee time. Refresh it again at lunch... I'll still be there. Forget about it for the afternoon. Check in when you check out. Fire it up again on your phone when you get home... yep, still swimming. It gets vaguely exciting as swimmers approach the beach at Wissant / Cap Griz-Nez. You can hit refresh repeatedly then.
My support boat is Sea Leopard. You can track us here. For a broader view of the English Channel - and an insight into what a highway it is - go to Marine Traffic. You can then search for Sea Leopard - Dive Vessel [GB].
Stuart (the pilot) might post some photos on his Facebook page.
I'm scheduled to swim some time between the 3rd and 10th of July, but I won't know until closer to the day. Swimmers often set off in the early hours of the morning (~3am GMT / 12pm AEST).
If you have more love to give...