After a shaky start care of Air Malta sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half at Heathrow, the intrepid Licensing Swim Team began the Barbie day of the challenge and arrived in Malta only to face the certain doom of a possessed taxi driver who knew only the reason for the smallest of the three pedals at his feet.
A pleasant evening of carbo-loading and energy building began, thanks in part to our decision to eat the Barbie Fairytopia sweets we had picked up as a mascot for the day… it was rumoured that the product in question, which was picked up in the local village shop, was made using a very old styleguide and therefore could be out of date, but undeterred, the swim challenge began this morning in earnest and the team are writing in now from a bleary and weary Maltese café.
A seven o’ clock trial swim in the local bay opened the eyes of those of us who hadn’t fully grasped the challenge that lay ahead. After 800 metres (about 32 lengths) in freezing cold conditions, some of the team thought they had met the challenge and could return home until Swimtrek’s John Coningham-Rolls pointed out it was simply a livener.
A quick breakfast of carbs later and the 11 swimmers were packed into a minibus reminiscent of Castro’s Cuba with Stephen Gould and Lizzie (from Swimtrek) in the boot, clinging on for dear life.
There was a rumour that Save the Earth had initially put out an embargo on Stephen entering the water due to the years of ingrained hair gel, dye and fake tan (almost as if he was hoping to be Barbie's Ken) posing a risk to the local wildlife, but Stephen successfully argued that he had never used fake tan in his life and the hair tones were natural, brought on by the strength of the Belfast sun. Lizzie, the Australian member of the Swimtrek team had, until now, been remarkably un-Antipodean but the second British flesh hit cold Maltese water the ‘whingeing Poms’ and ‘best bloody country in the world mate’ comments came straight out.
A tough morning session began in the bay at Magarr ix-Xini where the water was imperceptibly warmer than 7:30 after the cold of the morning swim had destroyed the nerve endings. A quick mile (c. 64 lengths) round the bay got the bodies used to the temperature of the water before the team set off to Ta Cenc, a total distance of 3.4km (c. 136 lengths not including tide and wave issues).
Some members of the team feel with some justification that a medal from the UN would be pending as they attempted to single-handedly prevent the rising sea levels by swallowing the excess, but just as the Andalusian fishermen were celebrating that their villages were saved, they promptly deposited the same amount back in the drink with interest!
Having swum nearly 3.5km in a morning, it was a welcome relief to climb back on board the Heylan Puki and dry off in the sun’s rays over a lunch of tuna, salami and bread, although the error of the tuna-eating soon became apparent in the afternoon swim as, perhaps surprisingly, fish and swimming are not meant to be.
The afternoon session came all too soon as Lizzie donned the latex glove and gave the call for all to be Vaselined up again – Ian Downes was off like a shot before he realised it was only the pre-cursor to another marathon coastal swim. Setting off from Ta Cenc, the team headed off towards base camp at Xlendi dragging the weary muscles through crashing waves amidst words of encouragement from Swimtrek’s John Coningham-Rolls.
Despite the sponsor of the day being LazyTown, there was nothing lazy about the efforts put in by all - Sportacus would have been proud and it was noted that Stephanie would have turned out a treat in the skin-fit swimming costumes very kindly supplied by one of our sponsors, Speedo.
With great relief, as all of the team members were wearying badly, John shouted out that we had made it and could head back to the boat… in a fitting metaphor for the licensing community, the more we swam for the boat, the further away it seemed to drift… but eventually we completed the second leg of 3.6km (c. 144 lengths) and headed back to the shore.
Eleven very tired people are about to head off to dinner for more carbs after completing the equivalent of around 312 lengths of a pool and are raring to do it all again tomorrow! Great thanks from all to the very generous sponsors who have made it possible for us to raise a huge amount of money for the Light Fund (and for the swimmers who have funded the trip themselves so that all monies raised go to charity).
It should be noted that the eagle-eyed amongst us have spotted a number of knock-off brands in the local area, especially of the Disney variety and, whilst imitation is a form of flattery, many of the team have volunteered to take part in some local brand policing in exchange for a charitable donation…
This swim blog was bought to you in association with Barbie - who says 'Good Luck to you all from the No.1 fashion doll brand Barbie to the No.1 swimming team' - and LazyTown, the only global brand dedicated to children's health, LazyTown appeals to kids and parents alike and is one of the highest rated TV shows in over 110 countries. LazyTown uniquely comprises movement, music, comedy and great storytelling, as superhero Sportacus encourages the LazyTown kids to have fun and make healthy lifestyle choices.