Appropriately enough for the Commander’s rallying cry on the last big swim day, swimming round the Maltese Islands is rather like giving birth. It’s wet, it hurts and ten minutes in, the ‘body is a temple’, ‘only organic’ brigade start calling for drugs and entonox.
Boarding the boat from just outside the Churchill Bar in the Xlendi Bay, the wearied crew headed off for the start point of the day, Dweira Bay. Re-crossing the site of our swim on Day 2, the team were impressed that the journey took over 50 minutes by boat, but just as the pride in our accomplishments glowed around the boat, the old proverb about pride came true and the fall came in the reminder of the lactic acid induced pain and the fact that today’s morning swim would be nearly the same distance.
Unfortunately, the Spongebob Squarepants day got off to a bad start as the cheeky little chappy had clearly played a practical joke and called up a swarm of jellyfish to make anyone’s Bikini Bottom tremble. The banter on the boat was notably reduced from previous days through a combination of sheer exhaustion and trepidation of the task ahead.
But in the true words of our generous sponsor, Guinness, good things come to those who wait and the good humour picked up again when Richard Flook plunged into the Med and immediately proved the jellyfish lure he had been on previous days. A competition ensued to avoid being the unfortunate sod stuck next to Richard, now known as ‘Lucky’ Flook, on the swim and a good pace was set… if anyone from our sponsors Kinnerton is reading this and wants to invite Richard to a tour of the factory we can highly recommend against it as every jelly-based product will be flying off the production line in a re-enactment of The Light Brigade charge of the Russian cannon.
The plan was to head from the bay round to the Azure Window where the pay-off would be to swim through the beautiful natural phenomenon but heavy seas and the invasion of the marine hoodies meant that, after an hour in the water, the trip to the Azure Window was abandoned and instead the team were forced to head further round the bay to San Dimitri Point a total distance of 4.5km (c. 180 lengths).
After a week of endurance swimming in cold salt water, the toil was starting to get to all of us and it was with no small relief that we were told to head for the Heylam Puki… unfortunately, it appeared the Skipper, Zav, was slightly less aware of this than the swimmers were and, having laughed heartily as John Terry wept in Russia the previous evening, we soon found out how disheartening it could be to be within touching distance of metalwork and unable to reach it…
A quick carbo-loaded lunch later and the crew squeezed themselves into the gear supplied by our sponsors Wow Stuff – red Baywatch-style skinnies with Wow Stuff on the backside for the men and across the front for the ladies. The tightness of the swimmers brought about a sharp intake of breath and an exclamation of ‘wow’ from the gents - and, as the ladies appeared donned in the equally tight outfits, a second ‘wow’ of a different nature and the licensing crew extend their congratulations to the Wow Stuff crew on being so appropriately branded, even if they did make the men look like poor versions of a Russian oligarch on holiday.
Over lunch, there was time to reminisce over the week’s activities. Lizzie felt that her favourite moment (other than seeing Rob’s arse) was definitely a moment in the Blue Lagoon during the swimming video session where she was attempting to film Ian Down.
Unfortunately Ian is to hearing in the water as John Prescott is to diet advice and, swimming 18 strokes as opposed to the required eight, he ploughed head first into the path of an oncoming pleasure boat. He looked oblivious as 13 people yelled ‘IAN’ but, as the shadow of pleasure craft (and death) loomed over him he suddenly realised and narrowly avoided being mowed down by another load of future clients of Weight Watchers. Displaying true military form, the Commander’s favourite moment was the ‘formation swimming’ that took place during the Gozo to Malta crossing as the whole swim team covered virtually a whole kilometre in true Bristol fashion.
As each member of the swim team has had directional issues with the swim, it was Rob Corney’s turn today as his GPS turned into the equivalent of a dodgy knock-off from Camden Market causing him to veer off course and make a break from Italy, mounting Ian Downes in the process. Poor old Downsie had only just recovered from his chagrin from the comment earlier in the day when, jumping into the safety boat ‘Big Red’, and having spent five days on a swim trek tour, The Commander handed him a lifejacket… but then the Commander had been replaying the swim technique training videos in his sleep the previous night so perhaps he knows something we don’t.
Lunch over and it was back in the water for a swim round Ramla Bay to skirt across to Sandblast Bay. There was some consternation that the Commander had mentioned Ramallah Bay which seemed a stretch too far for some of us, though the Aussie member Craig Rowell reckoned he could get there in 14 strokes (and probably could to be fair)... but thankfully the rumour was probably to be put down to Ian Downs’ lack of hearing but none of us put it past the Commander for one second.
A further 1.5km (60 lengths) later and the team were back on the boat and heading to Xlendi. There was only time for Ian Downes to make a quick enquiry on the cost of a bayside property with a view to opening up the Malta branch of the licensing world, but Gordon Brown’s influence has clearly stretched to these far flung parts of the Med and the prices came in at a genuine bargain of only ten times the combined salaries of the entire group.
A quick shower and stretch of the aching muscles and the squad are heading back to Mgarr Harbour for a celebratory dinner before a few laps of the jellyfish infested bay in the morning and off home.
Today's swim blog is bought to you in association with Spongebob Squarepants.
SpongeBob SquarePants is the world's favourite animated series for kids and is the most widely distributed property in MTV Networks history, syndicated in over 170 markets in 25 different languages. SpongeBob won the Bafta for Best International Programme in 2007 and is worth £3.8m worldwide.