JUST hours away from attempting to swim across the English Channel, Craig Clarke feels ready to tackle the dream he has held for 40 years.
The Merewether man arrived in the small village of Saint Margaret's at Cliffe on June 15 and, after recovering from a dose of "deadly man flu", began tapering his training in the lead up to swimming the 34 kilometres - give or take the weather - from Dover to Calais.
Guided by Channel authorities and his pilot boat operator and support crew, the 57-year-old came close to departing on June 23 before the conditions deteriorated.
He had been hoping to swim in the window between July 3 and July 7 and on Thursday predicted he will enter the water on Monday, July 4.
"After discussions with my pilot boat operator this afternoon, based on a series of factors including the obvious critical weather forecast, the most likely date with Dover is Monday," he wrote on his Facebook page. "This is still subject to short notice change linked to the predicted winds in the Channel but is the day we are now targeting."
Assuming the date is confirmed, Clarke will start his swim at 2am (11am Monday AEST) based on the timing of the high tide.
There will be a link on his Facebook Page - Craigs English Channel Swim - which will allow his supporters to follow the live tracking link of his swim. Clarke is fund-raising for mental health charity Beyond Blue.
The former miner's attempt to swim the Channel comes two years after his lengthy plans to face the holy grail of ocean swimming were kyboshed by COVID.
Undeterred, he instead swam from Catherine Hill to Nobbys, a he dubbed "Coals to Newcastle" in honour of the historic shipping route between the Catho mines and the port.
Clarke relocated to Dover at the start of the week and this week told The Herald he was feeling "very happy" with his swim training and preparation.
"I'm feeling strong in the water and recovering well and time zone adjusted and sleeping well," he said, adding that he had tapered to 26kms of swimming earlier, and is now starting his "full taper" and reducing his training to 12-15kms per week.
Clarke has swum in Dover Harbour most days and says his Channel Swim start is dependent on the weather and mostly the wind.
"The weather has been consistently sunny and warm and pleasant but the wind has plenty of grunt in it, especially from the south," he said.
"The Channel forecasting is challenging and often changes twice a day. I am in regular contact with my pilot boat operator and he cannot commit or even suggest a possible date until one to two days prior, and then that is not confirmed until 7pm the night before."
The water temperature has risen to 16 degrees and he has felt strong in the water, adjusting to the feel of the "very strong"tidal forces below the surface.
"I am mentally building up for the big day by a combination of things: swimming almost daily, meeting like-minded swimmers from all over the world, getting lots of positive feedback from my social media posts from back home, sharing my adventures with my nearest and dearest and very importantly for me listening to music and relaxing," he said.
Clarke is not feeling nervous about the enormous physical and mental challenge ahead.
"I have been preparing for a wide range of swims in the ocean, pool or surf for 45 years and always use the confidence in my own preparation to believe I will do well on the day, which settles my nerves," he said.
"In saying that, my mind will be racing on the night before I swim and restrict my sleep but I know I need to get good sleep on the earlier nights. I am extremely excited about swimming the Channel where the concept first entered my head 40 years ago, and fully understand the weather based delays which just add to the aura of this unique swim."
Once the "wild card" of the wind is on his side, Clarke must be on his pilot boat in Dover Harbour 75 minutes before he begins his swim. If conditions are good, he may finish in around 11 hours.
"The rules are laid out and everything I am wearing needs to be checked as well as a likely 40 minutes water travel time to the starting beach south of Dover called Samphire Hoe," he says.
"I will be getting out of bed two and a half hours prior to starting to swim. That could mean very little sleep with an early morning swim start. For example if I was to swim on July 5th my swim start time will be around 215am."
Buoyed by the support he has been receiving from Australia, he continues to banish any negative thoughts before his epic challenge.
"I feel very humbled being here but confident of swimming onto French land and stay in the zone by visualising that very special moment and what I am prepared to go through to get there. So I'm definitely in the zone now."
Business, news and feature reporter.
Business, news and feature reporter.
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