40 years to the day a water baby was born

Natasha Walsh
The Bosphrus Swim

The Bosphrus
23rd July 2017 40 years to the day a water baby was born.
“You need to move to the other side of the boat!” Shouted an official in broken English.
The three storied boat was packed with 2200 sweaty bodies in swim suits, caps and goggles, all greased up. I witnessed haunting trunk sights that will stay with me forever! Not a Garmin/ Go Pro in site, which was mad. No watches, no jewellery due to strict Health and Safety rules. Never mind then that the boat was leaning to one side so much that they couldn’t attach the pontoon from which we are going to start from.
Finally through the small window the horizon levelled and bodies pushed against each other, cramming to get down the stairs. Revolting smells wafted from the toilets, I’ve never been so close to being sick from a smell before.
Stepping over discarded slippers, plastic bottles and goodness knows what else Neil and I stepped out into the fresh air relieved that ordeal was over. The bleeping mats reminded us that time was ticking. We romantically held hands as we jumped into the waters of the Bosphrus. Upon surfacing we took one look at each other and without a single word of wisdom Neil stared swimming, so I took off aiming for the first land mark a large red Turkish flag hanging from the first bridge.
The water was clear and blue, not at all salty as I’d imagined. We’d been advised to aim for the cooler faster flowing current, we’d then be assisted down to a point some 6 ½ K away. Looking at the previous years times the fastest completing it in just under 50 minutes, whilst if you took two hours you’d be pulled from the event. My aim, I hadn’t a clue. I’d completed a 5k non wetsuit at Dorney in 1:24 so something quicker than this.
The previous day we had registered, I’d say queued but that wouldn’t be an accurate description. Bundled, crowded, and pushed our way to get our race packs. It was a sign of things to come. No order, no systems, don’t get me wrong I like a bit of spontaneity but order and control for thousands of people waiting to register is needed. It was chaos in the heat.
We were then piling on a boat which took us for a course recce. Listening for the main sighting points, our landmarks were, red flag hanging from first bridge, lower section of the pylons and then the right vertical structure of the bridge, turning right when we levelled with the flag. Simple. I could remember that even if I was getting distracted at the small pod of dolphins playing in the waters.
The swim was peaceful, at times with the swell I thought I was on my own way off course. Doubts did creep into my mind. Was I in the current? The water didn’t seem cold. Was I too much to the right? I think the main pack was defiantly to the left. I settled and was confident I was spotting the right landmarks, my hat creeping up my head making me wish I’d not used so much hair conditioner. The first bridge to the pylons took an age, but soon I could see the floating balloons marking the finish. I had totally missed the flag but was right on course. Creeping slowly through some non-stinging jelly fish I kept sighting the finish. Was it getting any closer? It didn’t seem to be. I then seemed to be surrounded by other swimmers, all joining from the left. I aimed for further along the pontoon where the steps to climb out were free. I pulled myself out, it was over. Like Christmas day as a child it went too quickly, I knew it would.

Would I recommend?
Yes defiantly. The channel is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world and closed for this event. Just seeing the boats waiting in a holding area was mind boggling. They were massive.
I can see why it is an iconic swim, starting on the Asian side of Turkey and finishing on the European side. First held in 1989 it attracts swimmers from all over the world.
No wetsuits but honestly the water didn’t feel at all cold.
Guaranteed entry with Swim Trek, the trip wasn’t cheap but it was a great way to celebrate my 40th birthday.
Swimmers drifted off course very easily. Upon finishing it was scary to see how many had got caught in the current and were pulled past the finish line. I’d been hugging the right too much but on reflection this was a good option. I’d completely understand if swimmers were upset about this but again organising boats pushing swimmers earlier could have saved these tired swimmers.
I was 7th in my age group, had I been in the previous age group I’d have placed third. Proving swimmers improve with age!

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