Lewis Pugh’s gargantuan achievement assisted by local skipper
Some regular readers of St Francis Today, hopefully a lot of readers, would have followed the blog published on Sky.News.com of South African long distance swimmer Lewis Pugh’s gargantuan achievement of swimming, not across the English Channel but the 530km (330 miles) length of it. Starting his epic swim at Land’s End and finishing, on schedule 49 days later in Dover, Pugh caught the attention of over two million readers with his daily blog.
Essential to the success of this ambitious, seemingly impossible swim was the support boat that would accompany the swimmer and as important as the boat itself, the skipper who would be responsible for considering every aspect of tides, wind and weather to bend the odds in favour of Lewis and not ocean.
And so a local Cape St Francis skipper joins the saga, Stephen Praetorius who is presently building a house in Cape St Francis. Brought up in Port Elizabeth and educated at Woodridge College, Steve became a professional skipper working his way up to eventually skippering super yachts.
Meeting Steve on site at his partially complete wood frame house, Steve related the story of Lewis’ incredible accomplishment in which he, Steve, played a major role.
Steve met Lewis whilst working at St Francis Marine way back in 2011 when Lewis had visited the boat yard looking for suitable vessels for expeditions. This chance meeting led to a lasting friendship and over the years Steve assisted Lewis in planning several of his adventures.
In January this year Lewis called Steve and laid out his plans for this channel swim and asked Steve to skipper the support boat. Months of planning went into the event including sourcing the 42-foot catamaran to be used and assembling a suitable crew.
Finally with a crew of eight including Steve as the skipper, a biokineticist who looked after Lewis’ fitness and prepared him for each day’s swim as well as seconding as Lewis’ pace swimmer, a videographer, a storyteller to write the daily blog, a chief-of-staff for all the logistics aboard the boat and ashore, a chef and a deckhand.
As any ocean swimmer will attest, even those crazy St Francis open water swimmers who plough around the St Francis Bay canals every Friday evening, swimming against a tide poses a nigh impossible task and it was here that Steve played a such a key role in ensuring Lewis would achieve his goal of swimming at least 10 kilometres a day. As the boat often docked when Lewis was not swimming Steve to locate the exact GPS position where the previous day’s swim ended having already calculated the perfect time where the tide would best support the swim for around the 3 hours the 10 kilometres would take to ensure Lewis did not have to swim against the tide. By Steve’s own admission he got it wrong only once when the sea turned against Lewis but this was fortunately early on and fortunately did not affect the rest of the swim.
To best make use of weather and sea tide conditions, the swim would often only start late at night or early morning in the dark. Almost In support of Lewis’ quest the weather at large favoured the swim, for this past summer was one of Britain’s hottest on record. Even so diving into the icy channel in the dark, encountering jellyfish and other forms of sea life takes a very special mind which Steve explained is possibly Lewis’ strongest attribute.
Discussing his interaction during the days and nights together Steve explains “Lewis is more than passionate about what he is doing to make for a better world with cleaner oceans, it is hos calling. Many of us are passionate about what we do, very few though are totally committed.”
Thank you Lewis Pugh and to Steve for his part for his part in making this quest a success and drawing attention to the need to save and protect our oceans.
The purpose ofLewis’ swim was to raise awareness for better marine protection with a to have 30% of the world’s oceans protected by 2030. The current figure stands at around 4%. For those who didn’t follow the swim, a synopsis is available on Sky.News.com. (https://news.sky.com/story/long-swim-hes-home-lewis-pugh-completes-330-mile-length-of-english-channel-11485010)
We can all play our part and with a little effort you too can make a difference by being careful how you dispose of your plastic waste.