An Encounter with a Merman

Another training swim was completed on Saturday 12th July, 8 miles from Balloch up to Luss. another 8 miles under the belt and i believe both Chris and I are confident that we will complete the longest day of our lives at some stage over the next 6 weeks.
I have to say that i was honoured and demoralised yesterday during our swim as we were accompanied by James Leitch AKA merman, we are targeting the time of 14-16 hours for our 24 mile swim, he holds the World Record in just over 9 hours.

The next text was written the main man Captain and Chef (Dave) Stark who steers us through our swims, it is important to read the following story of the day first before clicking on the link at the end, Mike, Dave’s son accompanied us with his broadcast ready camera and edited some exceptional footage.

Enjoy the story and then enjoy the clip and the music (this can’t be players on Smart phones only Laptop’s and PC’s, so get the sound turned up!!

Over to Dave Stark to talk you through this awesome day on the Loch………

I have just returned from a truly amazing time at the loch today and know I will struggle to find the descriptive words to do it justice.
Last night I was in bed by 8pm with the alarm set for 2.50am.
At 3.30am Mike Stark and I left for Balloch to fetch Jame’s boat from the Marina. We were to meet Warren, Big Chris and our normal slip for 5am. We were there at 4.30am – I always like to be early !!
All but Fee made it, unfortunately Fee had a rotten night and decided to sleep on. Hope your feeling better Fee.
The boys didn’t waist any time and were in the water for 5.10am, heading out towards the point off Inchmurrin island.
It was a very overcast morning but warm. Fog was heavy particularly in the distance hiding all the normally visible transit points.
A reading from one of the boats instruments told us the water temperature was 18.4 degrees. Probably our warmest this year.
Our journey in the boat was to be a wet one for Mike and me. There was a slight drizzle descending on and off for most of the way to Luss.
However we decided to keep the boats canopy off for a clearer all round visibility.

The water was flat calm with not a breath of wind. The boys were gliding nicely through the water at a steady pace, matching each other stroke for stroke. At 5.40am – 30 minutes in to our swim, I received a phone call from James (World Record holder) who was in his car and just passing Costa !
We carried on regardless knowing that at some point this machine will ultimately catch us.
The wind picked up with a welcomed Southerly breeze and the water started to move in our direction making the swim easier than the previous week. However it did confuse us by changing infrequently as seen from our A Flag dancing to its every command.
We reached our first stop off the point of Inchmurrin at 6.34am where the lads enjoyed a relaxing 8 minute break and wondered where James would be. Looking through his camera lens, Mike could make out the bare arms of James powering towards us, incredibly,some 600/700 meters away. It was just a matter of time.
I decided to let the swimmers go on and waited for James who it turned out had used his paddles all the way from Balloch giving him a time of roughly 55 minutes ! James refused any nourishment and casting off his paddles carried on.
By the time James drew up to our two swimmers, we were half way across this vast expanse of water which represents the widest part of Loch Lomond.

From the start, Mike had been steadily filming away capturing the day’s swim, which I am sure will bare witness to today’s extraordinary event. Warren and Chis continued at their distance pace whilst James scooted off ahead. He was frequently seen swimming back and forth and at times diving under the water for several long seconds before emerging with that cheeky grin we all know so well.
All swimmers met up again for a brief stop opposite the Golf Course. We couldn’t believe our eyes as James disappeared once more under the dark water. When he eventually surfaced, he produced golf balls from within his trunks and passed them over to Mike for safe keeping. Not one or two but 21 GOLF BALLS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Only James.
At one point Warren stated that on the one hand it was an honour to be in the same water as James but when he passed you at speed with such ease it was indeed a tad demoralising and ultimately caused the lads a bit of distraction.
Just after we set off, Warren stopped to shout at Mike to prepare a Pot Noodle which hopefully would cool down before the next break.

Off they went again. This time Chris was level with James and couldn’t resist the challenge. He and James went head to head. Stroke for stroke they powered alongside each other leaving Warren and the boat in their wake. 200 odd meters later Chris came to a sudden stop and was clearly seen grinning away. He admitted that he fell for the bait but quickly “blew up.” Of course when James looked back he couldn’t help but smile……He loved the challenge and later, after the swim, told us how much he had loved leaving Balloch knowing he had the task to catch up as quickly as he could.
Guiding our way around the green and red channel buoys, we saw the blue pier at Inchtavannach which shall remain for all eternity, synonymous with our Cammie ! lol
The time was 8.25am. We were there for 5 minutes with no toilet break this time.
Finding out that James swam from Balloch to Inchmurrin with his paddles, Warren; in that lovely Geordie accent of his, laughed and declared James a cheat !! 6 miles now under their belt with 2 miles to Luss.

James continued to swim back and forth along the channel doing his own thing. The water movement was still with us helping the boys gently swim their final leg. All was going well until…..
Half way into the channel James disappeared under the water for some time and came up on Chris, frightening the bejeezus out of him. A thankful Warren was grateful he wasn’t the chosen victim for fear of a heart attack or filling his wetsuit !
Never a dull moment with James around.but on a serious note – it is an absolute privilege to witness this half man half fish in the water.
Once out of the channel, I guided our 3 swimmers around a small island that seemed overcrowded with seagulls. I quickly assumed that this must be the island swimmers from Luss refer to as “Bird Shit Island “
Half a mile or so to go and Luss was in our sight. With a few hundred meters to go, Chris and James were at it again – head to head.
And once again Chris crashed out after blowing out of his A___ for a 100 meters. Meanwhile James carried on with a 50 meter fly !!
Time to Luss 9.40am. Another great and worthwhile training swim today.
We left Warren and Chris to drive back from Luss whilst James came back in the boat which only took 80 minutes to reach Balloch Marina.
All of this and home for noon – what a day…..

You can now enjoy the clip so professionally put together by Mike Stark, it’s 8 minutes long but tells the story perfectly on our morning swim

Copy the above link for the video, but please note that it will NOT work on mobile phones or tablets…this is due to the music used in the edit, but it can be viewed on laptops, pc and macs.
When in youtube – go to settings (wee cog) and ensure it is on 720p for max result.