I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Fig Swims the World by Lou Abercrombie which is a tale about a 15 year old girl who sets herself a New Year challenge of swimming around the world when she is desperate to impress her high-achieving mother.
The problem is Fig can’t swim at all and in her floundering comes across a group of older lady swimmers who help her find her stroke and as she starts her epic adventure, herself.
I’m going to share a full review later in the week but I have to say here how much I enjoyed this book that is divided into two parts, the preparations and then the actual swim around the world, speckled with lists, charts, maths equations and puzzles and vocabulary growing words its a joyfully geeky book on the one hand. Yet it is also a beautiful coming of age tale as Fig struggles, rallies, makes mistakes, challenges herself and then actually runs away to swim around the world and escape the control of her domineering mother.
I’m not ashamed to say this tugged on my heartstrings and I got all wobbly at one point.
I’m so excited to share with you a guest post from the author herself Lou Abercrombie, who herself a keen swimmer became inspired by Lord Byron to swim the Hellespont a 5km stretch between Europe and Asia and has had many swimming adventures since including learning to Free dive like a mermaid and a night swim lit by glowsticks, the latter of which is one of Fig’s planned swims!
But it is this first adventure that Lou wishes to share with you readers, the inspiration and experience of Lou’s first long distance wild swim:
“IF, in the month of dark December.
Leander, who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember?)
To cross they stream, broad Hellespont;”By Lord Byron
In 2013 I came across an article about open water swimming with a picture of a large stretch of blue water full of orange-capped swimmers. It was the Bosphorus Cross-Continental swim – 6.5km down one of the World’s busiest shipping lanes in Istanbul – which was described as being a swim once completed by Lord Byron. And while I’ve since discovered that this wasn’t factually correct, I was inspired by the idea of taking part in something steeped in literary history.
So, I applied to the Turkish Olympic Committee and duly got my place. Then the hard work began. I had to find a swimming coach to improve my front crawl technique and who could vouch for my swimming ability. I had to have a full doctor’s check-up and of course, there was the countless laps of the 50m pool at Bath University. But then…
I got freaked out! I was getting tons of emails in Turkish and suddenly felt like I’d taken on too big a challenge. That’s when I heard about Swim Trek and soon discovered that they too run a swim in Turkey – the Hellespont and Dardanelles – nicknamed the World’s Oldest Swim, and this time it really was a swim Lord Byron had done. I switched over immediately.
I arrived in Istanbul feeling excited and after a five hour coach journey followed by a ferry to Çanakkale, I couldn’t wait to get going. Swim Trek were excellent hosts of the non-Turkish side of the event and it’s at the first night party that I learnt more about the history of this stretch of water.
The Hellespont & Dardanelles – a narrow stretch of water separating Europe from Asia – is steeped in history, boasting the Greek myth of Leander who supposedly swam the distance at night to meet his lover Hero. Lord Byron wanted to swim it to prove it was possible and on 3rd May 1810, his second attempt, he did.
When I signed up to do this swim, I had no clue what I was getting into. I’d completed one outdoor swim around Burgh island, but other than that, I’d done all my training in the pool. It was on a boat tour of the route, the sea looking wild and choppy, that I had a sudden understanding that this was going to be a swim that required tactical knowledge as well as endurance. I knew I had the latter, but not so much the former…
You see the Hellespont is a dangerous stretch of water, with strong currents that if not traversed across correctly, would sweep you straight past the finish line and out into the Aegean Sea. The slower the swimmer, the more exaggerated route you took in the shape of a curve. I only learnt about all this as I was staring out at the water, gulping with nerves, wondering what I’d got myself into.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I listened to what the coaches said as they travelled around by motorboat calling out suggested sighting points. I chose the most cautious path and it paid off. I completed the swim in 1hr 17min. Not bad considering Lord Byron completed it in an hour and ten…
Congratulations Lou on such an amazing achievement! It is lovely to see how with hard work and mindset you can set your mind to anything, and I hope that Fig Swims the World encourages readers to put dreams into action.
Thank you so much to Lou for this inspiring guest post, thank you to Lauren at Little Tiger for inviting me on this blog tour and look out on Twitter across this week for further from the Fig Swims The World Blog Tour.
Fig Swims the World by Lou Abercrombie is published by Stripes a Little Tiger Imprint and is available to purchase from 2nd April 2020.