Day 22 – Two More Personal Bests

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In association with Performance FreeDiving International

Upon stepping outside today, the first thing that I notice is that it’s windy. It will be rough on the water but the word from Danny is that we are ‘go’. I spend much of the next hour wondering if I should have one Gravol or two.

After a quick breakfast we’re in the van and heading for the dock where Danny will be picking us up. It is rough alright, but certainly doable. The core of the team has been here for three weeks now and it shows. The boat is loaded with amazing efficiency, despite the waves.

Once we have everything and everyone on board though, the efficiency drops a bit. Every day we have more people on the boat. The small deck of Danny’s boat is completely covered in weights, line, cameras, tanks, rebreathers and all kinds of assorted hardware. Kirk, Danny, Peter and the team are unfazed and the counterballast is rigged up shortly before we tie on to the float.

The cameras and lights are a different story though. This time Mandy and Martin will be diving on the ‘counterballast’ side opposite to the sled. In this way they won’t be hindered by the sled. However, this means that we will have another bottom plate and camera for the other end of the line.

I haven’t noticed Mandy, Martin and Doc getting ready on the warmup line but as soon as we have everything set up, Mandy is waiting to be towed to the competition line; and deep safety divers, Bill Coltart, Chris Brandson and Duncan Hurd are ready to go. Game on!

Mandy is going for 75m in Free Immersion today. After a five minute countdown, Mandy’s on her way with me following with the video camera. I’m surprised at how slowly she’s descending, just as if it were a warmup dive. After 8m I level out to film Mandy gradually disappearing into the blue and then head back up to join Kirk, who’s breathing up for the safety dive. About a minute later Kirk is on his way down the line and I follow about 15 seconds later. Kirk stops at about 30m /100ft with me about 10m / 35ft above him. Mandy’s slow pace has obviously continued through the rest of the dive because we are waiting for several seconds for her to come into view. Eventually we see a silver blur way down there which turns into Mandy. Then Kirk starts swimming as she reaches his depth, and Peter and I join them a few seconds afterwards in one big convoy to the surface.

Mandy surfaces and recovers with no problems but notes afterwards that she turned shy of the plate. Her gauge reads 71m, equalling Annabel Briseno’s current world record for this discipline and a new personal best for Mandy.

Martin is up next for a 77m Constant Ballast without Fins dive. The countdown and safety routine is just the same as for Mandy. The only real difference is that Martin’s dive is about 30 seconds faster for a dive that was deeper in an inherently slower dive discipline. This is the first time I have directly seen Martin do a target dive and I am amazed at his easy recovery. He nonchalantly announces that he had hit the bottom plate and is quickly off to do his stint on the O2 bottle.

When it comes to the dives, Martin is all business. But there has been a tangible change to his attitude and demeanour since I first met him in 2001. He’s more talkative and relaxed. He laughs easily. I have a good feeling that he’s in the right head space for game day.

Once Martin’s dive is done, we shift over to the sled side of the boat for Doc’s Variable Ballast dive. Danny has let out 55m of line for him. Equalizing his ears at depth has always been Doc’s biggest challenge but he has been getting past 50m pretty consistently over the past several days. For his dive, things go quite well until just a foot or two above the stopper knot when he bails out. He completes the dive easily but he is clearly disappointed. His gauge reads 54m.

With all dives done, the deep safety divers attach lift bags and send up the sled and weights. It’s the setup and tear down that’s the hardest work for the support team. Kirk is working himself pretty hard here and by the end of our session he’s pretty bushed. He’s got nothing left over for the website so I pitch in and we have Mandy and Doc scheduled for the next two days of updates.

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