DAY SEVEN — Record Day (Sunday)
It’s record day and I for one am looking forward to celebrating a successful dive with a large number of drinks and a dinner in Bodrum. There’s also about 300 discos that need my urgent attention, but that’s all many hours and metres away.
We head out on the support boat. Yasemin will jet out later on an inflatable. The onshore press crop is visible on the headland and the ever-vulnerable live broadcast cable snakes away drooping from its buoys to the shore
This time the coastguard are there, apparently willing to ram and sink any pleasure craft that stray into the area. They look ready to chase off anything bigger than a seagull as they roar around the horizon. Personally, I can’t think of a more appropriate use for expensive military equipment.
The well-oiled machine works like a well-oilled machine and Yasemin is soon bobbing at the back of the boat. Nothing seems to phase her during her preparation. Even a large bumble bee landing on her cheek is brushed off with a sheepish grin.The poor bee was blown further out to sea where it was presumably shot down by the ever-vigilant coastguard.
I take up a prime position on the duckboard and get ready to hose Yasemin with film when she surfaces. The countdown reaches five minutes and the safety divers set off to acquire some more nitrogen. The air is ready to be cut with a knife.
At zero Yasemin and our collective stomachs drop. This is a deep dive and it will be a long wait. No one talks. Rudi breathes on the surface and gets ready to meet her on the way up. At about the two minute mark Judge Hal calls out that he can see the lift bag. He looks down again and then calmly says, "She’s not on it."
I feel instantly sick. Something is wrong and I just feel fear for Yasemin. I feel the same way as I did watching a bad blackout in Sardinia. I also feel the fear that hit me after my own blackout two years ago. Being one of the nearest to the water I call to the paramedic and doctor to bring the oxygen. This was probably pointless of as they have been ready the whole time.
The unaccompanied lift bag hits the surface and it’s just like that scene in The Big Blue when a Mayol’s character fails to take the first bag up. We all scan the surface and Rudi dives.
Hal raises his head and shouts, "She’s coming up under the boat!".
I move to the side and ready my camera. It’s going on film no matter what and Hal sounds positive. Yas surfaces under her own power right next to the boat, with Rudi and Hal in close attendance. She’s fine and she has the tag. It’s a new World Record.
I put the camera down, pull on my fins and dive in. What a relief! I just want to hug her. It turns out that Yas just got her warning bells mixed up, she said:
"On my way back up I mistook the 45m bell for the 15m signal where I planned to leave the bag,"
"It looked pretty light there after the darkness of 120m so I let go. Then, instead of letting my momentum carry me from 15m, I had an extra 45m to swim," she added.
"I felt really good and relaxed," Yasemin said of her two minute, forty five second dive.
"What is even more amazing is that the dive took much longer than expected. It shows just how strong a diver Yasemin is," said Rudi to a reporter later. I agree.
The spectator fleet crowds in under the watchful eye of the coastguard and I swim down to tease the safety divers as they shiver at 30m. Here’s an extract from the FREE press release the sums up the stats nicely:
"FREE is happy to announce a New World Record. On Sunday July 23rd, in the Turkish town of Bodrum, at 11:05 AM, Turkish freediver Yasemin Dalkilic set the New World Record in the Unlimited Variable Ballast category with a dive to 120 meters/394 feet. Yasemin completed this dive in a total time of 2:45 minutes, of which, 1:19 minutes were used for the descent, 10 seconds were spent at the bottom and 1:20 minutes for the ascent. Yasemin let go of her lift bag at a depth of 40 meters/130 feet and completed the ascent under her own power. F.R.E.E. Judges Hal Watts (USA) and Rudi De Nardo (Italy) were positioned at the surface and a depth of 105 meters/344 feet respectively, where Mr. Watts received the confirmation tag from the diver upon her surfacing, and Mr. De Nardo witnessed the arrival to the bottom and the retrieval of the confirmation tag from his position. This record follows up Yasemin’s performance of July 19th, when she established the new Limited Variable Ballast World Record with a dive to 100 meters/328 feet."
Back on land there’s a huge reception and press conference waiting. Horns blow and flags wave. Rudi throws champagne and ice on everyone and I feel proud and privileged to have been a (small) part of this whole affair.
Everyone has a sense of achievement and there’s also a feeling of relief in the air — especially the air around Yasemin’s family. We plan to gather with the team, sponsors and various others for drinks at sunset before heading into Bodrum to damage ourselves with alcohol. But I want to get a last taste of saltwater first.
I go for a dive alone, warily hugging the shore to avoid jetskis and other forms of aquatic vandal. Can I just say that I hate jetskis more than taxes, parking police and Boy Bands combined? May submerged logs, sharks and snipers take them all.
Many hours of press conference later we all head to Bodrum to renew our friendship with proper food and drink. Yasemin is beaming and Rudi has transformed into the most gloriously happy hedonist. So he should, the guy is an impressive coach and organiser by any standard.
I won’t say much about the meal other than that it was incredibly good and easily surpassed the goat testicle barbecue we had earlier in the week. The conversation and faces at the table glowed with sun, pride and a rather nice cabernet savignon.
It ended up being a very late night…
DAY EIGHT — (Monday)
I’m hungover but I’m not alone.
It’s a bit sad leaving but that’s the way it goes. I’ve got an airline ordeal ahead of me but I’ve also got some great insights into the sport I love.
Thank you all for making me welcome.