Arrived in Ibiza late last night with party including British Free-diving team-members Rodin O'Hagan, Ben Gowland, Mary Naylor and Sacha Dench, and coach Steve Fuller. Met at 10am at Rumbo Azul dive shop in Playa den Bossa to learn that water stays relatively shallow on this side of island.
Piled into hire cars to drive to Calla Carbo on south-west but found only 27m and some current after long swim out. Viz lovely and water temperature a kind 24°C, so just acclimatised.
In convoy to San Antonio on west side to meet Rumbo Azul's large hardboat, with great facilities. Shared with small party of scuba-divers who were very interested in what we were up to. Headed north to picturesque small island with 70m-plus in open water. After 2 hours most of us up to peak performance and enjoying 20m viz and no current. Distinct thermocline around 30m and another at 50m, though I never found that one!
A 60m line was tied to fender as surface float, with 20kg weight tied to end to keep line taut. Ran three SMBs off fender so we could relax between dives and "breathe up" well clear of water. Tied shorter line to SMB for shallow practice. This gave us two visual references and plenty of surface relaxing area.
Ben feeling sick after two hours in choppy sea. On boat we found Sacha, who had opted to scuba dive, on O2 with bad headache. Agreed to watch her for next two hours. Watched her devour huge bag of crisps and bottle of water, after which she felt better. Dehydration and CO2 headache? She had hardly used any air, so perhaps she forgot she could breathe on this dive!
Back on land, met for photo shoot at picturesque small bay. Naked man walking round otherwise empty beach took great interest as two mermaids and two merboys headed out to sea with safety divers and underwater photographer Zena Holloway.
Modelled for many pictures but without masks all had difficulty equalising or even seeing much. Got out after two hours at 7.30pm, sinuses dripping seawater though my nose for hours. They were quite sore overnight.
Back to San An and dive-boat, minus scubies. Headed south and stopped over 60m near small islands. Water a beautiful aquamarine blue, no current, perfect for free-diving. Lee Donnelly had arrived and he, Ben, Mary and I all did personal bests. After an hour I put on scuba set and ran off underwater film of others free-diving.
More mermaid shooting after lunch, but in pretty areas as shallow as 5m, so sinuses better. Early night as all shattered.
Up early. Met Lee at Club Med with world record-holder Tanya Streeter and husband Paul and set off for San An and boat north. Good constant-weight training: Ben went to 56m, I managed 40m.
Zena joined us and we went mermaiding, to delight of skipper, diving over 70m of water in our cumbersome tails. Eyes and sinuses far more tolerant of salt water now.
Hannah Stacey, fourth ladies' team member, arrived at 4am but joined us at 9.30 for training. Ben did 60m dive on his birthday. Sacha trained and got to 40m. I did 41m. Drinks at the Bull Bar and temporary tattoos. This was meant to be our clubbing night, but all too tired.
Day off as team moved into Club Med and needed time for registration. Only seven places had been made available, so group split up. Met buddies from around world.
Formal team static training session- did series of breath-holds in pool followed by decreasing recovery times from 2 minutes to 15 seconds but I had tickly cough and struggled. John Moorcroft, final team member to arrive, joined us for dinner.
First official training day but we passed because of satisfactory arrangement with Rumbo Azul hardboat. Shared with US team, who were good company. Excellent morning- Ben made official UK record attempt and achieved 61m. Mary did personal best of 36m and Hannah 34m. I waited around too much and messed up on big one.
Team meeting at Club Med at 4pm to discuss rule changes and tactics, then shuttled into capital Eivissa for official opening parade. England football team had just drawn with Greece in World Cup qualifier, so town full of happy supporters. UK team sniffed out champagne at official reception, then joined US buddies in alphabetical procession.
Official training day 2 cancelled because of bad sea conditions. Luckily Rumbo Azul found us sheltered area. Trained with Belgian and Monaco teams. Some current and surface chop, but it was good experience and we fared better than Belgians who, though cheery, seemed very green.
Back at Club Med, put in official inscriptions depths (we state personal depths and must achieve them or be penalised). Heart-searching team-selection discussion followed: Sacha in, Hannah out. Men wanted Ben to compete as he was performing so strongly, so Lee stood down.
Inscriptions went in as Sacha 42m, me 41m and Mary 38m; Ben 55m, Rodin 52m, and John 42m. Only at 10.30pm was list of competitors diving next day announced. Everyone inscribing less than 45m was in, 65 divers. Headed back for early night.
Late phone-call from team captain Steve Gardner to say I was diving at 11.21am. He also said deepest dives were incredible 81, 83 and 86m- two potential world record attempts! Also many inscriptions between 60-80m. At last year's World Cup, deepest dive was 67m.
Tonight USA and UK started bombing Afghanistan, reminding us that despite international co-operation here, the world went on around us.
First constant weight day- woke up feeling nervous. On first coach at 8.30am. Dive location had moved to open sea on east coast to avoid strong winds on west.
On arriving, told to change into wetsuits and board transport boats. Eek, no warm-up! Managed about 10 minutes stretching before climbing on RIB with first 10 competitors and buddy-divers (team-mates or coaches). Dropped on large hardboat about 2 miles out. Spanish organisers only just setting up practice lines.
Allocated practice line and safety diver. Lee kept time and took turns with me. Did 20m and 36m free immersion, pulling down on nice taut line. Called to competition area. Surface conditions not ideal. Sacha dived, went clear, then John, again clear. I was next, so started breathe-up.
Asked to get off rope because they were pulling it up to 40m. I was on wrong line! Moved to correct line only 30 seconds ahead of top time. Panic! Didn't relax enough to get full lung of air, just breathed deeply a few times and went. Whole dive subconscious except for additional equalisations to keep ears open. Ran out of air at about 36m and felt squeeze.
Reached for tag a couple of metres below and felt ear pop. Not sure if it had self-equalised or torn eardrum but had tag so relaxed and enjoyed swim to surface. Looked for judge, pulled off mask and gave OK signal. Lee said to smile, so I did. It was easy.
Had to wait ages on competitors' boat for return trip. Eventually got on and saw Mary, who had dived successfully but hurt ear. All hugged and started to celebrate.
Official results at 6pm. UK team all clear, but 11 sambas or rope faults plus two excluded divers. Message on noticeboard said UK ladies 121 points and 1st position (so far). That felt good.
We shared stories. Organisation had been poor, with much waiting around to be told what was happening next. No toilets, and with 3-4-hour waits, what's a girl to do? While Mary was waiting around she took a pee in her wetsuit. Swore she was in sea at time but our coach said she was sitting on his knee. This led to much talk of fetishes.
Later in the evening as more wine consumed, Guilliame, 19-year-old French wonder boy, declared undying love for Hannah from 20m away. Poor lad wasn't seen for next 24 hours (he can hold his breath, but not his drink).
Constant weight day 2, and with no divers competing we met at 8am for static practice, then organised trip to interesting caves at Port Miguel. More static practice during afternoon while awaiting day's results. Only one samba, so good day. Dinner with US team. Matt, my partner, arrived.
50-60m constant-weight day and another early start for static practice. Rodin and Ben with buddies Lee and Steve set off for dive site at Es Vedra, spectacular rock in south-west. Group drove down to see them off. Fiona, Sacha, Matt and I snorkelled, saw flying gurnard, many morays and even small dentex. Right ear started to hurt and doctor later diagnosed ruptured eardrum.
Boys returned wearing enormous grins. Much hugging and kissing. Back to Club Med to organise celebration night out.
A Venezuelan was only one to samba or miss inscription depth. He stood up on competitor bus and said: "I salute my fellow free-divers for their success today". Brave gesture ensured that no-one would feel embarrassed about talking about the day.
After much wine with dinner, headed for town to make most of two-for-one deal at Bull Bar. Had go on bucking bronco, then all fought to be first on spaceball bungee. Adrenaline junkies? Evening degenerated into tequila slammers and regret in the morning. Luckily some of the best statics are done on a hangover!
Our rest day- just as well. Big boys were competing at constant weight and we listened for reports on record attempts. Martin Stepanek turned at 68m with equalising problems but Herbert Nitsch succeeded and earned 86 points. A world record in competition is incredible.
Had fun afternoon free-diving and scuba-diving with Rumbo Azul guys and later did static practice in pool.
Club Med pool busy all day with floating bodies- it was static practice day. UK team in at 8am and again at 5pm. Most competitors relaxed between training, US and Canadian teams took day off. Most of UK team frustrated at not getting best performances. Hannah had first (mild) samba and was hallucinating into Steve's mask over her reflection.
Official underwater photos poor quality so none of us bought any. After dinner coerced some of French team to come on spaceball bungee with us. Good way to release pent-up adrenaline.
Final day meant early starts and little or no breakfast. Those in apartments moved out. Trekked to new municipal baths near Eivissa, attractive 30m pool with tepid water more relaxing than unheated water at Club Med.
Finnish diver had called 1 minute and achieved 6.20. We were impressed, though later learnt he needed to catch early flight so had made call to ensure he went first! Unlike constant weight, in static apnea you can exceed inscription call and score points. Benefit in calling longer inscription is that you have to respond to safety diver by tapping finger only a minute before your call, so can remain detached or in deep meditation for longer.
Mary and Sacha dived at same time. I was doing warm-up but Matt told me Sacha might have samba-ed. My prep went well but had fuzzy head from pain-killers for ear. Achieved 4.10 on last warm-up so felt confident. At "top" (end of countdown, with 10 seconds to immerse face or be penalised) I put head down but timer on computer stuck at zero for a while.
Time to my first tap went fast. Felt good. By 3.30 was getting uncomfortable and decided not to go past 4.30. Responded at 3.45 and somewhere near 4 lost it. Felt like drifting asleep.
Next thing I knew I was standing next to Matt who was asking if I was OK. Felt bad when I realised what happened, had no idea I was that close. What a time to have my first samba!
At least one girl each from German, Italian and French teams samba-ed. US girls all did well.
Martin Stepanek, world-record holder and Herbert Nitsch had both called 7 minutes. Martin came up early at 6.15, collecting major points penalty. Herbert came up at 8.06 but stiffly, and did not remove goggles for 15 seconds. Crowd cheered but we knew he had samba-ed.
Italians had won championship and started to party at once, jumping into pool and singing. Party continued at Club Med as teams broke out beer, rum etc. Dinner riotous.
Noisy official presentation and closing ceremony in big top. Teams sang, danced, Mexican waved and cheered. Club Med put on excellent show with stills and video. Party continued at bar but eight of UK contingent had to catch 2am flights so took hangovers with us.
The UK men's team came eighth out of 29 teams with 299.5 points- its highest ranking and highest points scored in an international competition. Winner Italy scored 389. UK women came 9th out of 16 with 204 points, Canada winning with 273.5 points.
Both UK teams are world class now. If we continue to develop skills and performances we should be able to achieve podium positions, but lack facilities for constant-weight training in UK (sea too shallow, currents strong) and lack finances to train in the Med as effectively as would wish. But we have already started working on our static times. Thanks to sponsors Suunto UK, GUL International and Seven Tenths, and to Rumbo Azul.
the team takes part in the parade through Ibiza's capital Eivissa
The British team, with Enrique of dive centre Rumbo Azul
static breath-hold practice for Mary Naylor with Crispin Wright checking
strange what can be found on Ibiza beaches- Paul Streeter with mermaid Sacha Dench.
Mary Naylor in practice
John Moorcroft in the competition zone after the static event- there was no shortage of judges
static practice for Rodin O'Hagan
Mary Naylor goes for glory
Ben Gowland and Rodin after their successful dives on the 50-60m constant weight day