Wind is always a factor

‘In order to cross the Gibraltar strait, you need more than just muscles. You need a sailor’s experience and a captain’s knowledge’.

Tarifa winds – the prevailing is Levante, a warm wind that’s crossed deserts and sea to get to us

This extract adapted from Volshin’s blog How to swim across a sea

Current – The main direction of the Gibraltar current is towards the Mediterranean and its speed is 3-4 km/h. This happens due to the fact that in the Mediterranean water evaporates faster and becomes saltier. Salt water is heavier and goes down, while fresh water from the Atlantic Ocean comes on top. Therefore, on the Strait can be observed a sea current, and on its bottom an opposite one – to the ocean.

Figure 13 (Large)
Illustration from (bizzarely) ‘A brief illustrated guide to understanding Islam’

Tides – Let’s get back to school! On the side of the Earth that faces the Moon, the water rushes to the Moon, carried by the power of lunar attraction. On the other side, due to the tides on the “front” side, the earth is literally pulled out of the water, which causes the tides on the “back” side. As the Earth continues its rotating process, and the Moon changes its position, tides change every 6 hours. These tides cause a tide current, the speeds can grow up to 4 knots. Occasionally the tide current direction coincides with the main current, producing a current of up to 5 knots, while the opposite effect can cause a speed-drop.

Wind – The first two factors are predictable and depend on time and the Moon. But wind is variable. It’s important to take into consideration not only the direction of wind, but also its force. The direction is important, because swimmers can get floated away to the Atlantic so we are waiting for Poniente – a west-blowing wind. At the same time, the wind force must not exceed the level 5 of Beaufort scale, or 20 km/h, because the waves will rise so high that the organizers won’t let you start.

Physical preparation – Swimmers’ speed has a great importance – if you swim slower than 20 min per km, then no currents and winds can help you reach Morocco – you either won’t make it at all or the currents will float you away from the finish line (left from Punta Cires island) right into the military area, where swimming is strictly forbidden. If this happens swimmers are stopped 100 meters away from land, put on boats, and their results are waved off.

Strategy and plan – The goal is very simple – the group must reach the finish line all together. Therefore they all need to help each other, because the finish time is counted by the last arrived. It’s forbidden to swim forward or backward more than 50 meters. If someone lags behind from the other team members and swims slowly, he firstly gets a warning, and then he is put on the boat.