SWIMMING THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
There is a saying that goes like this; from the outside looking in you can’t understand it, from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it; however, It is an iconic swim that is the 21 mile wide stretch of water between England & France.
Swimmers from around the globe see the EC swim as the Everest of open water swimming, more people have reached the summit of Everest than have successfully swam solo to France, in fact the total to date (end 2014) is 1429 swimmers making a total of 1810 crossings, this includes multiple crossings by individuals. The most by any single person is 43 by Alison Streeter MBE and the most by a man is 34 by Kevin Murphy. There have been 39x 2 way solos and 3x 3 way solo swims, impressive! I'll share some more facts and figures with you later.
As with boating and other water based sport there are risks to contend with, hypothermia being the one that stands out the most as swimmers are swimming in temperatures ranging from 10 degrees in early May to 16 degrees in September, training time in the water by the end of May is usually around 2.5hrs….
Have you tried dipping your feet in the harbour??
Inexperience, under & over training, over confidence and a lack of ability to find the mental strength to carry on when you are tired, cold, feeling sick and have basically lost the will to turn your arms over are all issues that swimmers find themselves faced with during training and on the big day.
Some more facts: The fastest swim was by Australian Trent Grimsey in 6hrs 55min, the slowest by Kent’s very own gem of a lady Jackie Cobell in 28hrs 44min an epic swim which has led Jackie onto representing the UK in Ice swimming events around the world, well worth a Google!! Jackie is also to be found on Dover Beach at the weekends training for her swims throughout the season.
The question most channel swimmers are asked is simply WHY! Why would you want to do that? There really is no definitive answer, everyone has a story, a charity and maybe even a reason that just cannot be spoken.
Isn’t it cold in there?
I guess it is if you’re not used to it, but training to acclimatise to it for a long time leading up to swims is vital, although some still do still succumb to the cold especially at night.
What about the jelly fish?
Of course there will be some jelly fish and yes some do sting, Sometimes there are vast swathes of them and other times hardly any. The Jellies are harmless, although some can give a sting that serves as a reminder that swimmers are sharing their home.
It must be really dirty in the sea?
No, it's actually pretty clean most of the time. With the exception of the odd floating flotsam & jetsam and sometimes build-up of seaweed after a storm it’s actually not too bad out there.
Why don’t swimmers swim in a straight line?
A typical crossing will be displayed on a chart as an inverted S shape. This is because the tidal influence in the channel shifts every 6 hours thus pushing the swimmer up and down the channel whilst they swim across the tide towards France.
The oldest was Otto Thanning as recently as 2014 when at 73 he became the oldest man to swim the channel. The retired South African Heart Surgeon took the accolade from Australian Cyril Baldock who at 70yrs 9 months had set the previous record only weeks before.
Next time you walk along the seafront in Dover have a look for the statue of Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to make the attempt back in August 1875, the statues of the swimmers arms and the swimmers training in the harbour and ask yourself…could you do it??
All information correct at time of publication.
Whetted your appetite?!
Find out more at:
Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation