The English Channel Swim Challenge

Firstly, this post may contain images that could offend apologies if that is the case.

The England Channel is considered to be one of the most iconic sea swims in the world, with swimmers travelling from all over the world to attempt it. To date only 2126,, solo swims have been completed by 1619 swimmers. More people have completed the Everest climb with over 4000. Unfortunately over the years the Channel has claimed 9 lives.

As the crow flies the distance is 21 miles but due to the tides the swimmer normally covers over 30 miles, the quicker you swim the less distance you have to travel and pilot will try to land you on Cap Gris Nez, France by calculating your swim speed and time it should take beforehand. If you miss the Cap you can expect to swim another few hours. For example, the slowest swim was by Jackie Cobell who took 28hrs 44mins and was swept off course and ended up swimming some 65 miles.

It was a British merchant seaman, by the name of Captain Matthew Webb, aged 27, who first swam the Channel. Starting at midday from the Admiralty Pier at Dover, on 24th August 1875, covered in porpoise oil, Captain Webb launched himself into the English Channel and began swimming breaststroke towards France. On a diet of coffee, beer, brandy and cod liver oil he arrived on the French shore of Cap Gris Nez 21hours 45mins later. Webb later died attempting a swim through the Whirlpool Rapids beneath Niagara Falls.

In the true spirit of Captain Webb, swimmers must attempt the Channel with the bare minimum, only one swimming cap, goggles, ear plugs and swimming trunks (Budgy Smugglers) / costume. That said, Captain Webb only had his knitted swimsuit.

Me in my new Budgy’s, wearing these bad boys for the first time on Boxing Day 2016, took more courage than jumping into the sea at 8c.

The window for my swim is from 29th July to 6th August 2017, which means I need go within those dates when the conditions are right. Stuart Gleeson of the Sea Leopard will be my pilot and support boat. Stuart has supported a number of swimmers who have trained in and around the Bournemouth area and came highly recommended because ‘he’s nice bloke’, ‘Stuart! Oh he’s lovely’ was what they said to me. I was fortunate enough to meet him properly when he was the pilot for Stuart Purcell’s successful swim and with whom I crewed for in 2016. There will also be an official from Channel Swimming Association CSA to make sure the rules are adhered and to validate the swim. I will also have a small support team of 3 to 4 people.

This support team will be preparing feeds every 30mins which will consist of mainly Maxi high carb drinks. Other items on the ‘chef special menu’ will be Dunnes River Nourishment drink, milk (Blue Top), flat coke, biscuits, bananas, cakes etc. Because you are not allowed to touch another human or the boat during the course of the swim, any food will be passed to me by a long pole or thrown on a line. Many swimmers experience sickness during their attempts which can be a real issue if you can’t refuel. Flat coke and ginger biscuits are considered helpful for sickness. Some swimmers take sea sickness tablets beforehand.

The support team will also be monitoring my stroke rate, physical and mental wellbeing, whilst motivating me to keep going.

The sea temperature should be around 16c and I estimate the swim will take me upto 15hrs to complete, which will mean a night swim. Hopefully conditions will allow me to get that out of the way at the beginning by starting in the early hours. Most swims start from Shakespeare Beach, or Samphire Hoe, Dover, with the aim of finishing on Cap Gris Nez, France.

                      Shakespeare Beach                                                              Cap Gris Nez, France

The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through every day. It’s Stuart’s job to make sure we don’t get mowed down.

The sea is blooming chilly and part of the training is getting used to the cold, which is why I still swim throughout the winter with ‘Just Swim’ at Fishermen’s Walk Southbourne. During the swim season of July to September the temperature in the water ranges from 14 to 18C, but it is said can plummet to 6C. You must complete a six-hour swim in similar temperatures, below 16c, before the CSA will let you attempt a crossing.

My winter training is mainly in the Shirley Swimming Pool, swimming 25k a week. Come the beginning of May my sea swimming training will increase and will start with 1hr swims Saturday and Sunday. I will increase the swims by an hour each week until I’m swimming 7hrs on Saturdays and 6hrs on Sundays. With my aim, to have a completed a few of these by 29th July 2017.

Thank you reading this, sorry for the offensive image.

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