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One Foot in the Wave – oldest English Channel relay

Michael Jennings, an English Channel swimmer in 1960, just doesn’t know when to give up. Now 74 years young he decided join up with a group of swimmers – some more than a decade his junior – for a record breaking Channel relay swim. This is his report:

Two ladies and four men, all Kent Senior Citizens average age just under 68, valiantly took on the might of the English Channel leaving Shakespeare Beach at 10.15 am Tuesday 4th September. Swimming as “One Foot in the Wave”, these highly trained and physically toned athletes pitched up near Cap Blanc Nez at 3.33 a.m. the next morning, in far from ideal conditions. The swim took them 17 h 18mins, with all six having done three swims each. Mind you, last man in only had to do 18 minutes and that fortunately fell to me. Guided by the beam of the powerful Aldis lamp on board pilot ship Sea Satin and a full moon overhead I found my way onto the sandy French beach.

Pam Bessell, team Captain, had put together a good team: Margot Anderson, 65.7, Dennis Vick, 67.1, Alan Macleay, 63.5, Kevin Murphy, 63.8, me, 74.7 and herself, 68.6. This makes this the oldest six person relay team, swimming to traditional rules set up in 1964, a time when I was serving on the CSA Committee. Unfortunately the team did not acquire the services of Carol Sing, USA revered marathon swimmer, who came over specially to join us but had to return home after a wait of ten days due to bad weather, or the average age would have been just over 69.

Piloted by Lance Oram on Sea Satin, the swim went off almost without incident, all swimmers having the benefit of many solos and relays between them. Still, plenty of amusing incidents occurred along the way with Kevin, who recently had serious shoulder surgery, yelling at Alan, “pull me up by the other arm, that one might come off in your hand!”
Pam was heard to remark back in Dover, “that trip back was worse than having a baby. I’ve had five and every time I swore never again. Shall we do a double next year?”

Margot, astride the wheelhouse roof, spouted Shakespeare into the pitch black of the night while the boat rocked and rolled: “There is a tide in the affairs of man which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures”. (Julius Caesar) Very apt!

All team members have in some way been touched by cancer, not personally but with friends and family, and agreed to swim helping Pam raise funds for “The Macmillan Cancer Support Fund”. Should you like to show your appreciation of this truly magnificent effort at:

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.