FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

Raising the bar

Until two years ago I had never done any open water swimming. Yes, I’d swum in the pool, played water polo (badly) but never swum in open water. My first event was the 1-mile Great North Swim in June 2013, for which I trained at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Sunday mornings were spent swimming in the shadow of a stately home, followed by coffee and cake and a smug air about me.
I have loved the past two years: progressing from swimming with a wetsuit last year to swimming without it this year; early morning swims in lakes around my local area – just gorgeous.
I still see myself as a novice open water swimmer but now I have also added a massive tick to my bucket list: this year I swam the English Channel as part of the Warwick 250 Channel Swim Team.

On Sunday 30 August 2015 at 12.15am we set off, faced with a daunting 7-metre spring tide. Half the swim was completed during the night in dark and ugly conditions, heading towards a huge thunder and lightning storm in northern France. That first swim was like swimming inside an open washing machine! Of course I can’t forget to mention the jellyfish, oil slicks, tankers, ferries and sewage…

The second swim was entirely different to the first, completed in daylight with the tides both with and against us. The swell had dropped and occasional breaks of sunlight came through. I’m not the fastest of swimmers but I do have a reasonable battery; however, with the tide pushing me along, I covered 7.656km in one hour on my second swim. I was literally swimming faster than Michael Phelps!
This was a serious life challenge to complete. I can honestly say that jumping off the back of a small boat at 2.15am in the wind and rain, during a lightning storm (that seemed a lot closer than it actually was) in the middle of the English Channel will not be repeated again – that’s for certain.
The on-board tracker showed we actually swam 35 miles in total between Dover and Calais. Our crossing was completed in 11hrs 23mins.

I hope this inspires others to have a go and maybe even raise the bar – two years from now what might you achieve? And remember, more people have climbed Everest than have swum the English Channel.
We also raised more than £9,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Anthony Nolan Trust and are still raising funds.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.