Big Rick’s Swim Team set two-way English Channel relay record

Last Saturday a team of six swimmers from the West Midlands set a new world record for the fastest mixed British two-way relay crossing of the English Channel. Big Rick’s Swim Team completed the swim from England to France and back again in 19 hours and 23 minutes and have raised over £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Big Rick’s Swim Team are Charlie Wheadon, 33, portfolio manager; Claire Thorn, 44, police officer; Ross Emery, 37, commercial director; Stuart Fuller, 41, operations director; Paul Bates, 48, tools manager; Rob Small, 37, secondary school teacher. The team was formed at Perry Beeches Swimming Club but are now all good friends. We spoke to Claire about their record-breaking swim

What was the inspiration for a two-way crossing?

Our captain, Paul, had already done a one-way and two-way relay so we couldn’t do any less (we beat his previous team’s time by just over an hour). We also wanted to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, as many of the team have lost family and close friends to cancer.

What was the low point of the swim and how did you combat it?

For me this was just before my fourth hour of swimming. Several of the lads had exited the water complaining of being stung by jellyfish and saying how bad it was in there. It was 1.30am, pitch black and I was physically scared! However, on jumping into the cold water and starting to swim, the fluorescent bacteria shone on my arms and it was just truly amazing! Unfortunately once the boat caught up the light pollution made it disappear but it was still a fantastic swim.

Rob’s low point would be the fact that he was extremely sea sick for the majority of the journey!

Hour 3 With Tanker

What was your high point?

Starting the relay off, I jumped in off the boat, swam to Shakespeare Beach and awaited the starting klaxon. It was a real honour to have the opportunity to do this. Ross did the touch in France and I am sure that will be his highlight. He had to exit fully clear of the water and scraped both his knees and legs in the process, but when getting back on the boat after that swim he was buzzing and even said he would do a solo! 

How did you feel on completing the swim and what did you do to celebrate?

Very tired, it was just after 3am and we had been up nearly 24 hours, so physically and mentally drained! But extremely happy and after some much needed sleep we went out to celebrate in Dover, starting at the White Horse Pub where you get to write your swim (name, team and times) on the wall. The wall is absolutely covered and is such an iconic place for Channel swimmers.

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What is your next challenge?

We are already talking about ‘what next’ – maybe a three-way in 2018 or the North Channel (but that is really cold and has loads more jellyfish, so I would rather go to warmer climes like the Catalina Channel in California!)

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.