Team Les Français Givrés (Givrés translates to “frosted” but can also mean something like “bonkers”) took advantage of the unexpected and sudden change in the weather for an early season three-person English Channel relay on 21 April. Subject to ratification, this is a new record for the earliest relay of the year. Philippe Fort, Frederic Kocen and Denis Colombe, all accomplished cold water swimmers from France, took 12hr25m to reach Cap Gris Nez accompanied by Sea Leopard. Pilot Stuart Gleeson described the conditions as mainly flat and calm with a chilly start in the dark at 2:25 in the morning. The water temperature was between 9 and 10.2 degrees.
“The team swam regulation one-hour rotations and, as there were only three of them, the main challenge was warming up again in the two hours between swims, especially in the early hours. Even when the sun came out later, we still had a cool breeze from the east,” says Gleeson.
The swim had been planned as a record attempt and was in fact brought forward a few days because of the advantageous weather conditions, even though this meant swimming on a big tide.
Fort, who has previously done both a solo and relay, posted on Facebook that it was his most difficult crossing, adding: “We went to the end of ourselves by drawing deep into our mental and physical resources. We can be proud of our feat.”
The record for the earliest solo swim of the year is 16 May, set by Howard James in 2016.