After 37 Years, the record for the latest English Channel swim of the season has been broken, by Howard James aka ‘H2oward’. His swim started at around midnight on 3 November with an air temperature of just 4 degrees Celsius and a water temperature of around 14 degrees. Howard completed the swim in 11 hours and 38 minutes. His pilot was Andy King, on the boat Louise Jane.
The previous record was held by Michael Read, President of the Channel Swimming Association, who swam on 28 October 1979.
This has been a record breaking year for Howard, who on 16 May 2016 set a new record for the earliest ever Channel swim. Howard completed that swim in 13 hours and 13 minutes in water temperatures of around 12 degrees Celsius, beating the previous record set by Kevin Murphy, Honorary Secretary of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, on 29 May 1990.
An English Channel swim is a formidable undertaking even in the mildest of conditions and what Howard has accomplished is beyond many people’s realms of possibility.
Why did you undertake the swim?
“When I got out of the first swim [setting a new record for the earliest English Channel swim], everyone joked about whether I was going to come back and attempt to set a new record for the latest one. I said no at first, but then it kept coming up…and I thought, well why not?”
How was it?
“The first two hours were tough, especially with the wind hitting my back. But up on the boat were the team, all supporting me and having fun. Even throwing peaches and chocolate at me. I could always see one of them on the boat the entire time. It would not have been fair for me to pull the swim.”
Like the first swim of the season, after a tough first two hours, Howard was having fun.
How did you cope with the conditions?
“Stubbornness,” says Howard who trains at Deal on the Kent coast and often in the early mornings, so that he was accustomed to the temperature drop. However, this swim was tougher than expected.
Howard also studied the tracks of other swimmers – noting where they’d been at certain times and knew where he hoped to be at different stages of the swim. His team kept him updated and told him what he needed to do to reach his next goal.
“Of course it’s emotional,” says Howard, but whether it’s 50m or the Channel it’s a similar process. “You dive in and then think why am I doing this? And then you finish the swim.”
In addition to his record breaking English Channel swims, Howard has previously completed solo swims of the North Channel, Lake Zurich and the English Channel, and is contemplating two more marathon swims: “It’s not the Oceans Seven. It’s my Oceans Seven.”
When he swims, he is “In [his] element. Mentally I am ‘there’.” Swimming is a place where he can channel his energy and whilst people may be motivated to undertake long distance swims for a variety of reasons, for Howard it is simple, “Because I like it.”
Howard is raising money for the Alexa Trust, the charity that he set up with his wife in memory of his daughter Alexa James who was born prematurely and spent 29 days in Neonatal before she passed away last year. The Trust helps to provide support for parents going through similar experiences. Donations can be made via this link.
Along with a variety of other projects, in 2018 the Alexa Trust will embark on an English Channel Relay and you can find out how to become part of that team here.
No doubt Howard might be able to offer a few helpful tips to the swimmers!
Many congratulations double record holder ‘first and last’ Howard James!