English Channel

The English Channel is without doubt the world’s most famous open water swim. The part of the Channel that swimmers tackle is the 34 km stretch of water between Dover, UK and Cap-Gris-Nez, France. The first person to successfully swim across this stretch of water, known as the Dover Strait or Le Pas de Calais in French, was Matthew Webb. Since Webb’s crossing in 1875, many aspiring marathon swimmers have attempted to emulate this feat, though with limited success…

Photograph – Midlands Heritage

One side of the Memorial to Captain Matthew Webb in his home town of Dawley in Shropshire.

In 2007, aged 14 years and not having any idea of the enormity of the challenge that the English Channel presents to swimmers, I signed up for a solo in September 2009. With the help of open water swimmer and motivator Ned Denison, coach Eilís Burns, the wonderful Sandycove swimmers and Fermoy SC, I successfully crossed the English Channel on Monday, 21st September 2009 in a time of 10 hours 19 minutes, at that time the fastest that any Irish person had completed the crossing. Aged 16 years, I was, and still am, the youngest Irish person to have completed this iconic swim. That same week, my good friend Lisa Cummins became the first Irish person ever to complete a 2-way crossing and only the second person ever to have completed a 2-way crossing without having previously done a 1-way crossing. Another friend of mine, Sylvain Estadieu of Alsace, also successfully swam the Channel that week. Sylvain, or Sylle for short, will attempt this swim again in 2013, but this time on butterfly!

Photograph – George O'Keefe

Myself, Lisa and Sylvain in Varne Ridge during the long wait for suitable weather for our swims!

The world record for the fastest English Channel crossing is Trent Grimsey of Australia. On Saturday, 8th September 2012 he completed the swim in a staggering 6 hours 55 minutes flat, beating the old record, held by Bulgarian Petar Stoychev, by 2 minutes 50 seconds. Trent is also FINA Grand Prix Champion 2012, making him officially World #1 in the open water! I was lucky enough to be on board Trent’s support boat Gallivant that day with legendary English Channel pilot Mike Oram, Trent’s coach Harley Connolly of Lawnton Swimming Club, Trent’s support swimmer Damián Blaum of Argentina (World #2) and my friend and fellow swimmer Donal Buckley from Tipperary.

Please click here to see all posts on this blog relating to the English Channel…

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One thought on “English Channel

  1. Pingback: Travessia do Leme ao Pontal na mídia irlandesa | Owen O'Keefe

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