Cam Swims the Channel | The Swim
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The Swim

Swimming the English Channel

The English Channel is seen as a pinnacle achievement (‘The Everest’) of the sport of open water swimming. Did you know that more people have actually climbed Mt Everest than have swum the Channel?

The Channel swim is the ultimate test, with the harsh conditions providing the challenge rather than the long distance. Wave heights can reach two metres; the water is icy cold (13-17C) and the channel itself is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through daily.

The English Channel

A brief history

The sport of Channel Swimming traces its origins to the late 19th Century when Captain Matthew Webb made the first observed and unassisted swim from England to France in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Since 1875 there have been 2,121 successful swims.

Proud Aussie, Trent Grimsey (Cam’s coach) is the current world record holder for the fastest time ever swum across the Channel, in 6 hours 55 minutes, breaking the record by 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

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Frequently asked questions

Where do the swims take place?

Swims usually start at or near Shakespeare’s Cliff or Samphire Hoe (in between Folkestone and Dover, England), and aim to finish at or near Cap Gris Nez (between Boulogne and Calais), France.

How far is it to cross the channel?

Approximately 32 kms.

Why do some people end up swimming for a longer distance than that?

The shortest distance is 32 kilometres but as the tide ebbs and flows, the current can move the swimmer kilometres from side to side.

The French Coastline drops away on either side of Cap Gris Nez, so if swimmers are moved by the current they may need to swim further to make landfall. Most swimmers swim a sort of ‘S’ shaped course.

How long will the swim take?

The fastest swim is a little under seven hours and the slowest nearly 27 hours.

What’s so special about the English Channel?

It isn’t just the distance that is the challenge, but more the variable conditions encountered. These may vary from mirror-like conditions to strong winds and wave heights in excess of two metres. The water is cold and there is a good chance of meeting jellyfish, seaweed and the occasional plank of wood plus it’s one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

How cold is the water in the Channel?

Temperature ranges from 14 to 17 degrees Celsius. Air temperature also plays a significant role as a swimmer’s body heat is lost from parts of the body exposed to the air.

One of the most dangerous risks on this swim is hypothermia. Our body temperature is supposed to stay at a constant 37°C. Upon dropping to a dangerous level of below 24°C, recovery is unlikely but if caught early, moderate hypothermia can be reversed.

How do you keep your energy up when you’re swimming for such a long time?

Swimmers are not allowed to touch another human during the course of the swim but also need food and refreshment to keep their energy levels up and keep adequately hydrated. Helpers on the pilot boat often use a feeding pole or cup as the swimmer needs to eat and drink at regular intervals.

What do you wear?

For a swim to be officially recognized, swimmers must not be assisted by any kind of artificial aid and are only permitted to wear goggles, a cap, a nose clip, ear plugs and one standard swimming costume. To keep warm most swimmers liberally cover themselves in swimmers’ grease.

Are there sharks in the Channel?

It is too cold for most sharks!

The English Channel

You can help!

While Cam does the training and the swim, we need your help to raise the funds. Let’s see your support on this epic adventure!