Cross Channel Swimmers

Photographs by Gareth Phillips

  • Share This:

The English Channel, at its narrowest point, is 21 miles of choppy water brimming with ferries, fishing boats, hulking container ships, weekend sailors and an increasing of number of bulky people coated from top to bottom in thick swathes of Vaseline.

Last year, 94 determined people completed solo swims of the Channel, up from 28 in 2001. This year, 54 people have managed the challenge, seen as the Everest of  long-distance swimming. Even more would have added their names to the list, had they not been knocked back by the vicissitudes of the weather and treacherous tides that can see months of painstaking preparation end in disappointment.

Ever since the first successful unaided crossing, in 1875 by the legendary Captain Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old merchant navy of?cer from Dawley in Shropshire, the stretch of water between Dover and Cap Gris Nez has been seen as the ultimate aquatic challenge. By the end of 2010, 1,614 crossings had been made by 1,185 individuals. 

A full text written by Amy Turner for The Sunday Times Magazine is available.