Where To Get The Cold Suit From The Old Man History of English Channel Swimming

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History of English Channel Swimming

When thinking about swimming, swimming the English Channel always comes to mind. At its most extreme, the distance between the English and French seas is only 22 km, but the combination of cold and strong currents means that only 10% of people who attempt it make it to the other side.

The first try was for JB Johnson, who came out just over an hour later. Three years later, Paul Boyton made it to the other side of the world using a special looking suit. However the first unassisted swim went to Captain Matthew Webb, who swam from Dover to Calais in 21 hours and 45 minutes on his second attempt.

Surprisingly, after this success it was to be 35 years before another one was registered, despite many attempts. One man, Jabez Wolffe tried and failed at least 22 times, four of them by less than a mile! Thomas Burgess did well, becoming the second man to swim the course with 13 attempts.

The first person to swim backwards from France to England was Enrico Tiraboschi in 1923 – today France-England is considered the ‘easy’ route due to the good waves. In 1926 Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to complete the distance.

The popularity of lane swimming reached its peak with road racing in the 1950s; 20 participants took part in the opening race, 9 of them finished. In 1972, 15-year-old Lynne Cox became the youngest ever to swim the track, breaking the men’s and women’s speed records at the time, and in 1988 Thomas Gregory swam the course at just 11 years old.

To date, more than 1200 people have completed the project since the first success 130 years ago. The team with the longest swimming history is the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and currently has almost 40 swims completed by its members. The current pace is held by Christof Wandratsch in an incredible time of 7 hours and 3 minutes. However, the undisputed winner of the channel crossing is Alison Streeter, who is from Dover and has crossed the channel 43 times, including completing the first three-way crossing – a return trip to Dover and back to France! The popularity of Channel swimming is now such that hopeful swimmers have to go on a waiting list to secure a boat crew to take them across.

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