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Swimming the English Channel

Over the weekend we rented a movie entitled On a Clear Day, starring Brenda Blethyn, Peter Mullan, and James Sives.

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It's a wonderful English flick for the entire family about an aging father's quest to accomplish something after being fired from his ship building job of 35 years. I'll leave the details of the movie for you to watch, but I'm not giving anything away by writing that the father chooses to swim the English Channel.

Of course, the movie piqued my interest in the feat. So, after watching it I went online to to learn more about swimming the English is some of what I learned:

  1. If you are able to swim in a straight line from England to France, the distance is 21 miles. However, the channel currents make swimming straight impossible--most Channel swimmers end up stroking for 24 to 30 miles (counting all the zig zagging).
  2. There are two governing boards which officially document and referee swimmers' attempts. Taking both official bodies' numbers into account, 811 swimmers have officially completed the challenge--the first to do it was in 1875. For reference, through 2004, Mt. Everest was climbed on 2049 occasions.
  3. The median time of successful swimmers to swim from England to France is 12 hours and 55 minutes--you may also swim the Channel from France to England, but the median time for the reverse route is 14 hours and 14 minutes.
  4. There is only about a 10% success rate of those attempting to swim the Channel.
  5. The Channel "swim season" only runs from July through September due to inclimate weather (though there are no rules to prevent swimming it in other months). The average water temperature during the "warm months" remains at a chilly 59 to 65 degrees Farenheit (15 to 18 Celsius).
  6. Who does it? What's your sign? Apparently, Virgos, Aquarius, and Geminis, are the most adventurous of us as 20%, 13%, and 12%, respectively, of the successful Channel crossers belong to those constellation signs.
  7. The oldest successful swimmer was 70 and the youngest, 12.
  8. Nowadays, swimming both there and back is not unheard of (it's been done by 16 people) and even a few have successfully completed a "three-way" swim--yes, from England to France, back to England, and back again to France (3 people).
  9. Of course, wetsuits and other floatation devices are strictly forbidden, as well as touching your guiding boat. So, for nourishment throughout the swim, most swimmers are fed via a dangling water bottle attached to a fishing pole.
  10. No sharks to worry about. But jellyfish, floating seaweed and wooden planks, and oil patches from the abundant ship/ferry traffic are realistic hazards. Makes a 2.4-mile Ironman swim seem like a piece of cake, doesn't it?

Learn more at English Channel.

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