This is no ordinary challenge. Quite the opposite, to cross from the beaches of Blighty to French fields using human power alone is considered an ultimate feat of endurance.

Below, the Swimhalers explain why this method of crossing the English Channel is about more than just swimming a very, very long way.


Q) How far is it across the Channel?

Approximately 21 miles, or 32 kilometres

Some candidates have to swim further than that. Why does that happen?

The shortest distance is 21 miles, which takes you to Cap Gris Nez in northern France. But on either side of this, the land drops away, so if you fail to reach land at Cap, you have further to go to reach the shore. You will swim across the channel for 21 miles or so, but the current moves you many miles from side to side as the tide ebbs and flows. You may deduce from this that unless there is no tide (which does happen occasionally), the only way you could swim across would be in a way that counteracts the effect of the tide by swimming against it. However, this would waste valuable energy.

How long is it likely to take?

The fastest swim is a little over 7 hours and the slowest is nearly 27 hours.

What sort of sea conditions do you anticipate?

Sea-state can change very quickly in the Channel, with little warning. The pilots supporting us are very knowledgeable of local waters and we will have the best chance of making a successful swim under their guidance. We are hoping for a force ½ wind, but we are prepared for force 4-5.

Where do Channel swims normally take place?

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

What is special about swimming the Channel?

The English Channel poses a unique challenge and is considered by many as the ultimate long distance swim. Besides the distance, there are so many variables in terms of the swimming conditions you can encounter. The sea might be like a mirror, or it might be wind force 6 with waves in excess of 2 metres. The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers, 200 ferries and Seacats and other vessels going through daily.


What do you need to do to ensure your swim is officially recognised?

Swimming costumes must comply to CSA rules. Then an official CSA observer needs to witness the swim. At the end of the swim, this official will send their report to a CSA liaison officer and will present the report together with swim co-ordinates that plot the swim’s progression at the Committee for Ratification Meeting. Once ratified by members of this independent board, the swim will be entered into official record books.

What temperature is the water in the Channel?

During the swim season (July to September), the temperature should be between 14 and 18 degrees Celcius (57.2 – 64.4 Fahrenheit). July starts off cold, August has the best of it and September waters can cool off quickly if the air temperature drops.

Are there many training facilities available?

Most people make use of the beaches at Folkestone and Hythe or within Dover harbour.

Do swimmers need to use grease?

Most will use grease; some cover themselves completely, applying grease liberally to maximise heat retention. Others just apply grease to the areas that rub, such as the neck, armpits and groin.

Are all swims done in the day?

We prepare to swim in twilight and the darkness, at least for part of our swim. You need to be ready, as swimmers occasionally swim on a night tide.

Are there sharks in the Channel?

Too cold for most sharks thankfully, although there have been sightings of them. There are lots of jellyfish, however!


Antonia’s legacy

There is a deeper significance to the Swimhalers’ cross-Channel adventure. Phil and Dave will be swimming in memory of Antonia Thomas, a little girl who lost her life at the age of ten after a short asthma attack.

The Swimhalers aim to raise awareness and essential funds for Asthma UK, to help combat a respiratory disease which affects more than half the UK population.

Support the Swimhalers

We think you’ll agree, Dave and Phil are pulling out all the stops to conquer this world famous challenge. Over the last six months they have notched up nearly 1000km of swimming!

If you would like to get behind them (enjoying a nice cup of tea while they windmill their way through the chilly, choppy waters of the Channel), please donate to their Just Giving page and leave them a little message to cheer them on!

You can also follow the #swimhalers via @leadchallenges on Twitter, or Leadership Challenges on Facebook.

About Asthma UK

  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. They do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • Asthma UK is solely funded by public donations.
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 2225800

For more information about asthma please visit: www.asthma.org.uk

To find out more about Asthma UK’s events that take place throughout the year, visit www.asthma.org.uk/events