Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation "Nothing great is easy", Captain Matthew Webb

27 Jun 2013Charity Channel Challenge Relay

Charity Channel Challenge Relay

3-person relay team make it to France and back in 25 hours and 8 minutes

Relay Report - "Channel Charity Challenge" 

The second CS&PF relay of 2013 saw Eddie Spelling and the crew of Anastasia take out a three person relay on Thursday 27th June.

The team leader was James Gibson. James has been inspired to complete a number of challenges over recent years by his brother, Matthew. Matthew has Down Syndrome and James has used these challenges to fundraise for charities which are close to his heart. Past challenges have included the Three Peaks challenge and running a marathon. James was, apparently, less than impressed when Matthew suggested that his next project should be to swim the English Channel!

This relay was a long time coming and very nearly didn't happen. The original three person team were due to swim in September 2012, but were weathered out at the end of the season. The team was rebooked as a four person relay with Eddie for the Spring tide before the first "official" neap tide of the season, i.e over the period from 23rd June to 30th June. Unfortunately, during the last few days before the swim, two of the members of the team had to drop out and a replacement swimmer was sought.

For this challenge the team were fundraising for Douglas Macmillan Hospice and Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK.

The three eventual team members were James Gibson, Tim Hughes and Zoe Sadler. Tim is James' best friend and Zoe was the replacement swimmer.

The swim started at 0113 on Thursday 27th June with James the first swimmer in the water. The team had agreed to swim in two hour legs, which gave four hours to rest in between swims. James' reaction when he first jumped in was rather comical. The water was pretty "fresh" at 12.8C and it was the middle of the night! James took a little time to settle into his first swim, and soon realised the error of wearing tinted goggles for night swimming. He settled into his stroke nicely, but it was clear that he was starting to get very cold after the first hour had passed. It was at this stage that the idea of one hour swims suddenly seemed far more attractive to all members of the team.

Zoe was the next swimmer into the water at 0313 and it was clear that James was very pleased to see her standing at the back of the boat ready to jump in. However, her entry was less of a elegant jump, and more of a flop backwards into the water. Nevertheless, the first relay takeover was carried out relatively quickly, and James climbed back on board Anastasia. After a few sharp intakes of breath (it was still dark and cold!) Zoe settled nicely into her stroke for her two hour leg. She had a feed of warm Maxi after an hour (Barrie's Dover beach special), but the cold also started to get to her about 80 minutes into her swim. Thankfully the sun was starting to rise, and although the water was no warmer, the daylight definitely helped.

Tim jumped into the water at 0513 for the second changeover. Tim swam a combination of front crawl and breaststroke and shortly after his swim started he entered the SW Lane at 0527 hrs. There were some interesting boats out in the shipping lane, including a really rusty looking one.

James was next to enter the water at 0713 and the first rotation of swims was completed. It was around this time that the team started to encounter the jellyfish. There were quite a number of them around and they were a light blue opaque colour. Some were quite large. James received a few stings during this swim, but they were not really a problem. James enjoyed his second swim much more than his first swim, and this time the tinted goggles were a good idea!

Zoe was next into the water at 0913, rather reluctantly, as she had only just stopped shivering from the first swim. She entered the NE lane at 0932 and began the run in the direction of the Cap. For this swim she was far more distracted by the jellyfish than the cold, but managed to avoid most of them. At 1113 Tim jumped in for his second swim and the team were now into the tenth hour of the swim.

Immediately on jumping into the water, Tim was stung on his face by a large jellyfish. He said that the sight of it close up was far worse than the actual sting! By now, the French coastline was clearly visible, as was Cap Griz Nez. Unfortunately, with a 6.7m Spring Tide the team knew that they had very little chance of actually hitting the Cap.

Tim continued to dodge tankers and he had a good two hour swim to complete the second cycle of swimming. By now, the water had warmed up significantly compared to the English side of the Channel and Eddie's thermometer was registering around 16C. James entered the water at 1313 for a rather frustrating swim. James was swimming hard, but the team were near to the Cap and the tide was turning, which meant that James stared at the lighthouse for most of his two hour swim. James entered the French inshore zone at 1419.

James was very pleased to see Zoe reappear from the bunks at 1513 for her third swim of the day. Eddie had motivated Zoe before she jumped in the water by telling her that they would end up in Sangatte if they didn't get a move on! The next two hours saw Zoe swim around the Cap and into Wissant Bay. By the end of her swim, the sandy beaches and houses of Wissant were very clear and the water had clearly warmed up as were no shivers at the end of this swim.

Tim jumped in at 1713 to finish the swim just 19 minutes later on a beautiful sandy beach near to Le Petit Blanc Nez. As is usual at the end of a Channel swim, Tim was greeted by the lone Frenchman on the beach. Tim gesticulated to the Frenchman and using his best Franglais he said "Merci et au revoir"!

Tim was escorted back to Anastasia in the RIB and the achievement then really began to start to sink in!

The unofficial time for the swim was 16 hours 19 minutes and it was a very well earned relay crossing in an unseasonably cold sea.

It goes without saying that family and friends are extremely proud of all three team members' achievements. The burning question though, is what is Matthew's next big idea?!!

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8pm, 18th January 2022

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Air: 45.9 °F (7.7 °C)

Wind Speed: 7.0 kn (13.0 km/h)

Wind Direction: SE (130°)

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