How Long To Teach A 3 Year Old To Swim History of English Channel Swimming

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History of English Channel Swimming

When one thinks of swimming feats, the English Channel swim always comes first to mind. At its shortest point, the distance between the English and French coasts is just 22 miles, but a combination of cold and strong currents means that only 10% of people who attempt this feat actually make it to the other side.

The first channel attempt was by JB Johnson, who had to retire after a little over an hour. Three years later, Paul Boyton made it to the other side using a special prototype buoyancy suit. However, the first unaided swim went to Captain Matthew Webb, who swam from Dover to Calais in 21 hours and 45 minutes on his second attempt.

Interestingly, after this success, 35 years had to pass before another one was recorded, although there were many attempts. One man, Jabez Wolffe tried and failed on no less than 22 occasions, four of them by less than a mile! Thomas Burgess had better success, becoming the second man to swim the channel on is 13th attempt.

The first man to swim in the reverse direction from France to England was Enrico Tiraboschi in 1923 – currently France-England is recognized as the “easy” route due to favorable tides. In 1926 Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to complete the distance.

The popularity of channel swimming reached new heights with the celebration of a cross-channel race in 1950; 20 registrants participated in the inaugural race, of which 9 finished. In 1972, 15-year-old Lynne Cox became the youngest person to swim the channel, breaking the men’s and women’s speed records in the process, and in 1988 Thomas Gregory swam the channel aged just 11.

To date, more than 1200 people have completed this challenge since the first success more than 130 years ago. The team with the record for the most swims is the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team with now nearly forty swims completed by its members. The current speed record is held by Christof Wandratsch in an astonishing time of 7 hours and 3 minutes. However, the undisputed channel crossing champion is Alison Streeter, who is originally from Dover and has crossed the channel 43 times, in addition to setting the first three-way channel crossing – a return trip to Dover and then back to France again! The popularity of Channel swimming is now such that hopeful swimmers have to go on a waiting list to secure a boat crew to escort them across.

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