Earlier this month, our very own Roy McGregor made his first attempt to conquer The English Channel, the Everest of open water swimming. This stretch of water between England and France is 34km or 21 miles wide at it’s narrowest part, however due to tides the actual swim is much longer with the average swimmer taking 13-16 hours get across.

The first successful crossing was made in 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb in a time of 21 hours and 45 minutes. Thanks to him, only standard swimming costumes (aka: banana hammock, budgie smugglers) are acceptable in order to have your crossing officially recognised.

Tens of thousands of people have attempted the swim with only around 1,200 having made a successful crossing. This is about half the number of people who have successfully climbed Mount Everest.

Roy started his swim at 08:30am on the 5th September from Shakespeare Beach, Dover. His preparation however, began nearly a year earlier and had, by all accounts, been extremely challenging physically but more so mentally. As you can imagine, forcing yourself to swim around in hyperthermia inducing water as cold as 10’C for hours at a time, cannot be the most enjoyable experience.

For the year leading up to the swim, Roy’s training load was anywhere from 25 – 50km each week, with his longest training swims in Dover harbour peaking at around 20km in single six hour efforts. According to Roy, these long swims during which he heard nothing but rhythmic splashing of his own arms and saw nothing but opaque blue/brown water were mental torture but worthwhile for building the mental strength needed for an attempt.

Conditions on the day of the crossing were excellent, warm air temperature and nearly no wind. The task at hand was very straightforward, get in and swim to France. Simple. A support boat drove along side to provide nutrition and fluids however the swimmer is not allowed to hang onto or even touch the support boat.

Roy was taking on food and fluids every 30 minutes from the outset, which would be absolutely crucial for any long distance endurance event, more so for cold water swimming where the body burns energy just to keep the core temperature up. Unfortunately Roy was also frequently vomiting and thus unable to absorb the amount of calories he was using and so burning through energy reserves at an unsustainable rate.

After 10.5 hours in the water and approximately 30km, Roy’s support crew made the decision to abort the swim as conditions had turned nasty, Roy was completely exhausted and not completely with it. Disappointing result on this occasion but certainly not the end of the story… watch this space for Roy vs The Channel round 2!!