Confessional: not much of a trainer

I was once the "official trainer" for an English Channel swimmer.

This is actually far less impressive than it sounds. I had assured my friend Suzanne that I would go over to England for her channel swim. As I was the only person who had committed to do this when she registered with the Channel Swimming Association, she noted down my name as her official trainer. Her "real trainer" stayed back in Australia.

As it turns out, another of Suzanne's friends Mary travelled to England with her and perfected her "feeding technique" (warm carbohydrate drink lowered from the Dover pier during practice swims; and passed from the boat during the actual swim). This left me with the "comic relief" role of singing songs all night (yes, it was an overnight swim) through a microphone. I also assisted in the swimmer "greasing" process immediately before the swim, did some videotaping of the swim (with inane commentary), and held out a torch beam to give a point to swim toward in the darkness. Lastly, I lay under the thermal blanket with my friend after the event on the boat trip back from Calais beach to Dover and dozed off to sleep. Basically, I was a dogsbody doing whatever I was told.

I did manage to learn a bit about Channel swimming through this experience. The vast majority of attempted solo swims are unsuccessful; mostly due to hypothermia. A "queue" of hopeful swimmers lines up each English summer to attempt the crossing with an official boat. When the prevailing wind drops to or below 3 knots, the next swimmer in the "queue" has their turn. This could be at any hour of the day or night. The boat pilot has to navigate a course around the huge ships that frequent the channel (enormous craft that would be incapable of steering around a swimmer even if they wanted to). These boats look like "skyscrapers at sea" when you bob near them in a very small boat. The English Channel is cold.

The link below gives the full list of Channel Swimmers. My friend Suzanne was the 430th recognised person to swim from England to France. See

So here is your opportunity to ask any questions you have about swimming across the English channel. I'm very happy to share my inexpert opinion!


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