List of successful English Channel swimmers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of notable successful swims across the English Channel,[1] a straight-line distance of about 21 miles (34 km).[2]

First attempts[edit]

After a seaman had floated across the Channel on a bundle of straw, Matthew Webb made the crossing without the aid of artificial buoyancy. His first attempt ended in failure, but on 25 August 1875, he started from Admiralty Pier in Dover and made the crossing in 21 hours and 45 minutes, despite challenging tides (which delayed him for 5 hours) and a jellyfish sting.[3]

80 failed attempts were made by a variety of people before Thomas William Burgess, who on 6 September 1911 became the second person to successfully make the crossing. He crossed from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in 22 hours and 35 minutes at his 16th bid. Burgess ate a hearty meal of ham and eggs before starting his swim and had only trained for 18 hours before he made the crossing, with his longest practice being 10 kilometres (6 mi).[4]

Henry Sullivan was successful in his seventh attempt. He entered the water in Dover at 4:20 on Sunday afternoon, 5 August 1923. Choppy waters and capricious tides forced him to swim an estimated 90 kilometres (56 mi). He reached shore at Calais at 8:05 in the evening of 6 August, finishing in 27 hours and 45 minutes.[5] Two other swimmers completed the swim that same summer. Enrique Tirabocchi, from Argentina, completed the swim on 13 August, finishing in a record time of 16 hours and 33 minutes and becoming the first person to swim the route starting from the French side of the Channel.[6] American Charles Toth of Boston completed the swim on 9 September 1923, in 16 hours and 40 minutes, missing by two days the expiration of a £1,000 prize offered by the Daily Sketch for anyone who completed the swim, a prize that both Sullivan and Tirabocchi received from a representative of the Daily Sketch waiting on the shore with a cheque in hand.[7]

Gertrude Ederle's successful cross-channel swim began at Gris Nez in France at 07:05 on the morning of 6 August 1926. Her trainer was Burgess.[8] She came ashore at Kingsdown, Kent, England, in a total time of 14 hours and 39 minutes, making her the first woman to complete the crossing and setting the record for the fastest time, breaking the previous mark set by Tirabocchi by almost two hours. A reporter from The New York Times, who had accompanied Ederle's support team on a tugboat, recounted that Ederle was confronted by a British immigrations official, who recorded the biographical details of Ederle and the individuals on board the ship, none of whom had been carrying their passports. Ederle was finally allowed to come ashore, after promising that she would report to the authorities the following morning.[9]

L. Walter Lissberger financed the $3,000 in expenses that Amelia Gade Corson and her husband incurred in preparing for the Channel swim. Lissberger made a wager with Lloyd's of London betting that she would succeed in crossing the Channel, and received a payout of $100,000 at odds of 20–1 when she completed her swim.[10] She was one of three swimmers who were trying to make the swim across the Channel at the same time starting at 11:32 at night on 28 August 1926, leaving from Cape Gris Nez. The two men with her failed, Egyptian swimmer Ishak Helmy dropping out after three hours and an English swimmer failing one mile (1.6 km) from Dover's Shakespeare Cliffs.[11] With her husband rowing alongside in a dory and providing her with hot chocolate, sugar lumps and crackers, she completed the swim in a time of 15 hours and 29 minutes, one hour longer than the record set by Gertrude Ederle three weeks earlier.[12]

Jackie Cobell had intended to make the crossing by a more direct route in July 2010, but inadvertently set the record for the slowest solo swim, when strong currents forced her to swim a total of 105 kilometres (65 mi) in 28 hours and 44 minutes, breaking the record set by Henry Sullivan in 1923, who had been the third person, and the first American, to make the crossing.[13]

First swims[edit]

Direction Country of origin Swimmer Year Time Notes
England to France  United Kingdom Matthew Webb 1875 21:45 First crossing from England to France on 25 August 1875.[1]
England to France  United States Henry Sullivan 1923 26:50 Third crossing from England to France; first American to swim across the English Channel.[1]
France to England  Italy
Enrique Tirabocchi 1923 16:33 First crossing from France to England.[1]
France to England  United States Gertrude Ederle 1926 14:39 First woman to cross in either direction.[1][14][15]
France to England  United Kingdom Mercedes Gleitze 1927 15:15 First British woman to cross the English Channel.[16]
France to England  South Africa Margaret ('Peggy') Duncan 1930 16:17 First known person from Southern Africa to swim the English Channel.[17]
France to England  United Kingdom Edward H. Temme 1934 15:34 First man to swim the English Channel in both directions. He swam from France to England in August 1927 and from England to France on 18 August 1934.[1][18]
England to France  United States Florence Chadwick 1953 14:42 First woman to swim the English Channel in both directions (on separate occasions).[1]
France to England  Canada Winnie Leuszler 1951 13:25 First Canadian to swim the English Channel.[19][20]
England to France  Mexico Damian Pizá Beltran 1953 15:23 First Mexican to swim the English Channel.
France to England  Bangladesh Brojen Das 1958 First Asian (from Bikrampur, East Pakistan; now Bangladesh) to swim the English Channel, at the English Channel Swimming Competition in 1958. Das became a Bangladeshi citizen after the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
England to France  India Mihir Sen 1958 First Indian to swim the English Channel.[21]
France to England  Brazil Abilio Couto 1958 12:45 First South American to swim the English Channel.
France to England  Southern Rhodesia Dennis Pearson 1959 15:36 The second known person, and first man, from Southern Africa to swim the Channel. Pearson, from Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, swam across on Bastille Day, 14 July 1959.[17][22]
France to England  India Arati Saha 1959 14:20 First Indian woman and first Asian woman to swim the English Channel.
France to England  Macedonia Niko Nestor 1959 12:06 First Macedonian to swim the English Channel.[23]
England to France to England  Argentina Antonio Abertondo 1961 43:10 First person to swim the channel both ways non-stop.
England to France  South Africa Peter Bales 1969 13.38 Second person, and first man, from South Africa to swim the English Channel. He was the third person from Southern Africa to complete the swim.[17][24]
France to England  Macedonia Atina Bojadži 1969 13:20 First Macedonian woman to swim the English Channel.[25]
France to England  Czech Republic František Venclovský [cz] 1971 15:26 First Czech (Czechoslovak at that time) to swim the channel.
England to France  Poland Teresa Zarzeczańska 1975 11:10 First Polish woman to swim the English Channel.
England to France  Poland Romuald Szopa 1978 12:49 First Polish man to swim the English Channel.
England to France  United Kingdom Mary Yeats 1979 11:19 First Scottish woman to swim the English Channel.
England to France  United States Charles Chapman 1981 12:30 First black swimmer to cross the Channel.
England to France to England to France  United States Jon Erikson 1981 38:27 First person to swim the channel three ways.
England to France  Tunisia Nejib Belhedi 1993 16:35 First Tunisian to swim the channel, namesake of a trophy for swimming the channel at the highest tide.[26]
England to France  Australia John Maclean 1998 12:55 First paraplegic to swim the Channel.[27]
England to France  Barbados Chris Gibbs 2003 11:30 First person from a Caribbean country to swim the English Channel. Aged 58, and member of The Merrymen Calypso band.[28]
England to France  Singapore Thum Ping Tjin 2005 12:24 First Singaporean to swim the Channel.[29]
England to France  Bulgaria Petar Stoychev 2007 6:57 First swimmer to cross the English Channel under 7 hours.
England to France  France Philippe Croizon 2010 13:28 First quadruple amputee to swim the English Channel.
England to France  Iceland Sigrún Þuríður Geirsdóttir 2015 22:34 First woman from Iceland to swim the English Channel.
France to England  Norway Amandine Toso 2017 26:03 First woman from Norway to swim the English Channel.[30]
England to France  Ecuador Sara Palacios 2018 12:58 First Ecuadorian citizen and South American Woman to swim the channel.
England to France  Syria Zeina Alsharkas 2019 11:36 First Syrian woman.[31]
England to France  Chile Bárbara Hernández 2019 12:13 First Chilean woman to swim the English Channel.[32]
England to France to England to France to England  United States Sarah Thomas 2019 54:10 First person to swim the channel four ways non-stop.[33]



Record Country of origin Swimmer Time Date
Men  Australia Trent Grimsey 06:55 2012
Women  Czech Republic Yvetta Hlaváčová 07:25 2006
Men two ways  New Zealand Philip Rush 16:10 1987
Women two ways  Australia Susie Maroney 17:14 1991
Men three ways  New Zealand Philip Rush 28:21 1987
Women three ways  United Kingdom Alison Streeter 34:40 1990
Four ways  United States Sarah Thomas 54:10 2019

Most crossings[edit]

Record Country of origin Swimmer Crossings
Women  Australia Chloë McCardel 44
Men  United Kingdom Kevin Murphy 34
Women two ways  Canada Cynthia Nicholas 5
Men two ways  United Kingdom Kevin Murphy 3
 Australia Stuart Johnson
Women three ways  United Kingdom Alison Streeter 1
 Australia Chloe McCardel
 United States Sarah Thomas
Men three ways  United States Jon Erikson 1
 New Zealand Philip Rush
Four ways  United States Sarah Thomas 1

Oldest swimmer[edit]

Record Country of origin Swimmer Age Date Reference
Women  United Kingdom Linda Ashmore 71 years August 21, 2018 [34]
Men  South Africa Otto Thaning 73 years September 6, 2014 [35]

Youngest swimmer[edit]

Record Country of origin Swimmer Age Date Reference
Women  United Kingdom Samantha Druce 12 years, 118 days 1983 [36]
Men  United Kingdom Thomas Gregory 11 years, 330 days 1988 [37]


Record Country of origin Swimmers Time Date
2 swimmers  Scotland 9:22 2005
3 swimmers  USA 9:39 2011
4 swimmers  Brazil 8:22 2011


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Listing of Successful Swims". Solo swims. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  2. ^ "FAQ : How far is it to cross the Channel?". Channel Swimming Association. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  3. ^ Captain Matthew Webb Archived 16 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine, International Swimming Hall of Fame. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  4. ^ Staff. "The Channel Swim: Burgess's Perseverance Rewarded After Fifteen failures", Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 12581, 11 October 1911, Page 8. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  5. ^ Staff. "Henry Sullivan Crossed Channel - United States Swimmer Swam From England to France in 27 Hours 25 Minutes - Seventh Attempt - Third to Accomplish Feat - Capt. Webb and Burgess Other Two", The Montreal Gazette, 7 August 1923. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  6. ^ Staff. "Cuts Webb's Time in Channel Swim; Tirabocchi of Argentina Is the First to Succeed Over the Calais-to-Dover Route. 16 Hours 33 Mins. in Water Second Winner of L1,000 Prize Is Exhausted at Finish -- Toth Quits Near Goal. Cuts Webb's Time in Channel Swim", The New York Times, 13 August 1923. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  7. ^ Staff. "Toth Swims Channel; Misses 1,000 Prize; Boston's Man's Feat Just Two Days Too Late For Reward.", The New York Times, 10 September 1923, 5 August 2010.
  8. ^ Gallico, Paul (19 January 1964). "First Queen of Channel Swimmers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 August 2009. The coach who joined the party abroad was none other than that Thomas Burgess who, 15 years before, had been the second to make the Channel crossing
  9. ^ Rutherford, Alec. "Expert's Story of Swim.", The New York Times, 7 August 1926. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  10. ^ Staff. "Mrs. Corson Self-Trained.; She Has Swum Around Manhattan and From Albany to New York.", The New York Times, 29 August 1926. Accessed 6 August 2010.
  11. ^ Staff. "Mrs. Carson Starts to Swim Channel; Woman Who Made Albany to New York Record Reported Making Excellent Progress.", The New York Times, 28 August 1926. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  12. ^ Staff. "Sport: First Mother", Time, 6 September 1926. Accessed 6 August 2010.
  13. ^ Staff. "Channel swimmer sets slowest record", BBC News, 27 July 2010. Accessed 5 August 2010.
  14. ^ Severo, Richard (1 December 2003). "Gertrude Ederle, the First Woman to Swim Across the English Channel, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2009. Gertrude Ederle, who was called America's best girl by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 after she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel, died yesterday at a nursing home in Wyckoff, N.J. She was 98.
  15. ^ She did it in 14 hours 39 minutes, breaking the men's record of the time by two hours. However, this swim attracted some controversy. On 16 August, The Westminster Gazette reported locals as saying that "Miss Ederle swam under the lea of one of the accompanying tugs" while another boat "navigated in such a manner as to keep the heavy seas and tides off her" and that "Miss Ederle was drawn along by the suction of the tug so that she was able to swim at about twice the speed she would have been able to swim under ordinary conditions." The Dover Express and East Kent News commented that "So far little information has been given of the detail of Miss Ederle's swim. The most extraordinary thing about it being that she made no westward drift with the ebb tide, which on the day in question ran westward for nearly seven hours."
  16. ^ The Vindication Swim: Mercedes Gleitze and Rolex take the plunge and become world-renowned, John E Brozak, International Wristwatch Magazine, December 2003, Retrieved 24 September 2015
  17. ^ a b c "English Channel". The History of Aquatic Sports in Southern Africa. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  18. ^ "People of Note". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2010. Edward Temme, a London insurance clerk, was the first man to swim across the Channel both ways, from France to England in August 1927 and from England to France on 18 August 1934.
  19. ^ Bryan Finlay. "A Pioneering Canadian Marathon Swimmer". Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Bose, Anjali, Samsad Bangali Chariutabhidhan, Vol II, (in Bengali) p. 268, Sishu Sahitya Samsad Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-86806-99-7
  22. ^ Channel Swimming Dover: Channel swimmer, Dennis Pearson.
  23. ^ "Niko Nestor, 1st Macedonian to Swim Across The English Channel dies aged 81". Channel Swimming Association. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  24. ^ Openwaterpedia: Peter Bales.
  25. ^ "Macedonian swimming great Bojadzi dies at 66". USA Today. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Nejib BelHedi - Solo Channel Swimmer". Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  27. ^ "Briefs". The Age. 1 September 1998. p. 7.
  28. ^ "United through swimming- Chris Gibbs swims the channel". United Caribbean Trust. 21 August 2003. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  29. ^ "Singapore Cross-English Channel Charity Swim". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  30. ^ "SSuccessful English Channel Swims / 2017".
  31. ^ "Syrian lecturer successfully completes English Channel swim | University of Essex". Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Bárbara Hernández conquista el Canal de la Mancha". La Tercera. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  33. ^ "Sarah Thomas: Woman First to Swim Channel Four Times Non-stop". BBC. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  34. ^ "Oldest person to swim the English Channel (female)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  35. ^ "South African Otto Thaning, 73, is oldest channel swimmer". BBC News. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  36. ^ "Samantha Druce 1983". Channel Swimming Association.
  37. ^ "Thomas Gregory 1988". Channel Swimming Association. Retrieved 28 August 2018.

External links[edit]