- How cold is the English Channel?
- How far is it across the Channel?
- How long will it take to swim to France and back?
- What are Neap Tides?
- What are Spring Tides?
- What are some of the other obstacles to swimming the channel?
What are the Rules for Swimming the English Channel?
- May swimmers wear a wetsuit?
- What type of swimsuit may be worn?
- What about aide to the swimmer?
- How does a relay swim work?
- Are there any cold water swimming requirements to swim the channel?
The water temperature is typically between 59°F and 64.5°F (15°C to 18°C).
The shortest distance across the English Channel is from Dover, England to Cap Gris Nez, France. This distance is 18.2 nautical miles which is approximately 21 land miles (38,000 yards or 35,200 meters).
The current world record for an all-female 6-person relay is 18 hours 59 minutes. This length of time will require swimming in the dark for periods of the swim. The swimmer will have a light stick tied to the back of her suit to be easily seen by the boat crew.
A photo of our Pilot Boat: Gallivant
Neap tides are minimum tides that occur every 14 days when the moon is in its first and third quarter. The lower the tide, the longer the period of slack water when the tide turns, and the slower the tidal flow. Therefore, most English Channel crossings take place on the Neap Tides because they are the slacker tides and offer swimmers the ability to cross the English Channel with a more direct line.
Spring Tides are the more rough, aggressive tides. Spring Tide swims require more planning by the pilot and good weather conditions.
Sea sickness is a major factor, especially in relay swims. The boat is traveling at the speed of the swimmer and therefore every swell is felt on the boat.
The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with approximately 600 vessels daily sailing up an down. There are also ferries, sea cats and jetfoils crossing between England and France at regular intervals throughout the day.
The Channel has many other hazards including jellyfish, seaweed, flotsam and jetsam (rubbish and timbers, etc.).
There are also swells which occur when the wind is in the opposite direction to the tide, causing very choppy water.
The weather is always uncertain and local conditions can change in a very short time (30 minutes). The swim is every bit a mental swim as well as a very physical one, and there is undoubtedly an element of luck involved.
Swimmers may not wear any device or swimsuit that may aid his/her speed, buoyancy, heat retention or endurance (such as wetsuit, webbed gloves, paddles, fins, etc).
Swimmers may wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces which shall not extend past the shoulder or below the knee. Caps may not be made from neoprene or any other material which offers similar heat retention properties. Silicone or latex hats are permitted.
During the swim, there can be no physical contact with the swimmer other than to pass food and drink or secure such items as light sticks for safety reasons.
Each standard relay team consists of 6 swimmers each swimming for 1 hour at a time. The names and order of the 6 swimmers shall be given to the official observer just prior to the swim. No substitutions or changes in order are allowed.
All swimmers taking part in a relay team swim must supply proof/ratification of a 2 hour swim in water 61°F/16°C or less.