Channel Champions Return

A couple of local long-distance swimmers celebrated their team’s triumphant feat last weekend with a successful crossing of the English Channel between England and France in great time.

Local grazier and solo channel swimmer, Brendan Cullen, and former Barrier Police officer, Ben Clavel, are heading home to the Silver City this week with heads held high nailing a non-stop relay swim of the 34km English Channel. The team of six long-distance swimmers included fellow Aussies, Amanda McKenna, Greg Rolton and Peta Bradley, plus UK swimmer, Claire Atkins.

Despite being faced with four-knot currents just 500 metres from the end of the channel swim challenge, a tough nine-month training schedule, including “Hell Week” last month at the Broken Hill Regional Aquatic Centre, led the team of six experienced swimmers to a successful crossing of the unpredictable straight.

Completing the Channel challenge in just 13 hours and 15 minutes, the Hell Week schedule of 10kms a day for four days proved to be a valuable training strategy that helped to build mental resilience and conquer surprisingly strong tides that really put the team to the test on the second half of the swim, even for the more experienced swimmers.

“I landed back in Australia [Perth] yesterday after a bit of a mess around with flights from the UK, so it’s great to be home,” Brendan told us when he dropped by the Barrier Truth office for a chat yesterday.

“The team managed to cross the Channel in good time – everyone put in a consistently solid swim, and everyone faced their fair share of rough water.

“Hell Week a month out from this swim was a great strategy because it reminded us of what fatigue feels like and added another component to our training program. After that, we didn’t need to do those big blocks of swimming anymore because we’d created such a great fitness base that prepared us well for the solid rips we encountered in the Channel.

“Everyone of us were blown away by the changing conditions in the channel but Mike trained us beautifully – we were prepared,” he said. “Even the captain said he didn’t expect the rip to be that strong at the end which could have led the team to completely miss Cap Gris-Nez, shooting us out to sea and adding another couple of hours to the swim.”

Thanks to a UK heat wave, the team swam in warmer than usual channel water temperatures – a “balmy” 19 degrees instead of an icy 16 degrees – which may have lessened the chill factor and contributed to the excellent finish time.

Peta jumped into the water from a rocky beach between Dover and Folkestone in the UK under ideal conditions on Thursday, September 14, at around 11 p.m. (UK time). Brendan completed the final leg near Ambleteuse, France, around midday on Friday, September 15.

With each of the six swimmers in the water for one hour at a time, they blitzed the distance, motivating each other every stroke of the way with die-hard swim coach, Michael Gregory, always nearby offering whatever support swimmers needed during their individual time in the water.

To read the Barrier Truth story, Hell Week for English Channel swim team, head to the link below.

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