Blog

Septuagenarians Swim English Channel

Why do six septuagenarian swimmers get together to swim the English Channel?

To raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK!

Some of the team’s family members have been affected by dementia, so we wanted to do something to help. As we get older, our thoughts are with those who will benefit from our endeavour.

We formed a standard 6-person relay team called ‘One Foot in the Wave 2’. The swimmers, from oldest to youngest, are: Robert Lloyd-Evans, aged 80; me, Bob Holman, 77; Linda Ashmore, 75; Bob Roberts, 74; Kevin Murphy, 73; and Parviz Habibi, 70.

We are all experienced open water swimmers, but youth was not on our side! The average age of the team at the time of the swim was 75 years and 187 days.

After almost two years of planning, we set off from Abbot’s Cliff at 00:26 on Monday 12th September. As soon as we left the outer harbour it became clear that the weather was not in our favour. The wind was between 11-15 knots: great for sailing but not for swimming.

Parviz started our swim from the beach. We could see he was having difficulty breathing as the waves swirled about him. Nevertheless, he braved the cold, windy conditions.

Unfortunately, the weather was to continue this way as each of our swimmers took their first hour-long stint. Linda was next in, followed by Bob R, me, Kevin and then Robert. At different paces all swam brilliantly. We all felt we just had to hang in there until the wind dropped and our luck changed.

At around 6am the sky began to lighten. For the second 6 hours we made slow but sure progress across the busy shipping lanes, edging closer and closer towards the French coast. Around lunchtime the sun began to shine and the sea flattened and calmed. We were now swimming in relatively good conditions, but another problem was soon to emerge…

We were very close to the Calais ferry lanes – a definite no-go area for our small boat. As I got in for my last hourly swim, I was told to swim hard against the tide to maintain our position just outside the ferry area. When I climbed back onto the boat, I was congratulated. It was the first time in my life that I was praised for going literally nowhere!

The tide soon turned after Kevin’s swim. We felt it fitting that Robert, our eldest swimmer, would be the one to swim us to the beach. There was euphoria as the rest of the team jumped in to swim behind Robert to shore, all of us landing at Sangatte at 18:23.

On arrival, we were greeted by four French police officers. Would we be required to swim back for our passports? Thankfully, they sent us on our way, but did stay a little while to make sure we got back in the boat!

After 17 hours and 57 minutes of swimming collectively, we had crossed the Channel! A fabulous rollercoaster of a day with a triumphant ending. We ended up raising over £3,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK!

It was a huge effort by the whole team – I believe we deserved our success in the end. We came together as individuals but have ended up as good friends. What could be better than that?

Bob Holman

If you’re inspired to take on a challenge for dementia research, take a look at our events here: Events – Alzheimer’s Research UK (alzheimersresearchuk.org)

About the author

Bob Holman

Tags: