The North/Irish Channel: This is the stretch of sea between Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is by far the more difficult of the two UK Channels to swim, with very few successful completions in comparison. Tom Blower (1914-55) from Nottinghamshire pioneered the achievement in 1947. The problems are the cold temperatures, strong currents and winds, big waves and vast swathes of stinging jellyfish, seaweed and other marine life. For instance, in 2012 South African émigré Wayne Soutter (1970-) was the first man to swim the northernmost route from Mull of Kintyre to Kinbane Head but had to take a trajectory that more than doubled the straight-line distance.
The English Channel: There have been over 2,600 crossings recorded since 1875, when Shropshire-born Captain Matthew Webb (1848-83) swam it in 21hrs. 45mins.. The fastest time to date is around 7hrs.. In 2000 the Channel Swimming Association banned under-16s from attempting it, so their records for the youngest male and female swimmers remain with 11-year-old Tom Gregory and 12-year-old Samantha Druce for their feats in the 1980s.
The amazing Alison Streeter, MBE (1964-) from Sussex has conquered both Channels multiple times! She is known as the ‘Queen of the Channel’ for swimming the English Channel 43 times, a record still standing today.
(Image: Kyle Taylor at Flickr.com / CC BY 2.0)