Jackie Cobell: slow but steady – an epic swim. New world record for the longest solo across the English Channel

Jackie Cobell: slow but steady – an epic swim. New world record for the longest solo across the English Channel

Jackie Cobell world record swim

Jackie Cobell world record swim EC Solo in 28 hours 44 min., here with Freda Streeter (mother of Alison, Queen of the Channel, and legendary EC swimmers’ coach) – map courtesy of ZimHippo

Saturday morning, July 24th, around 7:30 continental time, a swim started on Shakespeare beach that was to hold swimmers all over the world in its grip for over a day: 56 year old Jackie Cobell from London set off with Lance Oram (Sea Satin) and crew for France. It was the end of the neap tides (6 m and 6.2 m), with SW and SSW winds up to 14 knots according to Sandette Light ship. Like so often with slower swimmers, the swim started 1-2 hours before high tide, so the route looks unusual right from the beginning.  13 hours or so later Jackie reached the middle of the separation zone – half way geographically, while the average time for this year’s Channel swims (including relays) so far has been 13 hours 54 min. (last year: 13 hours 15 min)! Even at the next change of tides (after 6+ hours) she was still far from France – many would have given up by now.

Through the night

There was hope she would be able to make it on the next tide – and many of us woke up in the middle of the night around 3 or 4 a.m. to check the AIS-tracking to see if she was still hanging in there – and she was! They were nearing the sandbanks east of Calais, but then the tide carried her back west towards Cap Griz Nez and Calais again.

When I got up Sunday morning and checked the internet first thing she was still swimming! When I finally left at 9:30 a.m.  for my “long swim” in the Silbersee (only 6 hours, I was so late!) she was still swimming! While I was at the lake I had a good feeling about her. Still, when I came home in the evening and checked the net, I was anxious: did she finish? SHE DID! She finished around Sunday noon  – after 28 hours 44 min. (inofficial) in 15-16 degree water and similar air temperatures through the night and morning! Apparently without ever complaining or thinking of giving up! At the end, when she could almost touch the ferries going out of Calais harbour, it still took her 2 more hours to touch the sandy beach west of Calais harbour at 12:13.

See the > BBC video and interview

> Daily Telegraph article > Daily Mail

Kevin Murphy, King of the Channel (34 crossings) wrote to her on our Channel Chat group:


Your courage and determination are an inspiration to us all, during the swim itself and during the years you have spent training in Dover.

When the going gets tough; when the demons threaten our will to keep putting one arm in front of the other; we just have to remember – Jackie did it and achieved the dream.

I confess that when I first met you I had my doubts. I should have known better.

More than most, I have a fair idea what you went through and I add my voice to those from around the world who salute you.

Your swim will be remembered in the annals of Channel swimming as a true epic.

Kevin Murphy”

Only a few days before Australian marathon champion Chloe McCardel (25) had done her successful double crossing in only 21 hours 48 min. (after not being able to finish the second leg last year) – the beauty of  determination and speed and the beauty of determination and persistance!

The last few days were a perfect illustration for one of my favourite aphorisms by my late teacher Sri Chinmoy, which explains in a few simple words the value of such “otherworldly” achievements:

“Individual self-transcendence collectively inspires humanity at large.” – Sri Chinmoy

Also very true but not at all easy:

“It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.” Confucius

June/July: Looking for cold water and some longer swims

June/July: Looking for cold water and some longer swims

Silbersee, Roxheim

Silbersee morning magic

Time is flying – and my training is considerably less than in 2008.  First weeks of June a few 3 hour swims in Roxheim (Silbersee) when weather and time permitted, but the water had warmed up too much already. Sat., June 26, my first 4 hour open water swim,

swans near the lake

Swan family in the Silbersee nature reserve

followed by a 1:20 hour dip on Sunday 27th on the way to Zurich with Indu at stopover at Titisee, while Germany was playing

England in the World Championship,  and a 5  hour swim in Lake Zurich on Monday (= 31 km weekend). I had hoped for cold water in Zurich, and even in Titisee, since Friday the water temp was still around 15°C, but by Sunday/Monday water temperatures had gone up to 21-22°C or even more. The Sahara summer over Europe had started.

Titisee dip, Black Forest, and 5 hours Zurich lake


Lake Titi, Black Forrest

Titisee is a small very pitturesque lake in the Black Forest, with extremely dark water due to the tannin from the pine trees. We rented a pedal boat so Indu could accompany me (she took a dip in the end). The further we went to the other shore, the warmer the water became. When I stuck my head out of the water at the opposite shore, I saw a few campers and asked about the soccer score. When we started out, it had been 2:1 (the second goal for England was not counted), and now – 4:1 for Germany – incredible, after their performance against Serbia! If they can do that, maybe the Channel will also work this time!

Zurich Lake

Zurich Lake training

After a nice evening meal overlooking the lake at Alemannenhof we continued to Zurich, where I did my 5 hours on Monday from the lido to Saffa Island and back, just by myself, with a few short breaks in between. It was a very nice familiar feeling to be back at the Zurich lake after such a long time, and enjoy the vastness of the lake and the view to the mountains. It is pretty safe to swim up and down for 1500m along the southern shoreline, where you can even see the sandy ground or the water plants in the clear water. In the evening I had my first major sunburn – but was very happy. Looking forward to the big Zurich Lake swim on Aug. 8th. Which will be the next big training step for Dover.

From then on my cold water training was restricted to the little “Kneipp” basin with 11°C water next to the outdoor pool in Bammental.

sunny long swim

Sunny long swim

3+7 hour lake swims July 17/18 (=30 km), 1+6 hours July 24/25th, both in Roxheim – heavily distracted by following Chloe`s successful double and Jackie Cobell`s incredible 28 hour solo via the AIS trackers.

I had hoped to do more long swims in bigger and colder lakes  – but with water temps too warm everywhere there is no reason to spend lots of time and money travelling – except to Dover.

Slight change of plans?

Since my running and biking is quite reduced due to time restrictions, and finances are a factor, too, I am thinking of shortening the triathlon distance a little for this year, back to the original idea – and leave room for more later.

Dover training: booked  a Euroline bus ticket to Dover for next weekend Fr to Monday to start serious cold water training. Really looking forward to it, and then Zurich lake the weekend after!