In August 2008, Jay and Reid Owen attempted to swim a relay across the English Channel in honor of their sister, Caroline. In 1875, Captain Mathew Webb became the first person to successfully swim the English Channel, crossing from England to France in 21 hours, 45 minutes. Since then, only 942 individuals have successfully completed a one-way solo swim. Only 4 two-person relays have been successful, partly due to the Channel Swimming Association’s strict regulations. Jay and Reid would have become the 5th team to complete a relay swim, had the awful English weather cooperated!
Despite an average water temperature of only 65 degrees, the Association requires that no participant wear more than a “Standard Swim Costume”, a sleeveless, legless swimsuit that offers no buoyancy and no thermal protection. If it was good enough for Captain Webb, it is good enough for the association.
An average Channel crossing takes approximately 13 hours and requires the swimmers to cover about 26 miles (the distance varies slightly because the tides have different effects based on the duration of the swim). Though the swimmers must battle fatigue, chilling water, large jellyfish and wrinkly hands, the cold water at least guarantees that there are no sharks (cross your fingers!).
In order to train for their crossing, Jay and Reid have swam 3-4 times a week leading up to the attempt. They typically swam about 2 miles at a time and then began to work in some longer endurance sets. They practiced swimming outdoors, in both the Potomac and Tennessee rivers.
Not willing to let all of their hard work go to waste, Jay and Reid completed a 26-mile relay inside the Dover Harbour. After waiting 5 days for the weather to improve, on our final day in Dover, Dover Harbour was closed to ALL ships and ferries – it was that bad. This change of plans actually did have a bright side, since they finished the swim where they started, instead of crossing over into France. This way, Caroline got to be at the “finish line” to welcome her brothers back to shore. The whole family got to experience the event, and it was a resounding success!
Jay and Reid training in the Potomac River.