Channel Swim Challenge

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A team of swimming teachers form Shirley Swimming Pool are training for one of their toughest challenges yet – Swimming The Channel!

The team not only have to pull their weight across the busiest shipping channel in the world- they are also taking one of their pupils with them.

Southampton GP, Chris Cole, could not swim when he went to his local pool for his first adult swimming lesson in 2010, aged 40.

“All I wanted to do was swim a length of the main pool without panicking. My kids had all learnt at Shirley so I thought I had better have a crack” . Now he will be doing lengths of the channel, with just jellyfish for company.

It is a remarkable story, to go from an adult non swimmer to crossing the Channel in ten years. Chris is modest about his achievements, crediting those who have helped him along the way.

“If I can learn to swim, anyone can. It was scary and felt embarrassing but once you’ve taken the first step it gets easier. “

However, his team mates have dubbed him the Eddie the Eagle of swimming and nominated him for the Adult Swimmer of the Year award. If the relay swim goes well, Chris will attempt a solo crossing in 2020.

Looking after him will be his mentor, swim teacher Ashley Christopher , a seasoned campaigner, with a solo crossing under his belt already, ” Chris has made the transition from lessons and now swims every weekend in the sea with us, even in the winter”

The England Channel is considered to be one of the most iconic sea swims in the world, with swimmers travelling from every continent to attempt it. More people have climbed Everest than swam the Channel.

Shirley Pool Seadogs will attempt to swim the Channel as a team of 5, each swimming for an hour at a time, aiming to raise £10,000 for two local charities: The Countess Mountbatten Cancer Hospice at West End and the homeless charity, Society of St. James while conquering swimming’s Mount Everest.

Please make a donation. All the money raised goes directly to the charities.

Leaving from Dover’s Shakespeare Beach, and as the crow flies the distance is 21 miles but due to the tidal current the swimmers normally cover over 30 miles. So the quicker they swim, the less distance they have to travel. The experienced boat pilot will try to land the final swimmer on Cap Gris Nez, France. If they are too slow and miss the Cap the team can expect to swim for another few hours.

This swim will have multiple challenges that include starting in the dark and ignoring the 16c sea temperatures without wet-suits.There will be swarms of jellyfish as well as flotsam and jetsam to swim through. Bouts of sea sickness from unpredictable weather and all the time trying to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world. The Seadogs hope to complete the crossing in under 15 hours.

To qualify for the event under the British Long Distance Swimming association rules, each team member completed a two hour non wetsuit swim while the sea water in the Solent was less than 16 degrees. Chris Cole did a six hour qualifying swim at Dover.


Swimmers- Chris Cole, Dave Perry, Luke Perry, Steve Hansford and Ashley Christopher.

Reserve Swimmer- Natasha Bye-Brooks

Steve Hansford (59) is an experienced open water swimmer and a regular with the Seadogs from Shirley for some twenty years

Head teacher at Shirley Pool, Luke Perry (30) is the youngest of the Seadogs but is a veteran of the sea and no stranger to being wet. A beach lifeguard and volunteer coastguard, when he is not teaching Luke spends his spare time surfing.

Natasha Bye -Brookes started sea swimming last summer and is absolutely hooked. “It is cold, but I go whenever I can. I love it!” Natasha is a former teacher at Shirley Pool and started swimming there as a child under the original head coach, Frank Perry. Natasha is first reserve for the Channel team.

The oldest member of the team is pool owner Dave Perry. “The channel swim is a challenge I never thought I would get involved with, I prefer the warm pool water. But they are worthy causes and I am proud of Chris’s progress. It just shows what can be achieved if you stick at it”

Chris talks about learning to swim

Please make a donation. All the money raised goes directly to the charities.

Ashley on the Shirley Pool & the solo channel