Trafford Metro senior coach successfully completes solo English Channel crossing

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At 1:50am on Friday 21st July 2023, Jo Bolton set off from the shingle beach at Samphire Hoe near Dover harbour. It was a pitch black, breezy, chilly morning. The water temperature was just 17.4 degrees as Jo’s epic swi

m began. She quickly settled into a stroke rate of between 51-53 strokes per minute and was looking comfortable. Breathing to her right to keep an eye on the floodlight shining from the support boat she arrived at her first feed stop after 45 minutes. Unfortunately, our carefully structured feeding regime went out of the window as no sooner did the liquid nourishment go down, than it came straight back up again. All she manged to keep down for the first 4 hours were a few sips of warm Vimto. It wasn’t looking good for a successful swim. In a last ditch effort to get some food into her we tried Jo’s favourite food – chocolate! A small mouthful of Mars bar – it stayed down – success!

By now the sun had risen and managed to burn off most off the early morning cloud, providing some much needed warmth. On the flip side the breeze picked up and the waves were starting to wash over Jo’s back, submerging her fully at times and tossing her around like a rag doll. Despite this she maintained her stoke rate and ploughed on fuelled by Mars bar and Vimto. The pilot boat successfully navigated Jo through the first busy shipping lane as a variety of cargo ships steamed past leaving only their waves behind them for Jo to swim through.

Eight hours in and the pilot asked if Jo could pick up her pace a little in order to get onto a track that would save time further into the swim. Despite calf cramps and other leg problems she duly obliged and upped the pace. On she went through the second shipping lane.  At just after 10 hours in she was asked to pick up the pace again – this time it was to get onto a track that would hopefully avoid landing around Calais which isn’t allowed. For the next two hours with land in sight just a mile or so away Jo swam on valiantly, hardly moving at all, such was the strength of the tide against her.

The pilot advised that we were to make a course change towards the Cap de Nez but that we would be pushed back away from it by the tide.

It was time for Jo to have a final bite of Mars bar and make the last big effort to get onto Wissant beach. There was a real cause for concern as the wind was whipping up 4 foot waves. A storm was on its way. The pilot boat stopped 500 metres short of the beach and a small inflatable dinghy took over escort duty. Jo was battered into the shore where she raised her arms aloft in triumph 14 hours and 12 minutes after starting her swim. The ordeal wasn’t quite over as there was still a highly dangerous manoeuvre required to land her into the dingy. Finally, she was returned to the pilot vessel Louise Jane Charters and made ready for the 2 hour stormy journey back to Dover harbour.

Jo’s swim was in support of the Lily Foundation that provide vital resources to the families of children suffering from mitochondrial disease. If anyone would like to make a donation to this amazing cause there is a Just Giving page that can be accessed here: 

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