Roger Allsopp, aged 70 years and four months, swam from Dover to France in 17 hours and 51 minutes. The record was formally held by George Brunstad in who swam accomplished it in August 2004 aged 70 years and four days. Roger from Guernsey, was inspired to take on this epic swim by an inscription at a pub in Dover marking Brunstad’s cross-Channel achievement.
Captain Matthew Webb was the first to swim the Channel some 136 years ago, swimming from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in 21 hours and 45 minutes using the British Breaststroke all the way. His success sparked a swimming frenzy across the country, the New York Times reported: ‘The London baths are crowded; each village pond and running stream contains youthful worshippers at the shrine of Webb and even along the banks of the river, regardless of the terrors of the Thames police, swarms of naked urchins ply their limbs, each probably determined that he one day will be another Captain Webb.’ This enthusiasm proved to much of an embarrassment for Victorian society and so restrictions were imposed restrain swimmers in their exuberance. In my hometown of Leicester, river swimming restrictions were enforced that same year, ensuring that naked boys would no longer disturb the sensibilities of respectable ladies walking to work or relaxing in the park. Eventually swimmers rounded up and contained at indoor pools and today the enthusiasm for swimming is but a shadow of its former self in the UK.