Crossing the English Channel


1888 – Samuel Osborne

The first recorded individual to cross the channel was Samuel Osborne, who rowed from Dover to Wimereux in 1888. The crossing took him 13 hours. His motivation was to prove that a crew from Oxford who crossed the channel in 1885 had achieved no great feat, as he was able to complete the same distance by himself.

Sidney Swann crossing the channel in 1911

1911 – Sidney Swann

On 12th September 1911 Sidney Swann set a solo record in his single scull by crossing from Dover to Cap Gris-Nez in 3 hours 50 minutes. Swann described the experience with the following analogy:

‘Have you ever sat on the back of an unbroken nervous colt, that may jump across the road sideways, dash forward or start back without warning? If you have, then you know what it is to put out in an open sea in a small river-racing boat.’

Ivor Lloyd crossing the channel in 1983

1983 – Ivor Lloyd

On 4th May 1983 Ivor Lloyd crossed the channel from Folkestone to Cap Gris-Nez in 3 hours 35 minutes. Two destroyers returning from the Falklands war and the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes interrupted his crossing. Ivor said,

‘It can feel very lonely out there. In the middle you can see no land and the support boat is out of hearing. Scary stuff. I started to lose reason.’

2003 – Guin Batten

The 16th September 2003 saw the first crossing by a woman in an Olympic class boat. Guin Batten crossed from Folkestone to Cap Gris-Nez in 3 hours 14 minutes in a Resolute racing shell, which weighed only 14 kilograms.

‘The biggest wash came from a container vessel, and I had to alter course. But the tension was balanced by the joy of not getting a drop of water in my boat.’