Now THAT'S Channel Crossing! 22 Miles from Dover to Calais? Pah! for His Latest Crusade against Plastic Pollution, Lewis Pugh Is Swimming the 330-Mile LENGTH of the English Channel - Leaving HARRY MOUNT in His Wake

Daily Mail (London), August 10, 2018 | Go to article overview

Now THAT'S Channel Crossing! 22 Miles from Dover to Calais? Pah! for His Latest Crusade against Plastic Pollution, Lewis Pugh Is Swimming the 330-Mile LENGTH of the English Channel - Leaving HARRY MOUNT in His Wake


Byline: HARRY MOUNT

HERE I am half a mile out in the Channel, opposite the Start Point lighthouse in Devon, battling choppy waves, with a tidal current bouncing off the English coast and sending me south, somewhere in the general direction of Brittany.

When I'm not gargling what feels like pints of seawater, I'm taking desperate breaths of air. The water is still only 15c, despite this record-breaking summer.

It is soul-destroying, lung-busting progress. Yet the man next to me is taking it all in his stride - or rather, his stroke.

Lewis Pugh, 48, is an endurance swimmer who has been dubbed 'the Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming'.

He was the first person to swim across the North Pole, in 2007. He has swum in a glacial lake on Everest and braved the freezing waters off Antarctica. He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in all five of Earth's oceans, and has swum the length of the Thames. And now he aims to become the first person to swim the full length of the Channel - that's 330 miles.

The narrowest distance across the Channel is a mere 22 miles. Since Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim it in 1875 (though he went off course and ended up swimming 39 miles), 1,800 people have emulated him, including Pugh in 1992.

But no one has ever swum its full length - the equivalent of 15 Channel crossings, from Land's End to Dover, in just cap, goggles and swimming trunks.

TRAUTMAN Under Channel Swimming Association rules, that - plus as much grease as he wants - is all Pugh is allowed to wear. He mustn't touch his support boat, the Aquila, during his daily swims, or ever swim behind it or behind another person, because he might then benefit from the slipstream.

KELVIN Pugh started at Land's End on July 12 and after 28 days has completed about 180 miles, following the coastline at a distance and Pictures: generally, when not swimming, spending all his time on the support boat, which must drop anchor whenever he finishes a swim. He is now off Bournemouth, in Dorset.

'Having several days of unexpectedly good tides has meant I am six miles ahead of where I was meant to be by day 27,' Pugh said this week.

'This is a weight off my shoulders, as it means that if we have a day of bad weather or if I'm struggling with an injury, we have the flexibility to not swim for a day without getting behind.' AFTER spending more than 60 hours swimming in the Channel, he has lost so much weight that he is now on this third pair of ever-smaller Speedos. He has also been struggling with a shoulder injury and yesterday saw a physiotherapist at AFC Bournemouth.

So why is he doing it? Like all his swimming feats, there is a purpose: what he calls 'the long swim' marks the beginning of a worldwide campaign to ensure that 30 per cent of our oceans are fully protected by 2030.

'I'm undertaking my toughest swim yet to call on the Government, and all the governments of the world, to strengthen our ocean protection,' says Pugh, who grew up in Devon before moving to South Africa with his family at the age of ten.

He later returned to Britain to study law at Cambridge, practised as a marine lawyer in London and served as an SAS reservist before devoting his life to endurance swims and ocean conservation.

His first long swim, at the age of 17, was the four miles from Cape Town to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed (Pugh still lives in Cape Town with his wife and two stepchildren).

'In the 30 years since then, I've seen the oceans get much more polluted,' he says. 'When I first swam in the Arctic you would only find things that had been thrown overboard, like fishing nets. Now you find earplugs, shoes... not forgetting the plastic microbeads you can't see.

'We need to change the tide on plastic pollution by reducing the amount of plastic pouring into our oceans, and roll up our sleeves to help remove the junk that's already there. …

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Now THAT'S Channel Crossing! 22 Miles from Dover to Calais? Pah! for His Latest Crusade against Plastic Pollution, Lewis Pugh Is Swimming the 330-Mile LENGTH of the English Channel - Leaving HARRY MOUNT in His Wake
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