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Frequently Asked Questions

Approximately 21 miles (32 kilometres)

Shortest distance is 21 miles - but on either side of Cap Gris Nez, the French Coastline drops away, so, if you do not reach land at the Cap you have further to go to make landfall. You will swim across the channel for 21 miles (or more) BUT the current moves you many miles from side to side as the Tide ebbs and flows. You may deduce from this that unless a miracle happens and there is no Tide (!!) on your Swim day(it does happen occasionally) the only way you could cross the Channel in a straight line would be if you could counteract the effect of the Tide by swimming against it.

But this would be a waste of valuable energy, you will get tired - the Tide will not!

Once you can provide a realistic report of your sustainable Swim-speed in cold, open water - then you, your Trainer and your Pilot will be ready to relate this information to the conditions you might expect to meet in the Channel! The fastest swim is a little over 7 hours and the slowest nearly 27 hours.

You should discuss your experience of Open-water swimming with your Pilot and agree on what is safe and reasonable. Sea-state can change very quickly in the Channel, with little warning (see Information/Registration Pack). The Pilots have considerable knowledge of the local waters and you will expect them to give you a fair chance of a successful swim without placing you at risk. The Pilot will retain the right to stop the swim if he considers it inadvisable/unsafe to continue. You should hope for Force 1/2 but be prepared for Force 4/5.

Swims usually start at or near Shakespeare's Cliff or Samphire Hoe (in between Folkestone and Dover), and aim to finish at or near Cap Gris Nez (between Boulogne and Calais). Nowadays Swims are from England to France (and back again, if you have the energy!). When the Swim has finished, your Pilot will bring you back to England.

The English Channel is a unique and demanding swim, considered by many to be the ultimate long distance challenge. It isn't just the distance that is the challenge, but more, the variable conditions that you are likely to encounter. These may vary for mirror like conditions to wind force 6 and wave heights in excess of 2 metres. The water is cold and you are strongly advised to acclimatize to it, there is a good chance of meeting jellyfish, seaweed and the occasional plank of wood. It is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers passing through and 200 ferries/seacats and other vessels going across daily.

The Information / Registration Pack costs £35.00 (£39:50 if you are outside Europe).

Contact us to order your pack.

The total payable to the Channel Swimming Association Ltd to register a One-Way Solo Swim is approximately £390.00. This covers: - one year's Associate Membership fee, all administration and liaison costs, the provision of the designated CSA Official Observer to accompany you on your swim irrespective of the time you set off.

Please Note; It does not include the CSA certificate. Please budget an additional £75, you won't regret it. And also budget for your attendance at the Annual Dinner at Dover Town Hall. It is an evening that you will not want to miss.

Relay Team members each pay a percentage of a Solo Fee (see Information/Registration Pack). The largest cost is the hiring of an officially Registered Pilot - (you will probably pay in the region of £2300.00 - £2500.00 but fees vary from Pilot to Pilot). You also need to budget for your accommodation while you wait to swim.

On top of these figures you must also budget for your return flight to London, Travel from London to Dover, approximately £125, and accommodation and food. Accommodation and food will range from roughly £60-70/person/day in basic accommodation (rooms to let and guest house accommodation) to £125-140/person/day in more comfortable hotel surroundings. You should also allow for a contingency fund in case of unexpected expenditure. You should also allow for a contingency fund in case you do not get away during your planned window and have to stay for an additional two weeks or so, waiting for suitable weather.

First, you must register your swim with the CSA and book one of our recognized Escort Pilots. Make sure that your swim costume is compliant with CSA rules. Make sure that you are at least 16 years old at the commencement of the solo swim. As soon as the CSA is informed by your pilot of your swim time, we will appoint an Observer to watch over your swim.

After your Swim, the CSA Official Observer will send his report to the CSA Observer Liaison Officer. He will present the report together with the swim co-ordinates, plotting the progression of the Swim - for an independent scrutiny by members of the Committee at a Ratification Meeting. Your Swim will then be ratified and entered into the Official Record Books. In due course it will be added to the next reprint of the Handbook.

You will receive an official letter of acknowledgement once your Swim has been ratified. You may then, if you wish, buy an official CSA (man-made) 'Vellum' Certificate to commemorate the achievement. This is your personal decision.

Not everybody wants a certificate and because they are very personal and special, you will need to order/purchase your official CSA 'Vellum' (man-made) Certificate to commemorate your achievement after the event. You will be asked to confirm that the details to be added to your certificate are correct. When you have done this, the certificate will be sent to the calligrapher to be prepared. Certificates are, where possible, presented at the Annual Dinner, usually held early in November.

The 2013/14 cost of an individual certificate will be £70. The 2013/14 cost for relay team certificates, ordered no later than the 30th September will be £60 each, providing each member of the team orders a certificate and they can be forwarded to one address or presented at the CSA Dinner.

When you book a swim with a CSA escort pilot, you will be given a swim window, (which is the optimal window).......lets say the 12-17th September and you will be given a swim position......let’s say number 3. If the weather is good and swimmers get away as anticipated, you will get your turn (3rd swimmer) on the 14th or 15th September, but what if the weather is not suitable?

You must understand that these dates and this position are flexible and not set in stone. It will be your pilots aim to give you the very best chance to get across and you in turn, will need to be flexible. It may be that the dates given to you turn out to be completely unsuitable for a safe swim and your best opportunity to swim could be outside of these dates. You need to be ready to swim BOTH before the 12th, or if conditions prevent swims taking place during the selected window, then after the 17th. You will need to be guided by your pilot, who will want to get you across, but only if there is a reasonable chance of achieving it. So arrive early and give yourself lots of time, do not arrive at the last minute and do not book your return ticket for the day after the dates you have been given. If you do, you could be going home on that perfect day for your swim.

It is very much a question of waiting patiently for your good day.

During the Swim season (July to September) you may expect the temperature to range from 14 to 18 degrees Celsius. July starts off cold..... August has the best of it..... September can cool off quickly if the air temperature drops! Additionally, the nights are noticeably longer in September. 2012 was a particularly bad year and night time temperatures in August and September sometimes plummeted to 6-8 degrees C.

Yes, the Information Pack lists a number of useful addresses in Folkestone and Dover and the local Tourist Information Offices will be pleased to help with further advice.

Most people make use of the Beaches at Folkestone and Hythe, or within Dover Harbour. Some swimmers are able to arrive several weeks in advance of their Swim date - and can complete their distance-training, cold-water acclimatisation, and make use of the open beaches. (But this is hardly the time to make radical changes to your Swim-stroke, Feeding pattern or Diet!).

Whenever you arrive, you will undoubtedly meet other swimmers who are preparing for their own attempt - who will be happy to swim with you.

Don't forget to bring adequate supplies of your preferred food and refreshment. You are advised to try out several different ways of taking refreshment from a helper - by cup .. by bottle/squeeze-pack etc. .. handed directly to you (without direct contact!) ..from a feeding-pole and cup .. by bottle on a line etc.,so that you are prepared for most eventualities.

Most Swimmers use Grease. Some cover themselves liberally to keep out the cold as much as possible ... others just apply Grease to the 'rubbing' areas (neck/shoulders, arm-pits, groin, etc). Grease ('Channel Swimmer's Grease') is now very difficult to obtain locally and you should experiment to find out what is most suitable for you and be prepared to make up your own blend. We know of one supplier, for further information contact - David Frantzeskou at vrcp@varne-ridge.freeserve.co.uk

You should be prepared to swim in twilight, (or in the dark) for part of your swim. Some Swimmers will swim on a Night Tide. Bring (or arrange) a supply of 'Light-Sticks', we recommend at least 3, for further information, refer to the CSA Website / Regalia / Light sticks and devise a suitable method of attachment to you. Large nappy pins are useful.

Goggles, Spare Cap, Swimming Costume is handy, Spare Clothing, adequate Toweling, Blanket or Sleeping Bag, Food, Light Sticks, Grease... (this is by no means a complete list!!). Come well prepared, with plenty of old warm clothing and refer to the swimmers checklist. There is no shortage of space on the boat, but be prepared for things to get very wet.

A Standard Channel Swim must be accomplished without assistance of any kind other than the provision of nourishment - and Pilotage! You are restricted to a 'Standard' Swim Costume, A 'Standard Swim Costume' (for both sexes) shall be of a material not offering Thermal Protection or Buoyancy and shall be Sleeveless and Legless: 'Sleeveless' shall mean the Costume must not extend beyond the end of the shoulder onto the Upper Arm; 'Legless' shall mean the Costume must not extend onto the Upper Leg below the level of the Crotch.

If you have any doubt, refer to the CSA Website / Swim Advice / Swim Costumes/Approved costumes. It is your responsibility to ensure that your swim suit is legal according to CSA rules. If you are challenged by the Observer or Pilot you are strongly advised to change into something which is undisputedly compliant before commencing your swim. The cap, also, shall not offer thermal protection or buoyancy.

Yes, by prior arrangement with your Pilot - according to his own discretion and the numbers permitted by his commercial license. However, be advised that few assistants / friends / supporters are good sailors and seasickness is very unpleasant.

It is too cold for most sharks ... and sightings are so rare that you won't need a cage!

If you intend to enter France instead of returning to England, you will need to enter as a normal visitor and comply with all the usual regulations (AND inform the CSA and your pilot well in advance that this is your plan).

You are permitted to land on the Beach and then return to your Escort Boat for the journey back to England .....but please note that all Swimmers and Passengers should carry their Passport (and any Visa, if appropriate) on the Escort Boat in case they are requested by the relevant Authorities to provide Proof of Identity either before, during, or after the Swim.

Be aware that escort boats can be boarded and occasionally are boarded.

You are very strongly urged to get as much protection as possible. Sports, accident, life, property and other insurance are your responsibility and are very strongly recommended. Unforeseen accidents are a real possibility. A Channel swim is extremely demanding on your energy and your mental determination.

The Dover Strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Many of the ships passing through the Strait are large, some up to nearly 350m in length, some weighing in excess of 300,000 tonnes, some carrying dangerous cargoes and some travelling at over 40 knots. The passage of these ships is further complicated by strong tides, sandbanks, shoals and cross channel traffic.

The CSA Annual Dinner and Presentation Evening usually takes place on the first Saturday in November and for the last 10 years or so, has been held at the Dover Town Hall. It is an enjoyable evening and a great opportunity for swimmers from around the world to meet and make friends. The Presentation of Trophies and Awards and Vellums is held after the dinner.

We hope that you will attend and we would encourage you to attend. The evening is heavily subsidised by the CSA.

If you like meeting new people, are fit and active, like fresh air and small boats and are prepared to write up exactly what you see, being a CSA Observer could be just the thing for you and we would like to hear from you.

Do I get paid as a swim Observer? Yes, payment is based according to the number of hours you are out at sea.

For further information please contact the Secretary, who will in turn put you in touch with the Observer Liaison Officer.

The Channel Swimming Association can put you in touch with known trainers of long distance swimmers; see our website, Swim Advice / Useful websites / Trainers.

The Channel Swimming Association lists all our International Representatives and almost certainly there will be one in your area, see our website, Swim Advice / Representatives. Almost without exception, they are all very experienced long distance swimmers.

Please feel free to contact them and they will help you as much as possible.

Do you understand your agreement with your pilot?

When you agree to swim with one of our pilots, you will usually be given a 5-7 day window, e.g. the 17-22nd of August. This window will correspond with the weakest tides (the neap tides) during that two-week cycle. If weather permits, your pilot will endeavour to get your swim underway during those days. However, if the weather is unsuitable on those days your pilot will give you the opportunity to swim on the stronger tides, outside of this 5-7 day window. For fast swimmers and relays the stronger spring tides are not an obstacle, but slower swimmers must be prepared to be swept passed the Cap Gris Nez towards Wissant, Sangatte and even towards Calais. Consequently their swim will be longer.

Position / Place / Number 1-4.

When you agree to swim with one of our pilots, you will be given a swim position, usually 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th. This means that (as swimmer in 1st position) if the pilot believes that the weather offers you a fair chance of a successful swim tonight/tomorrow, you will be given the first opportunity to swim. You do not have to accept the offer, (especially if you are looking to complete a 2-way swim for instance), but in that event the opportunity will be offered to the next swimmer or team in line.

So, if you are in Number 4 position on any tide, if the weather is good, you can expect to get away on the 4th day of that tide. If the weather is not suitable for swimming on the first 3 days of the tide, you will probably not get your opportunity to swim until the 7th day or even later. So, when planning how long to stay in Folkestone/Dover, you should be prepared to stay at least 4-6 days beyond the end of the neap tides. Remember that the cost of a few extra days accommodation is small compared with the overall cost of the swim and having to come back.

Swim deposit:

Before guaranteeing you a swim position, your pilot will probably request a deposit. This is likely to be in the region of £700-1200. You are advised to establish exactly how much of this is returnable in the event that your swim does not take place:

  • due to you cancelling the arrangement before the end of March
  • due to you cancelling the arrangement after the end of March
  • due to you going home before the next tide
  • because the weather made it impossible for your pilot to take you across safely

In the event that your swim is unsuccessful:

You may wish to discuss this scenario with your pilot at the time of making your booking.

The role of the Channel Swimming Association is to help you with the arrangements for your swim.

Please note that we have no business connections with either the pilots or those offering accommodation.

The pilots listed on our web site and in our Information Pack have agreed to accept and follow our guidelines and we believe that they offer swimmers the best chance of swimming the Channel safely, in compliance with Channel Swimming Association rules.

The Administration fee covers all the Associations running costs and is Non Refundable.

The Observers fee covers all the costs associated with arranging for your escort boat to have an Officially appointed Observer on board for the duration of your swim. In the event that you do not swim, this can either be returned to you or held over until you do swim. On the rare occasions when we are unable to put an Observer on your boat we empower the Pilot to appoint himself or someone on the boat to take on that responsibility. If you are unhappy with this arrangement you have the option not to go on that occasion.

In the event that your swim is unsuccessful:

In the event that your first swim is unsuccessful and you wish to make a second attempt, you must RE-Register your swim with the Secretary. You will be asked for 50% of the non-returnable administration fee and 100% of the Observers fee.

The pilot is in sole charge of the swim and all of those on board. If he believes that:

  • your life is in danger
  • it would be impossible to land you safely
  • that the lives of anyone on board are at risk
  • the boat is at risk
  • that the boats position makes it hazardous to shipping, he may at his discretion abort a swim and you must accept his decision

Under NO circumstances will your swim be ratified if you chose to ignore it. As much as we appreciate that a Channel swim is a huge solo effort, it is also a team effort and you have to think about the safety of your team as much as they are thinking of your safety. It may not seem like it at the time, but there is always another day.

Remember that on the day you choose, it is FINALLY YOUR DECISION, as to whether you embark on a swim or not, don't blame the pilot, you are not being bullied, cajoled or persuaded, your pilot is only offering you his best judgement and considered opinion, no-one is stopping you from obtaining a second, third or even a fourth opinion. You have the right to say NO, until you jump in and then you are committed.

If you decide not to accept the pilot's advice you must be prepared for him to offer the opportunity to another swimmer and it may affect your position on that tide.

Sometimes for whatever reason, the CSA finds itself in the position where we are unable to supply an Observer. In that case, the pilot is empowered to act as the Observer himself, or to appoint a responsible person on the boat to that position.

If you are unhappy with that arrangement you are within your rights to refuse to start the swim, but if you commence the swim you are deemed to have accepted this arrangement and the pilot appointed observer.

These are SOME of the questions often asked! The Information Pack answers many more queries for you.

Important - The Rules!

It is the Swimmers responsibility to both KNOW and follow the CSA Rules & Regulations.

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Our next dinner will be held on 7th November 2015.

Swim Training Camp

Channel and Open Water Swim Training Camp IS BACK! After its huge success this year there will be TWO camps running in 2015.

Contact us to find out more.

Organised by a CSA member, not run by the CSA

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