The shortest distance across the Channel is from Shakespeare Beach, Dover, to Cap Gris Nez (the headland halfway between Calais and Boulogne). This distance is 18.2 nautical miles which is approximately 21 land miles. There are 2,000 yards or 1852 meters to a nautical mile. Most of the England/France swims now start from Samphire Hoe between one hour before high water and one hour after high water, although the pilots do start at other times and places, depending on the tide, the weather conditions, and the swimmer's ability.
France/England swims (when and if ever these are permitted by the French authorities again) usually start at the Cape or at a point just south of the Cape towards Boulogne. The traditional start time is about 3 to 4 hours before high water. This can also vary considerably depending on the tide, weather, swimmer and pilot.
With the use of computerised plotting for course calculations and the modern electronics on the pilot boats, start times and places can be evaluated before the swimmer enters the water, and the best choice of route made. The more the pilot knows about the tides, weather and the swimmer's ability the more accurately the swim can be predicted. It is then up to you to come up to expectations or better.
The charts below illustrate how your swim might progress, whilst you are actually swimming towards Cap Gris Nez. The tides, depending on their strength, will take you on one of the courses shown.