Six septuagenarians have swum into the record books with an epic relay swim across to France in very tough conditions.
The team, whose average age is over 75, clinched the record for the oldest Channel relay team after 17 hours 57 minutes in the brine, starting at 12.30am, a time when most pensioners are safely tucked up in bed.
Swimmer Bob Holman, from Affpuddle, who turns 78 next month, earned the Channel Swimming Association’s Most Meritorious (tough) Swim award when he swam the Channel solo in 1992.
He reckoned conditions for this swim were as bad – if not worse – than that.
He said: “It was a very, very tough swim, people throwing up in the water because the sea was so rough.
“As soon as we left the outer harbour it became clear that the weather was not in our favour. The wind was around 10 knots and gusting to 15 knots, great for sailing but not for swimming. We eventually ended swimming in a W shape as we were pulled one way, then the other by the prevailing tide.
“The sea flattened out a bit after 12 hours but we had been pushed near the ferry lanes near Calais and had to hold our position against the tide for an hour – the first time in my life I had been applauded for standing still. But it all worked out in the end. I’m very proud of the team – we got the result we deserved.”
The swim took nearly two years to plan, with swimmers dropping out along the way. But finally the team was complete and their average age was 75 years and 187 days. The oldest swimmer was Robert Lloyd-Evans from Poole, who turns 80 next month. He swam the last leg of the feat, before being joined on the French beach by Bob Holman, Linda Ashmore from Weymouth, 75, Bob Roberts from Weymouth, 74, Kevin Murphy from Dover, 73, and Parviz Habibi from Surbiton, 70. They were also joined rather unexpectedly by some gendarmes, but thankfully weren’t asked to swim back to the boat for their passports.
Bob said: “These were all very experienced open water swimmers but youth was not on our side. Parviz and I had swum the channel solo just once, Linda had done it twice and holds the current record for the oldest lady to swim the channel.
“Kevin Murphy, a living legend, has swum the channel a staggering 34 times, the most by a male swimmer and is the current King of the Channel. Bob R and Robert were previous channel relay swimmers.”
He added: “It was just a fabulous rollercoaster of a day with a triumphant ending.
“We certainly did it the hard way but no one faltered and I believe we deserved our success in the end. I am now a fully retired channel swimmer,
“My wife Diana simply will not allow me to think of returning and for once in my life I need to do as I am told!”
n To donate to the team’s fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK go to http://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/ofitw2