A CHESHIRE man battled water spout tornadoes, choppy water and nearly 13 hours of swimming to become the latest person to complete the English Channel.

Will Smith, from Bickerton, completed the challenge on Friday, September 22 in a time of 12 hours and 51 minutes, nearly 45 minutes quicker than the average speed.

Whitchurch Herald: Will Smith swims with the waterspout in the background. Will Smith swims with the waterspout in the background. (Image: Will Smith)

This means Will has become the 2,479th person since Captain Matthew Webb – from Shropshire – swan it first in 1875 to complete the 21-mile (33km) challenge.

A delighted Will, who is president of South Cheshire Swimming Club, said he feared the worst often through the swim with heavy rain and big waves putting his bid in doubt.

But he kept going, literally swimming towards the sun, to be left delighted in his efforts to raise money ‘Team Doreen’s” Brain Aneurysm Foundation research fund’ in honour of his brother’s partner who is now recovering from the aneurysm.

They have raised around £13,000 from the swim.

Whitchurch Herald: Will Smith in his trunks after his swim.Will Smith in his trunks after his swim. (Image: Will Smith)

He said: “The sun rose behind dark clouds which created some beautiful effects but those clouds presaged rough weather which hit me at around 6.30am.


As the swell of the waves grew bigger and the rain came down I was forced to swim faster to maintain my stroke against the waves.

“I couldn’t see much beyond the swells of water that I was struggling with but looking up as I breathed I could see my swim coach Matt Duggan from my swim club “Red Top” watching from on the boat so I presumed conditions were still ‘swimmable’.

“As I reached my next feed the rain slackened and the swell decreased slightly.

“I looked around, I had passed through the separation zone at some point during the rain storm and entered the north east shipping lane. I looked back and was rather worried that the large white cliffs of Dover were still there.

“I was beginning to feel the level of physical exertion after battling the extreme swell but the feeds helped to steady me and so I got back to swimming at a good pace.

“It was during this period that I later learned from Matt I had passed several water spout tornadoes. I’d had a feeling it was “rough weather” but hadn’t quite realised its biblical proportions.

“I’d been keeping track of my swim from the number of feeds I’d had combined with Matt telling me when I passed through the shipping lanes.”

Here, Will said he became ‘geographically disorientated’ and thought he had been swimming for longer than he had while also contending with a strong headwind.

His coach made the decision to up his sugar intake, rather than slow down for more feeds, which gave Will the boost he needed, as well as finding out about a fellow swimmer.

He said: “I felt something bump into my leg – Matt later informed me that a seal had taken an interest in me and joined me for about 20 minutes.

“I expect I was too tired to notice by this point.”

Whitchurch Herald: Will's swimming partner, a seal.Will's swimming partner, a seal. (Image: Will Smith.)

The end was in sight and Will was joined by his coach to make the straight line to Wissant beach in France, as the sugar rations did their job.

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He said: “I staggered the required three paces out of the water for a certified swim and struggled to believe I’d made it.

“French Channel watchers came to take photos and congratulate me.

“Matt then told me I’d made the crossing in a very respectable 12 hours 51 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been certain I was well over 15 hours and happy to have just landed given the conditions.”

To donate to Will’s cause, head here.