Note --The answers on this page are the personal views of the writers

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Swim -- Feeding -- Navigation -- Pilots & Pilot Boats -- Training --
News -- << click on these links for the indevidual pages
(This button is not active the questions & answers are below)
Q. What is the Channel Swimming & Piloting federation?
A. The CS&PF are an organisation formed to help swimmers interested in long distance open water swimming and allow them to make contact with each other and exchange ideas. They are also "A governing body of English Channel Swimming" who are recognised by the authorities to assist in organising cross channel swims and obsreving and ratifying them. All successful swims are listed on there site and recorded for future reference. The CS&PF web site is www.shannelswimming.net. Access to the site information is free to everyone, - reproduction of site information requires permission from the CS&PF Hon. Sec.

Q. How do I/we go about applying to swim and booking a place?
A.Look at the web sites (CS&PF web site is www.channelswimming.net.) and ask anyone you know, who has swum or been involved, to explain what happens. -

Test yourself in a pool or in open water to see what sort of swim rate you are (Yards, metres, Km. Nautical miles, land miles COVERED IN AN HOUR).
Decide if you are capable to make the attempt and if you really want to swim, bearing in mind that it is the worlds top swim and one of the hardest. Plan your swim well in advance and find a support team.
Chose a period when you are avalible or think you want to swim, see the tide periods for the season (found on News web page). - Talk to the pilots and tell them your swim speed and other details (experience, body weight etc) and find out when they have spaces and what their pilot fees are. -
Book your pilot, (book early as they get booked up a long way in advance, 2 to 4 years), and arrange when you have to pay the deposit. Get in touch with the CS&PF Hon Sec. Michael Oram for the CS&PF application & medical forms - these are ent out at the end of December in the year before your swim as the have to be completed in the year of your swim (after 1st January). These will be e-mailed, (or they can be posted on request). Complete the application form , (making sure you have filled in all the details), and choose your membership catagory then return it to the Federation. Arrange your medical. Organise your training schedule.

CS&PF web site www.channelswimming.net
CS&PF Hon. Sec. e-mailmichael.oram@btinternet.com -

Q. Why is the English Channel the top open water swim and such a hard swim?
A.There are a lot of factors that combine to make the swim hard.
The English Channel is approximately -19 nautical miles (38000 yards) or 35 kilometres (35000 mtrs) - wide at its narrowest point (actually 18.2 nm from Shakespeare Beach, Dover to Cap Gris Nez, France). Most swims are a little longer to the landing on either side.
The Tides are strong and change direction approximately every 6 hours. (See News - training - general & Nav. pages)
They flow to the North East from about 1.5 hours before high water to about 4.5 hours after high water (Flood tide) -

then turn and flow South West from 4.5 hours after high water to 1.5 hours before high water (Ebb tide).
These tides can flow at up to 4 nautical miles per hour. The tide gets later every day by about 1 hour and change in height and flow speed every day.
The lowest flow/ height range is known as the NEAP TIDES and is the time most swimmers try to swim.
The highest flow/height range is the SPRING TIDES and require calm weather and good piloting for swims to be successful. (Good spring tide swims are usually a little faster the neap swims but require a lot more planning an skill from the pilot). See the channel chart on the navigation page.
The wind and the weather are an unknown quantity and the forecasts are only approximate. The Dover Straits are prone to local weather conditions that can vary considerably from that which is forecast and the weather can change very quickly (15/20 mins).

When you combined wind and tide you can have some very sudden changes in sea conditions.
Wind and tide together give a flatter sea that is "long" and more settled than wind against tide.

Wind against tide creates a "short" confused sea. The stronger the wind and tide the rougher the sea gets, (remember that the tide changes direction every 6 hours)
There are over 600 commercial ship movements a day in the traffic separation zone, (which is about the middle 9 nautical miles).

To go from England to France you have to swim across the shipping lanes (at 90°T to the traffic) and it is the pilots job to stay out of the path of the commercial vessels.
There are 80 to 100 ferry crossings between Dover and Calais every 24 hours. It's avery busy area.
Put all these things together, include a large portion of mental tension, note that everything is "approximate" or "about" and you have the worlds hardset swims -- "The Everest of open water swimming". The success rate each season is usually less than 50% for the solo swims.

Q. What are the requirements to swim the English Channel, is there drug testing etc?

A. The CS&PF rules are on thewww.channelswimming.net web site.

Go to it for the full set. Items 10 & 11 are solo and relay swimming rules.
There is a lot of controversy about swim suits at the moment with all the new body costumes.

The CS&PF rules require that the costume and cap be of an approved standard type. Check that yours complies long before the swim starts.
I will not go into the arguments for and against all I can say is that there is little or no advantage to using these costumes for a long Channel swim as they do not help to keep the body warm or make any noticeable difference in speed over the 19+ miles.
I have seen some nasty rub marks from high neck, short sleeved and short leg costumes however.
Make sure the costume you are going to wear is comfortable for the length of time you will be in the water.
No form of heat retention suit or hat is allowed (nothing neoprene or overly thick). The suit must not be positivly buoyant - it must not go below the knees or be off the shoulders.

Drug Testing
Item 10 (l) deals with drugs - like all other major sports they are banned. The CS&PF use the same list as the ASA and other sport organisations. When you sign your application form you agree to be tested and give samples if requested. Random drug testing takes place during the swim season.
To make sure you are capable of attempting a Channel swim you are required to show proof of at least a 6 hour swim in water not warmer than 60°F - 16°C for a solo swim or have done an open water swim to a similar standard.

Relay swimers are now required to do a 2 hour swim to the same specifications as the 6 hour one.
Anyone can observe and ratify your swim just as long as you and your obsserver confirm in writing it has happened.
It is possible for you to arrange to have such a swim officially observed while you are in Dover for a small fee should you need it.
Use this link for the Channel Chart.

More questions and answers on the pages linked to the buttons

This document maintained by michael.oram@btinternet.com.
Material Copyright © 2000 Michael & Angela Oram