Lord Byron popularised long distance swimming in the 19th century,
with a series of distance swims in the Mediterranean Sea. In long
distance swimming, good technique must be maintained for many hours,
over many miles, and in the face of awesome levels of pain and exhaustion.
Channel was and is the goal of many distance swimmers. Fewer than
7% of the swimmers who try to swim, complete the English Channel
trip testifies the difficulty of the task. While the distance
is only 32 kms [20 miles], currents, tides, drift, and weather
conditions can add several kms to the actual distance swum.
Captain Matthew Webb achieved the first authenticated swimming
of the English Channel on 24-25 August 1875. Webb covered the
distance in a 21 hour, 45 mins swim. As free style was not yet
invented, Webb used alternating cycles of breaststroke and side-stroke.
Channel swims originated in 1961, when an Argentinian, Abertondo,
swam the channel in both directions in a combined time of 43 hours,
5 mins. In such swims a 5-minute intermission is allowed at the
crossing of the Cook Strait from the South Island to the North
Island of New Zealand is considered a more severe challenge than
the English Channel.
swimming is now recognised by the American Athletic Union and
a 1-hour swim championship measures how far one can travel in
era of long-distance swimming as a major spectator sport was relatively
short, but as Judith Jenkins George, has observed: 'thousands
of spectators were drawn to the oceans, lakes and pools to observe
the swimming marathons of the 1920's and 1930's. The fad of endurance
swimming lasted less than a decade, yet during this time, it captivated
the public's interest and the athletes imagination as a test of
courage and stamina.
All the material is from 'Encyclopedia of World Sport' edited
by David Levinson and Karen Christensen