Amy Ennion set off from Guernsey at 6am on Tuesday and endured 15 hours, 59 minutes and 25 seconds of open-water swimming before running up Surtainville beach in France.
She is the first person in the world to successfully complete the challenge. Keen swimmers who have not managed the distance include Guernsey’s own Sea Donkey and Oceans Seven conqueror Adrian Sarchet.
‘It’s still not sunk in yet,’ she said the morning after.
‘I’ve always wanted to be the first to do something. There have been other opportunities where I would have been the first woman to complete something, but I wanted to be the first person – although the enormity of what I’ve done has not really hit me yet.’
Strong currents and changing tides have beaten swimmers in the past, and for a while it looked touch-and-go for Miss Ennion.
‘My support crew on the boat were looking at the maps and there was one point where it looked like I was going to miss France and hit Spain in three days’ time,’ she said.
‘But my partner Will and mum Jo were absolutely brilliant at keeping positive so while I was in the water all I had to do was concentrate on swimming hard.’
With the tide behind her, she was able to cover five or six kilometres in an hour, but at the times she was swimming against it, she was moving less than a kilometre an hour – sometimes not even in the right direction.
Trusting her training, and with the encouragement of her team, she was able to make it and even enjoyed the last quarter.
‘When the sun began to set it was absolutely spectacular, the water was completely still and mirror-like it was glorious, almost magical,’ she said.
Miss Ennion started swimming for fitness as a keen water polo player. She entered a 5k race, then a 10k race, then a 20k race but found herself thinking after each one: ‘That was great but I’m sure I could have done more.’
She felt the same after completing the Lake Windermere swim and the Jersey to France swim.
This time, after almost 16 hours in the water, she finally felt like she had left it all out there in the ocean, with nothing left to give.
‘All I have to do is get in the water and swim, it’s my mum, partner, pilot Matt Clarke and sister Rebecca, who couldn’t join us because of Covid restrictions, who made this possible.’
Covid rules were followed
Miss Ennion did not start from land in Guernsey because of isolation requirements. The crew spent some time in Jersey before sailing to the north of Guernsey at 4am where she hopped out of the boat, had one hand on a rock face, heard a horn from the boat to indicate the start and set off.