Channel veteran joins relay team for Dover to Calais swim

A CHANNEL swimming veteran has been jumping back into a familiar stretch of water this week.

Roger Allsopp, right with the relay swimmers, left to right, Jacky Portingale, Dirk Gewert, George Thornton, Val Greenwood, and Helen Gardner. 	(29997732)
Roger Allsopp, right with the relay swimmers, left to right, Jacky Portingale, Dirk Gewert, George Thornton, Val Greenwood, and Helen Gardner. (29997732)

Roger Allsopp, 80, has previously successfully swam solo from Dover to Calais twice, as well as part of a relay team. And this week he made his second successful relay swim, with five other swimmers. Between them they had a total age of 435 – so an average age of 72.

The retired surgeon is very fit, but said he was finding it harder to do long swims, as he got very cold.

‘I was well-prepared,’ he said.

He swam through the winter in Guernsey’s waters and said there had been a wonderful community.

‘I have been thrilled with the number of sea swimmers in Guernsey, perhaps especially since lockdown,’ he said.

‘Covid seems to have to have alerted many as to the importance of physical wellbeing and health. So many friends have helped with the training.’

Originally, when organising started 18 months ago, it had been planned that a global group of older swimmers would be on the team.

But swimmers from South Africa and Australia were unable to come over due to the quarantine and travel restrictions.

But swim organiser – George Thornton from Colorado, USA – was determined to make the swim happen and recruited other older swimmers from around the south-east of England to fill the spots on the team.

The group set off at about 5pm and swam through the night.

‘It was very disorientating,’ Mr Allsopp said.

‘As we got close to France, the water got quite rough, so you were trying to keep an eye on the boat and not inhale too much water. But it could have been much worse.’

The water was about 18 degrees, but the air temperature was a lot colder.

Mr Allsopp said it was a real challenge to climb up onto the back of the boat when changing swimmers and on one occasion he fell off the ladder.

‘It was pitching all over the place,’ he said.

Once inside, and after a leg, he would go below deck, put on a dry robe and try and warm up next to a heater.

They managed to complete the swim in 15 hours and nine minutes.

Mr Allsopp said it was lovely that Mr Thornton – who had been driving to make the swim happen – was the one to reach France.

Despite all the challenges, Mr Allsopp said he was pleased to be back in the Channel.

‘I did enjoy it,’ he said.

In the past he swam to raise money for charity Hope for Guernsey. But with travel uncertainty due to Covid meaning it was unclear if the swim would go ahead, on this occasion he did it for his own enjoyment.

He was unsure of his future Channel adventures.

‘I can’t imagine anyone doing a solo swim now,’ he said.

‘Solos take all that time on your own.

‘I did it, but I don’t know how. Relays are also not easy, as you have to get in and out.

‘I have said I would not do it again, but I have said that before.’

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