Remeasuring the English Channel (What Constitutes Shortest Route?)

JenAJenA Charter Member
edited May 2015 in General Discussion

As I've seen it, the EC is traditionally measured from Dover to Cap Gris Nez. Possibly, though, this isn't the shortest possible route. (Ooh! Philosophical discussion! :) )

As per the second map, I think you could get away with 0.7km* less swimming if you had no course corrections, and you got really, really, really lucky and the tide happened to land you directly on Cap Griz Nez. You'd still S-curve your way across, but you'd only complete 32.3km* of actual swimming. The rest would be free ride courtesy of the tide.

By the spirit of open water swimming, I'm thinking you'd want to declare the shortest route across the EC at 32.3km*, not 33.0km*.

Thoughts? I'm really curious about what the community thinks of this.

*All distances approximate. I'm interested in the spirit of measurement here, not the actual surveying.

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  • HelbeHelbe Senior Member

    So, if you land somewhere other than Cap Gris Nez, say Sangatte beach, can you claim a longer swim?
    And if you start and finish on low spring tide does that make your swim shorter?

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member

    @Helbe, No. English Channel swims are considered 21 miles. Regardless of actual distance swam. So let's take the example the idiot who landed at Les Hennes, that idiot does not get to claim an extra 10 miles. Guess who the idiot is and how few people have ever landed there? Don't ask me to tell that story.

    As per @JenA's question, I guess I fail to see the point, as people generally round to 21 miles anyway based on historical tradition even though it's closer to 20, even for those of us who prefer kilometres.

    I'd tell Trent, who has the straightest EC line along with Petar Stoychev that he apparently got a "free ride from the tide", but as I recall, @JenA "refuse[d] to recognise" his swim anyway. ;-)


  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited May 2015

    I thought it would be more interesting to discuss a real world problem, but this may illustrate the point more clearly.

    A 3-km-per-hour swimmer leaves Point A with surface currents averaging a little over 4km/hour heading East. They end up at Point B exactly one hour later. As the first person to swim the Strait of Pythagoreanexample, they want to state their record fairly and precisely. What distance do they get to claim?


    @loneswimmer: If memory serves, I took exception with the record claim because it violates the MSF rules (because he was, apparently, deliberately slipstreaming in the boat's wake as a strategy to increase his speed). Someone pointed out he wasn't the first to do so, I did some research and found similar claims against Ederle's swim, and then I lost faith in English Channel records all together. :)

  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member

    Consider these questions:
    Does the claimable distance change if the current is 5kph or 3kph on a given day, or if the swimmer's speed is different?
    What if A to B was 40.11km (base = 40, height =3)? Do you call this 5.75hr swim a 3km swim, or a 17.25km swim?

    This is of course a current assisted swim, but that only matters if someone is seeking to set a 5k speed record.


    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    I like this standard of measurment best:

    Starting point to nearest point of the targeted land mass.

    The record for being the first to cross the Strait of Pythagoreanexample would be just that.... the first to cross the Strait of Pythagoreanexample.

    Distance is irrelevant.


    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited May 2015

    I think @JenA brings up an interesting technical detail of swimming in waters affected by surface currents. That said, I don't think the basic standard of "straight line from Point A to Point B" needs to be re-defined. It's simple and easily implemented. We have a hard enough time reminding people that "distance swum" by GPS is not a relevant metric.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    evmo said:
    I don't think the basic standard of "straight line from Point A to Point B" needs to be re-defined...We have a hard enough time reminding people that "distance swum" by GPS is not a relevant metric.

    With that in mind, and slightly off target, how do folks feel about swimmers logging in their personal logs GPS distance swum? What I mean is, if I've swum the Channel (never gonna happen), and succeeded, I'd tell everyone who asked that I swam 21 miles. But my log might say something like 30!

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    Considering my graphic: say the swimmer swims the hour at slack water. Then it seems to be a clear 5km. But if they wait for the perfect moment in the flood/ebb where it averages 2.2 knots (4km/hr), they could also 3km swim due South (or due North, depending on starting position), and reach the ending point -- effectively 3km of swimming, and gaining 2km of free ride.

    I'm not seeing a clever or readily understood answer here -- as per @malinaka and his most excellent example, if the tides/currents run fast enough, the math can be a bit crazy. I think public perception could also be confused to hear of a 3km-per-hour swimmer claiming they swam 5km in an hour. MIMS is a great example: 45.6km in 5h44 is about 7.9km/hour (45.7 seconds per hundred). :)

    I bet even a buoy could travel 20km+ if you dropped it in the English channel at the start of a tide cycle in a tide that peaked at 4 knots.... especially if it went between the Varne and the Ridge. A swimmer could easily claim long distances with minimal effort as long as they were willing to 'float it out'.

    I have no suggestions here -- I just find it interesting.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member

    OTT: @JenA, your memory is incorrect, as the MSF rules hadn't been written, nor even considered when Trent did his record-breaking swim.

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member

    I would argue that it's moot:

    Considering your hypothetical example, even with a free ride, one is still swimming in some fashion unless they sink and drown. So, I'd argue that a person could claim any of: 5km (straight line), 5km(3 km south, 2km east) or 7km current assisted ( 3km south, 2km east, 2km assistance).

    I did END-WET last year and I usually tell people that I did, in fact, swim 36 miles, but that it was river current assisted to an unknown degree.

    A "(sur)real" world example: Suppose you want to swim from an island in the Caribbean to a U.S. state beginning with the letter "F". At some point or points you hop in the boat and have a snooze while the boat is moving towards the "F" state, BUT - and this is critical - while you sleep you are dreaming about swimming. Then, when you finish, you can pretty much claim having done whatever distance you decide since even when you weren't in the water, you were swimming in your mind. Hope that helps - no need to thank me.



    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @loneswimmer: Not sure what OTT means, but: Mea culpa. You're right -- I wasn't remembering accurately. I should have said that the record claim didn't jive with my personal take on the spirit of open water swimming.

    Apologies to Trent.

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    Calculating the exact distance a person or team swims during their EC becomes a lot simpler as long as you use the correct unit - ECL.

    ECL stands for "English Channel Lap". I must confess I don't understand the science incolved but here are some examples to try and illustrate the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of this unit.

    Example 1. A swimmer leaves Shaky Beach travelling at 3.4kph on a Spring tide with a force 3 headwind and lands 11 hours later at Wissant. Distant travelled = 1ECL

    Example 2. A swimmer leaves Samphire travelling at 2.4kph on a Neap tide with no prevailing winds and lands 17 hours later on the Cap. Distance travelled = 1ECL

    Another thing to note is you can apparently only display this unit as whole numbers, 1ECL, 2ECL, 3ECL etc. Fractions should always be rounded down, never up.

    Hope this clears up the confusion and makes everyone's life a lot simpler.


  • HelbeHelbe Senior Member

    @phodgeszoho Great explanation. I think the ECL unit is the perfect way to measure the swim distance.

  • firebahfirebah Charter Member

    Not all EC swims begin at the same beach for starters. I would be willing to bet no matter how straight a swim looks on paper it was not a perfectly straight swim so what difference does it make? The distance has worked fine all of these year so why worry about it now? The thing that is more important are those who claim their swim were longer than the recognized distance because of their route. I have seen this one too many times in hometown write-ups about swimmers.

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