On 2nd/3rd August 2009, after 3 weeks of waiting for a suitable weather forecast, former Halifax, City of Bradford and Bradford Dolphin Swimming Club member Liane Llewellyn became the first Yorkshire person, third British Lady and ninth Lady in the world to swim the 45 mile (which was actually 60miles) round trip from Dover to Calais and back in a time of 27hours and 35mins.
This had only been accomplished by 16 people worldwide and the last British success was in 1995. Liane who lives in Denholme, West Yorkshire and works at Fairfield Hospital, Bury as a Senior Physiotherapist has devoted every bit of her time to training for this challenge and due to the poor British weather she has now used all of her annual leave whilst waiting in Dover for this chance.
Liane was provisionally told she would start her swim on Saturday at 7pm but when she called her boat pilot at 3pm he said the weather had changed and wasn’t looking good and she then had to wait for the weather updates later that evening when her pilot made the call that she would start at 8am on Sunday and he would meet her at Dover Marina at 7:30am. Liane said she felt excited and nervous because she had done all the training and was ready to go but after waiting for 3 weeks the realisation that she was actually going to get her chance started to kick in.
On the 30 minute boat trip around from the Marina to the beach at Samphire Hoe, Liane felt relaxed and was in the zone and ready to go for it. At this point the weather looked good and the forecast showed a following North-Westerly breeze that would swing around to South-Easterly and provide assistance after the turn at the French coast. This together with the slack tides that had been witnessed 2 days prior, should have provided ideal conditions. However, Liane didn’t get this wind assistance. Instead she encountered 22mph winds which were in opposition to the tide leading to very choppy water which drained her stamina. She also didn’t get the slack water on the return leg and this nearly prevented her from making the finish at St Margarets Bay, Dover at 11:35am on Monday. When asked how she managed to complete the swim in such rough conditions, Liane said that very rough swims on Loch Lomond and Rathlin had prepared her for the rough water and the hours she had spent up at Gaddings Dam (high in the Pennines) and in Teneriffe had helped her cope with the boredom.
Usually swims take place in below a force 2 and many swims are aborted in force 3-4 on the Beaufort Scale. On Sunday morning 12 boats accompanying swimmers set of from the English shores at varying times and of those 6 of them made it to the French shores. Liane was the fastest across in 11hours and 20minutes, covering a distance of 25.5miles. Although, had it not been for luck and all of 2 inches Liane might have needed rescuing as she narrowly missed hitting a large wooden crate, cast aside by one of the many cargo ships, head first. Of the six who made it across the Channel, one man was attempting a two-way and he called it a day just after the turn and one lady was attempting a three-way and she called it a day during the second leg, such was the poor sea state. By mid afternoon, reports had come through from returning swimmers that conditions were “like a washing machine” in mid channel.
On the return journey, fast running tides hindered Liane and sent her on a long “S” shaped route (34miles) up past Calais and in the path of the many Channel ferries. But true Yorkshire grit and determination enabled Liane to battle on and complete the 2nd leg in 16 hours 15mins. A discussion with her pilot and analysis of her swim took place the day after her epic crossing and he said that if she had taken 5 minutes longer he may well have had to pull her from the water as once the tide takes you past St Margarets Bay there is no land to finish at and the boat would probably get stuck on the Goodwin Sands.
Liane’s high point of the swim was just after she had landed in France. She said “ I was really chuffed to be told how fast I had made the 1-way because it felt slow and the choppy waters had made it incredibly tough”.
However, she had two low points to report. One of these was at the 24 hour mark “I had kept a rough idea thorough counting my feeds how long I had been in the water and I still couldn’t see the White Cliffs of Dover so I knew I had many hours ahead of me” and the final icing on the cake was the whole of the last four hours “when I was told if I didn’t pull out all the stops I might not finish so despite feeling weary and tired I had to find an extra reserve and pick up the pace”.
Liane is over the moon to have completed the challenge and over whelmed by all the support she has received from everybody and people in the swimming world who she holds in high regard for all their achievements such as Mike Read, Alison and Freda Streeter and Lynne Cox to name but a few (legends in marathon swimming).
It is not too late to help Liane in her bid to raise £5000 for Bradford Outward Bound® Association. All donations will go towards enabling young people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in Outward Bound Courses. The Outward Bound Trust offers structured residential development courses with the purpose of raising self-esteem and confidence, developing skills and preparing young people from every background for the challenges that life brings.
To make a donation and show your support for Liane visit:
Liane’s swimming CV:
• completed the 2-way Windermere swim (21miles)
• Was named BLDSA Swimmer of the Year
• completed and won the BLDSA Loch Lomond championship (21.5miles)
• was part of the first all womens 3-way channel relay
• completed a Loch Ness swim (22miles) and won the BLDSA swim of the
• 1-way swim of the English Channel in 11hr 27mins and won The Oldman
Memorial Trophy for the best BLDSA swimmer on a CSA swim (Presented by the Channel Swimming Association) and The Sunny Lowry Trophy for the fastest British CSA woman (Presented by the Channel Swimming Association)
• was in the Halifax Swimming Club Ladies Channel relay that set the
fastest time of the year with the CSA
• completed 2-way Windermere (21miles)
• completed and won the BLDSA Loch Lomond race (21.5miles)
• completed the tough Rathlin to Ballycastle swim to set the fastest
time for a female
• BLDSA Swimmer of the Year
• completed a swim from Newburgh to Tayport (15miles)
• completed a 3-way Coniston swim (15.75miles)
• completed the 2-way Channel swim (59.7miles)
For further details Liane can be contacted via:
Home: 01274 830615
photo Getty Images