Channel swim race planned this summer

The original article (with picture of Kevin Murphy) by Graham Tutthill is posted on Kent Online 1.00am Thursday 5 February 2009.

The Channel swim races of the 1950s are to be revived this year, and it could result in a major boost for Dover's economy.

Nova International, the organisation behind the Great North Run and other prestigious sporting events, has revealed plans for a swimming race this summer involving a limited number of elite swimmers.

With the possibility of some of the top names in open water swimming from around the world coming to Dover, the town could be in for a tourism boost as hundreds of spectators head for the port to watch the event.

Eight elite men, six elite women and two relay teams made up of six to eight swimmers will take part in the swims which are due to take place on August 19, or the first day after that when the weather is favourable. The men will set off at 10am, the women at 11am and the relays at 11.15am.

Among the men will be Bulgarian Peter Stoychev, who currently holds the record for the fastest ever Channel swim, six hours 57 minutes.

Cassie Patten, who won the bronze medal in the 10k open water swim at the Olympics in Beijing last year, will be among the women.

A Great Channel Swim Relay will take place on the first available day after the other races, with 12 boats accompanying teams of six to 10 swimmers. These will include charity and business teams.

The first Channel Swim race was organised in 1950 when the Daily Mail put up a prize of £1,000 for the first man and the first woman to swim from France to England. The prizes were won by Hassan Abdel Rehim, a lieutenant in the Egyptian Army, and Eileen Fenton, a 21-year-old religious studies teacher from Dewsbury.

More races were held in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959, but then they stopped.

Details of this summer's event were revealed at a press conference in London today.

It was attended by Kevin Murphy who, with 34 Channel swims to his credit, is King of the English Channel.

There has been renewed interest in long-distance open-water swimming, spurred on by Great Britain's success in the Olympic Games last summer. As well as Cassie's bronze, Team GB won two silver medals in the marathon swims in Beijing.