The Swim

The Meet

Stuart will arrange a time with you to meet at Dover Marina, usually an hour or two before high tide. This can be at any time and it is very normal for a swim to start in the middle of the night in the small hours.

Observer Team

Find out more about them on our rules page

Once on the boat, the observer who will be officiating your swim will take your details down. You will need to show them your passport and also passports for any crew you have coming onboard with you. French board control have the right to stop and inspect them as we cross their border, although this rarely happens.

Sea Leopards crew will then talk you through your safety onboard and anything else you need to be aware of.

Sea Leopard Crew

Leaving Dover

Sea Leopard takes between 20-30 minutes to get over to Samphire Hoe, where we normally start swims. The crew and observer will make sure you know where you are and when you need to be ready by to get in the water. Use this time to let your crew familiarise themselves with Sea Leopard, chat to the crew and make sure you have everything you need for the start of your swim. Also make sure that you (the swimmer) stays warm!

The Start

Your swim will normally start from West side of Samphire Hoe, where there’s a stretch of pebbled beach. You will have company here too, as this where the other channel swimming vessels start their swims from too.

The crew will ask you to either jump off the side of the boat or climb in down the ladder on the back of the boat. You will then swim into land following the light in or swimming straight into the beach during day light. Once clear of the water, a loud blast from Sea Leopard’s horn will sound the start of your swim.


The next bit of the swim is very much up to you. You are the boats second engine and determine how fast you will move across the channel. During the swim you are going to need to take on feeds (which is a whole new topic). You will need to work out what works for you in terms of feeding, well in advance of the swim. Leaving this until the big day is an almost sure fire way for a swim to fail. Please ask for advice or the other channel & long distance swimming groups around the UK. Feeding is extremely personal though, take in advice, but take time to work out your own strategy.

An MSC container ship passing Sea Leopard.

Throughout the whole swim, Stuart and his team will be in contact with Dover Coastguard and Gris Nez Traffic for the whole swim, abiding the navigational laws governing of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, Dover Straits. This is not something for you to worry about, but one of the many reasons you need an experienced pilot like Stuart.

Since Sea Leopard is your marker in the channel for where you are in respect to other shipping, you must stick with the boat. The team recommend you keep between 5 and 10 metres away from the boat.

Landing the swim.

Landing a channel swim is challenging, both for the crew, support and the swimmer. Right at the end of some 8-10 hours swimming, you need to beat the tide which will be pulling you sideways at a rate of knots. France will not seem to get closer and it definitely will not get closer if you keep looking for it. Have faith, trust us and your support and swim on.

As the swim draws to a close, the small boat will be brought alongside you as you make your way into shore. As the water gets shallower, you will lose the tide more and more allowing you to swim straight into shore. It is imperative you stay with the boat and not swim your own way in.

The End.

An emotional André landing his swim in Wissant.

The finish of a swim is different for every channel swimmer, but one thing is for certain, it is a moment that will stay with you and will forever be special. It is the moment you proved all the doubters wrong, put your fears to rest, proved yourself, made a loved one prouder than can be or the moment you achieved a life long dream. Or the day you achieved something you have just wanted to do and enjoyed the day. Whatever hurdle you overcome landing the swim, it is a unique moment unmatched by anything else in day-to-day life.

Swims can be landed on either rocks or beach. In the case of rocks we just ask you to touch, rock climbing is entirely at your own risk. If it is a beach, you will need to clear the water unaided. From this moment on you are part of a very special club of people, that may appear normal, but are really in every way, special.

Have your moment.