Bienvenue a la France

…Félicitations pour A Long Swim. Va-t-en!  Il faut que tu nous laisses immédiatement…stupid Américian


Translation:   “Welcome to France. Congratulations on A Long Swim. Now, Get Off Our Beach”

My son, Mack, speaks French.  So, I asked him how to say the French part.  He added the thing about the stupid American part.  I just don’t know what has happened to that lad, what with his snotty remarks.  We will have to talk.

Swimming the English Channel has lots of rules.  Pages of them.  Most of the rules are there to keep you safe, but some of the rules seem focused on making your swim just as challenging as everyone else’s swim has been for 135 years.  If you make it to the other side AND you follow all the rules, you are rewarded with a certified swim.  If you make it to the other side and you DON’T follow all the rules, it is as though you never made the trip.

Some rules:

  • No wetsuits
  • No covering other than a suit, cap and goggles
  • The only insulation you can use is lanolin or Vaseline
  • No MP3 or other music players
  • An official observer from the certifying agency must be on the      escort boat
  • No touching the escort boat
  • No touching anyone on the escort boat
  • You must start on dry land on the shore you leave, and you must      finish on dry land on the shore to which you swim

That last rule is a challenge.  The escort boats are 35 – 45 foot motor boats, so they can’t get that close to shore.  So, you have to swim from the boat to the start, and you have to swim to the boat after the finish.  It is only a few hundred yards, but there is definitely a feeling of rule overkill.

When it comes to rules, though, you’ve got to love the French.  These days, all the swims go from England to France.  It used to be that you could swim from France to England, which made a lot of sense because the most difficult currents are closest to the French shore.  The theory was that you could swim through the toughest currents when you were the freshest.

Unfortunately, the French just don’t see it that way.  On occasion, the French have even tried to make Channel crossings illegal.  So far, that effort has been unsuccessful, but kookiest rule of all is the one that requires that you get off the French beach within 15 minutes after you arrive.

Imagine that.  You spend more than 13 hours swimming 30 miles through cold water, huge ships and stinging jellyfish.  You arrive triumphantly on the French coast, but you can’t celebrate for very long because you have to split in less time than a TIVO’ed Seinfeld episode.

The question is:  What if you don’t?  Does some French immigration officer handcuff you in your Speedo?  Maybe we’ll find out.

See you at the pool.  I will report back.