Two fathers and sons from Dover have set a new category for cross-Channel relay swims – and hope that others may follow their example.
Lee Wakeham and his son Jake and Jason Harvey and his son Bradley swam from Dover to France in 13 hours 47 minutes on Thursday, landing on the shore right underneath the lighthouse at Cap Gris Nez.
“It was the most welcome light I had ever seen,” said Lee who completed the last leg of the swim, scrambling ashore on the rocks.
The idea for the swim had started with a plan to put together a relay team from regulars at the White Horse Inn in St James’ Street, where successful Channel swimmers
sign their names on the walls and ceiling.
But then the pub closed for a while – it has since reopened – and the four decided to form their own relay team, called Fathers and Sons Quartet. And it proved quite a challenge.
“We had 16 months of hard training,” said Lee, who did a solo Channel swim in 1997 in 11:45, and a relay in 2003 which took 13:43.
“We thought this relay would take between 10 and 12 hours,” he said. “We set off from Shakespeare Beach on a spring tide and it was a perfect day with perfect conditions. But we were caught in fog, the wind got up and the sea became choppy. It got dark and we lost all visibility. Sometimes it seemed we were not making any progress.
“We thought it then might take 16 hours, and we were all suffering from sea-sickness.
“On what proved to be the last leg I suddenly saw the light from the lighthouse.”
Lee and Jake raised more than £800 for Cystic Fibrosis and Jason and Bradley raised a similar amount for Kent Air Ambulance.
“We hope that other fathers and sons, or even mothers and daughters or other family combinations will be encouraged by our swim and have a go,” said Lee.
The team of Dover Lifeguard juniors completed it in 13 hours 27 minutes.