Former Lane Cove Local Charlie Pidcock and his Lane Cove Crew Ready to Take on The English Channel

Charlie Pidcock and his family lived in Lane Cove for numerous years, and his children attended St Michael’s Primary School. Charlie was also the president of the St Ignatius College Old Ignatians Union.

Charlie has set himself a goal, 30 years in the making – to swim the English Channel.

The English Channel swim is a legendary feat attempted by distance swimmers worldwide. The icy waters, unpredictable currents, and distance of roughly 34 kilometres make it one of open water swimming’s toughest challenges.

You can’t just show up and start swimming the channel. It takes hours and hours of practice in all different environments and is also a logistical challenge.

You must have a certified qualifying swim, a 6-hour swim in sub-16 degrees.

We asked Charlie to tell ITC about his preparations for swimming the Channel.

Why Swim the English Channel?

I have always loved swimming and, in particular, swimming in the ocean. My early years were spent near the beach, and it seemed we were always in the water.

I enjoy the refreshing nature of salt water, being in or close to nature, looking at various creatures, and the meditative state one can experience.  I have been thinking about swimming in the English Channel for 30 years, preparing for 10 years and training for two years.  I have spent many hours at the Lane Cove Aquatic Centre and got to know the regulars and staff.

Charlie (far left) with his swimming squad and coach

Swimming the English Channel is the holy grail of long-distance open-water swimming.

Recently, I swam in the Des Renford Pool, which just so happens to be close to where I will live for the next few months. Des Renford (1927-99) was a marathon swimmer known as the King of the Channel; he made it 19 times in 19 attempts without all the support one has these days.

I have read about him extensively over the last few months. Inspired by his pioneering efforts and courage, I can only begin to wonder what he went through.

How Much Training Have You Done?

I swim 5 km Mon – Thur and 10 – 20 km Saturday.  On 1st June, I swam around 26 – 28 km.  I have been training like this for two years.

It has not always been smooth sailing.  At one session, a blue bottle wrapped itself around my arm, which would have freaked me out when I was a kid….. or even a few years ago, but now I am just rolling with it.

How Do You Schedule an English Channel Swim?

You become a member of the Channel Swimming Association (CSA). They provide resources, rules, and a list of approved escort pilots crucial for navigation and safety.

The CSA has strict regulations on swimwear. Only a one-piece swimsuit, goggles, and a swim cap are allowed. Wetsuits or buoyancy aids are forbidden.

You then apply to one of the ten accredited CSA boats.

An escort pilot with a CSA license will guide you throughout the swim, planning the route to minimize currents and tides.

You then keep your fingers crossed.  There was a significant backlog after COVID-19, and in the last 20 years, there has been a massive growth in the number of ocean swimmers.   If you are considering swimming in the English Channel, booking them well in advance (2-3 years) is advisable.

A thorough medical examination is mandatory to ensure you’re in peak physical condition to handle the long swim and cold water.

I will attempt my English Channel Swimming attempt in two weeks. But many things can happen, and I hope the weather conditions will work in my favour.

How Long Will It Take to Swim the English Channel?

My Goal time is between 12 hr and 16 hours; as someone said, swim until you run out of water.

This week, Charlie jumped into a pool with a temp of 13.5 degrees

What is One of the Most Important Factors in Scheduling the Swim?

You need a support crew.  They have to train with you, so it is a big commitment on their part as well.

They will give me regular feeds throughout the swim to maintain energy levels. These feeds typically consist of high-carb, quickly digestible fluids or gels.

Good luck, Charlie, and as Dory says – just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

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