Channel Swim Database

 

I have recently compiled a single, comprehensive list of all solo channel swims (click here to download).

 

Why you might ask?! There are pretty comprehensive lists at www.soloswims.com (for C.S.A. swims) and www.channelswimming.com (for C.S.A. & C.S.P.F. swims). Why is another list required?

The attached "Point of view- a search for the missing swimmers" by Margaret Ann Feather Dixon explains more clearly than I can. Margaret swam in four Butlins races in the early 1950s and in 1954 succeeded in crossing the channel in 16 hours 22 minutes.

 

I had 5 objectives for the comprehensive database of Channel Swims:

 

1.            It should be comprehensive! All swims – whether ratified by the C.S.A., C.S.&P.F. or Butlins – are included.

 

2.            It should be the full picture in one place. Although the above sources all have significant pieces of the puzzle, none had the full picture in one place.

 

3.            It should be structured so it can be analysed. The above sources are either in HTML or Word or Excel. The new database is in a structured database format across all 3 ratifying organisation – I have chosen Excel which can be easily imported into most databases.

 

4.            It should be internally consistent. Swimmers names are all spelt the same – i.e. for the same swimmer, Matt and Matthew is not allowed. Also Country names have been made consistent – i.e. not United States of America and U.S.A. I have spent significant time and effort checking & ensuring consistency.

 

5.            It should be verified from primary sources. In the main, the best sources are the records of the ratifying organisations (checked for transcription errors!). But some information can only be obtained from the individual. Hence this email! Where possible, I am checking each entry with the individual swimmer to fill in gaps and verifying information. Unfortunately I won’t be able to check everyone’s details – for instance, Matthew Webb is refusing to respond to my emails.

 

For reference, I intend to offer this database to all interested parties – so as to build some consistency on facts & figures. It will also be kept up-to-date as possible at my site www.channel-swims.info. I do not profess any ownership over the content of the database but want to bring everyone together around a single set of information.

 

It has many, many interesting facts to reveal (see below)…and probably quite a few errors I am sure which will need to be corrected over the coming months. Let me go through a few of both!

 

 

Sources

 

The sources for the information in the database are many. The primary source is the work done by Mike & Angela Oram over many, many years whilst at the CSA and more recently at the CS&PF. This is published at their site www.channelswimming.com. Additional sources are the listings kept by Bryan Finlay at www.soloswims.com and information from Mark Frost at Dover Museum site http://www.dover.gov.uk/museum/resource/swim/swim1.asp. Finally I have sent emails to all swimmers that I can find who are members of the SmartGroups community or who are contacts of contacts!

 

I have sent around 270 emails to confirm the data in the database and had over 60% of the datasheets returned – with many more promising information once they can retrieve the observer reports from the bottom of their filing system! Each line confirmed by a swimmer is highlighted in green.

 

For this year’s swims, I use the SmartGroups reports and will update the list based on the final CS&PF and CSA lists once ratified. The grapevine indicates that the CS&PF had 58 successful solo swims and the CSA had 21 making a total of 79 – a superb year. I currently have 50/58 swims for the CS&PF and 21/21 for the CSA on the database. The final lists should be ready in the next few days so I understand.

 

If you find any errors or inconsistencies in the database, please do not hesitate to email me at julian@channel-swims.info providing me as much detail as possible (especially on sources of information) and I will investigate & correct the database as appropriate. This is definitely intended to be a living database whose quality and accuracy will improve with time.

 

 

Structure

 

The database is structured as an Excel database to allow analysis of the data. Where possible, I have tried to ensure consistency of spellings (e.g. swimmers names, pilots, boats, countries etc). Each swim is flagged with its “Ratifying Organisation” which is either the Channel Swimming Association (www.channelswimmingassociation.com), Sam Rockett’s book “It’s Cold in the Channel”, newspaper reports on the Daily Mail/Butlins races or the CS&PF (www.channelswimming.net). It is up to the user to decide how comparable the standards used by the different organisations are and therefore whether to include or exclude their swims.

 

The first set of columns represents the “data” on each swim. The second set – from column Z on – are derived information such as “was this the swimmers first crossing?” or the most important questions – column AC & AD – “which # individual was I to swim the channel?” and “which # crossing – either way – was I?”

 

For those interested in the history of “ratifying” channel swims, it is worth reading the story of Dr Dorothy Logan who claimed a world record, only later to recant and admit that she had not swum the channel (see http://www.qualitytyme.net/pages/rolex_articles/m_gleitze.html). You will see in the database that during the 1950s Butlins races some swimmers were ratified by CSA observers and others competing in the same race were not. Personally, until informed otherwise, I am happy to accept the observation of the many newspaper journalists and support crews that these other swimmers – as logged in “It’s Cold in the Channel” – did indeed swim the channel.

 

Whilst I have asked swimmers for their date-of-birth and email addresses, for security reasons (i.e. “identity theft”), I have not published this information in the database but have used it to calculate ages etc. If anyone is concerned about other information in the database, then please do contact me.

 

 

Known Problems!

 

There are a few known problems with the database. You do not need to email me to point these out!!

 

First a number of early CSA swims would appear to be in the wrong order. This could be because (a) they are in the wrong order; or (b) I have the dates wrong. Clearly anyone with information on any of these swims, please email me! In the meantime, I have ordered them roughly in the order that the dates would suggest – unless the date that I have appears clearly wrong.

 

Second since 2001, it is hard to order the CSA and CS&PF swims where they occur on the same day – until each swim has a start and finish time. As more information is received, I will “enhance” the ordering of the database!!

 

Third a number of sources just disagree. In general I have run with the CSA or CS&PF data as organisations formally approved by the regulating authorities to ratify channel swims. But even they make mistakes occasionally (a source of errors peculiar to channel swimming is the logging of time – French vs GMT. If logged unclearly by the observer, then you can inadvertently add or subtract an hour from the swim - I am aware of a couple of examples of this!!)

 

Fourth the division within the United Kingdom between England, Wales, Scotland is certainly wrong! Where people nominate Wales or Scotland, I have logged that. The default otherwise tends to be England – but if you know otherwise for a particular swimmer, do please email me and I will correct it!! In addition, I will almost certainly have messed up on some national boundaries and put my foot in it geo-politically. Apologies in advance…but do email me to educate me if you spot a mistake. Equally don’t expect me to solve all historic boundary debates!

 

 

Interesting Facts on Solo Channel Swims

 

It is hard to know where to begin. But as a sample of the power of the new database here are a few factoids!

 

Interesting fact #1: The median time for an E/F swim is 12:55 but for a F/E swim the median is 14:14. The average time for all single crossings whatever the direction is 13:19.

 

Interesting fact #2: 811 individuals have swum the channel, completing 1185 crossings. For reference, by 2004 Everest summit had been climbed 2049 times according to http://www.everesthistory.com/everestsummits/summitsbyyear.htm or nearly 2x as often. In 2005 – a cracking year – there were 79 crossings of the channel whilst in 2004 there were ~330 climbs to the summit of Everest.

 

Interesting fact #3: The average times for a single channel crossings have come down from 16:12 at the start of the twentieth century to 12:13 in the 1980s rising back up to 12:44 in the first 5 years of this millenium

 

1875

21:45

1900-1939

16:12

1940-1959

14:33

1960-69

14:37

1970-79

12:30

1980-89

12:13

1990-1999

12:40

2000-2005

12:44

 

Interesting fact #4: The earliest swim was 29th May (Kevin Murphy in 1990) and the latest swim 28th October (Mike Read in 1979). Only 0.7% of swims are before July, 20% in July, 59% in August, 19% in September and 0.9% in October. The median day to swim is 16th August.

 

Interesting fact #5: Despite the fact that Captain Matthew Webb was a Capricorn (as am I!), Capricorns only represent 6% of Channel Swimmers. Virgo, Aquarius and Gemini are by far the most frequent star signs with 20%, 13% and 12% respectively. I haven’t checked but presumably being a Gemini is good for a 2-way! For other star signs, see below:

 

Aquarius

13%

Aries

4%

Cancer

6%

Capricorn

6%

Gemini

12%

Leo

6%

Libra

4%

Pisces

7%

Sagittarius

9%

Scorpio

7%

Taurus

4%

Virgo

21%

 

Interesting fact #6: Swimmers chose to cross the channel from 12 to 70 but the popular age to swim it is 30 with the median age being 31. Two-thirds of swimmers cross the channel in their 20’s and 30’s with the 30’s being the most popular decade. There are significant peaks at 28, 30, 31 and 38 (mid-life crises or what?!)

 

10

9%

20

32%

30

35%

40

18%

50

5%

60

1%

70

0%

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the facts. If you find out other “interesting facts” from the database, please do not hesitate to email me and I will add them to my collection!

 

Enjoy

 

Regards

 

Julian