THE seed of an idea planted by Solihull legend Dr Chris Stockdale MBE six years ago has resulted in a Shirley man swimming the English Channel.
Ben Taylor of Yewhurst Road crossed the famous strip of water separating Britain from Europe in 13 hours and 42 minutes, and there on the boat supporting him was the famed open water swimmer and surgeon, Dr Chris himself.
“We headed out for a 4am start to make it across,” said Ben.
“There was quite lot of jellyfish and I got stung but kept going and we managed to pass the other boats supporting swimmers – there was even a Goodyear Blimp flying overhead.”
The swim was the culmination of years of dedication which saw 48-year-old Ben go part time in his job as an IT consultant to concentrate on training.
“About six years ago Chris saw me swimming and said I should try to do the Channel – at the time I was doing long distance triathlons,” said Ben, who’s wife Karen is also a long distance athlete.
“It put an idea in my head. Then I heard there was a Channel relay swim so I joined a boat and swam with three Australians – it was a successful crossing and we’re now friends for life.
“It made me think that with training I could do it solo.”
It was no easy task – to qualify, and yes, you have to qualify to swim the Channel, Ben had to be able to swim for six hours in sub 16 degrees.
A training fortnight in Dover saw him go from swimming for 42 minutes in 10 degrees to lasting three hours in that temperature.
“To say you’re a gibbering wreck after that is an understatement,” he said.
Training saw him swim in the Manchester Ship Canal and around Lake Windermere, and saw him go down to lasting six hours in 12 degrees.
Surviving disruptions caused by the pandemic, then finding a boat to support the swim, he eventually struck out from England last Thursday, sustained by 200 calories of energy supplements every 45 minutes to keep him going.
“People have asked did I do it for charity and no I didn’t, and in truth I don’t know why we do these things,” said Ben.
“The next question they ask is, what are you going to do next?”
For a short video of Ben’s swim, visit: https://youtu.be/rccs1P_jwKQ