• Swimmer

    Charlotte Samuels

  • Route

    English Channel Solo

  • Achievement

    World Record – Youngest Person to Achieve the Triple Crown (aged 16)

  • Date

    8 September 2014

  • Time

    20 hours 44 minutes

Swim Journal

Charlotte is such an inspiration. During her high school summer holidays, with the support from her amazing parents Steven and Suzanne, Charlotte swam the Catalina Channel, Manhattan Island circumnavigation and was about to attempt the English Channel. Roger was in town for Otto’s swim.  David Barra (New York Open Water) had asked Roger if he could also crew for Charlotte.  He said yes – for me too!

Roger and I arrived back at Dover Marina just after 3am from Otto’s swim. We were due to go out with Charlotte at 6am. We hugged Otto again and congratulated him for the 100th time at least and made our way back to Varne Ridge Channel Accommodation via the BP Station for supplies. Back in the caravan, we quickly put all our devices on charge, set our alarms for 5am and crashed into our bedrooms. I didn’t even bother undressing!! 1 hour 20 minutes later my alarm went off! Just as we were preparing to leave, Roger received a call from Steven, Charlotte’s dad. Charlotte’s boat pilot Eddie Spelling was still out in the Channel with a man swimming breaststroke. The plan was to meet at the marina at 6pm later that day. Neither of us bothered to go back to sleep that day…too much adrenaline!!

We met Charlie and family at the marina at 6pm as planned and off we went! The weather had really changed since Otto’s swim the day before. It was cold and choppy! Charlotte was not perturbed at all. I greased her up with Vaseline in all the chafe spots and she was off! Being on a boat travelling at the same speed as a swimmer is a completely different experience. The boat rocks a lot more. A lot of people will become seasick crewing when they have never suffered from seasickness in their lives!!

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Suzanne, Charlotte’s mum came down hard! She felt better being up on the deck so we dressed her in spare clothes and put towels and blankets over her to make her as comfortable and warm as possible. About two hours into the swim, Charlotte got upset with her dad who was handling her feeds. I said to Roger “I think we need to tell Dad S that Charlotte’s upset and we should take over her half hourly feeds”. Roger said “Yes I agree, off you go”!!! Thanks!!!! I went over and shared our concerns with Dad S. I felt so bad. He had tears in his eyes but agreed that Roger and I should take charge. As I said to him, when we’re feeling vulnerable we do tend to take it out on the people we love. This amazing 16 year old girl was swimming her heart out in quite rough water and facing swimming right through the night!!

After about 2 hours of swimming, I checked the state of the water on both sides of the boat. Charlotte was currently on the left side which appeared to be a lot rougher than the right side. I showed Roger and he agreed. At Charlotte’s next feed we asked her if she would like to move to the slightly calmer water which she did.

Roger got in as Charlotte’s support swimmer and swam through the midnight hour with her. There is such pride watching someone push ahead to achieve their dream. You are so sensory deprived in the water, as crew, you must never take your eyes off your swimmer. A smile or a thumbs up means the world when you have been swimming for hours on end.

Around 2am, Roger started to go to sleep which I really didn’t want to happen. I was a little afraid of being alone, this only being my second time crewing! So, I started to sing!!!! I was also so tired and I couldn’t think of any lyrics except for Janice Joplin’s Mercedes Benz song!!! My singing definitely kept Roger awake and, according to him, dogs in Dover were howling too!!

Charlotte’s conditions didn’t calm down at all. Finally the sun came up and she still kept swimming. No complaints at all. She did exactly what she was told. I have never to this day seen someone swim with such heart! About 5kms off the French coast, Captain Eddie told us she must pick up the pace as we were being swept sideways by the current. I got down on my knees and yelled at this amazing young woman for the next 2-3 hours “dig in Charlotte” “come on Charlotte” and pointed to France. Charlotte dug in and picked up the pace after 18 hours of swimming! Mum S was feeling a lot better by now and also joined us on the side of the boat willing her daughter on. Dad S, despite having to take a back seat, did not take his eyes of his girl the whole time.

Eventually it was time to put the rubber IRB boat into the water and one of the boat crew escorted Charlotte into France. Again I had tears dripping off my chin when Charlie made it!! 20 hours and 44 minutes of swimming at the age of 16! Truly incredible!

We made our way back to England with Roger, Charlotte and I holding hands some of the way. The bonds you build sharing such an experience are lifelong and so strong. Roger and I arrived back to our accommodation at Varne Ridge at about 7pm. All the other swimmers staying there and mum and dad (David and Evelyn the owners) came out clapping and cheering us! We were so proud, overjoyed but oh were we so tired! We went down to the Royal Oak for dinner and managed to eat about a third of our meal and only managed half a pint of beer for Rog and Guinness for me of course! Absolute proof of how tired we were!!! We had only had 1 hour 20 minutes sleep in 57 hours! I remember saying to Roger mid Channel the second time in as many days – sleep is so overrated! How wrong was I!

For the second time I crashed in all my clothes and didn’t move all night long!

The next day, after a shower, we all went to a favourite restaurant in Deal called The Courtyard. We had two World Record English Channel swims to celebrate. And did we celebrate. Followed by watching Otto and Charlotte sign the walls of the White Horse Inn of course.

Charlotte, I will always hold your swim in my heart and I have used your courage and determination at tricky times through my own swims. I will always be so very proud of you!

English Channel Swim Photo Journal