Skip to main content

Danni’s Channel Swim

4th March 2024

Last month we were fascinated to hear about Danni Kaelin’s channel swim to raise money for Mencap and here she tell us more about her inspirations and the challenges involved.

“I’ve always liked swimming, but I have really developed a strong love for sea swimming in recent years. What started as sea dipping with some like-minded buddies turned into something that dominates most of my spare time. I have taken part in a few swim races and events up to 10k, but last year I and three of my swimming friends decided to set ourselves a tougher challenge for this year – swimming the English Channel in a relay team. This means that the four us will take it in turns to swim an hour each until we get from Folkstone to France, so we all will likely swim for 3-4 hours.

The shortest route to swim across the English Channel is 21 miles (31 Kilometres). However when swimming you have currents to contend with and so the crossing can in fact be much longer. The quickest time a soloist has ever done is less than 7 hours, the longest crossing took over 29 hours. In the swimming world, certainly in the UK, swimming the English Channel is THE swim. But so far only 2,428 soloist and 1,062 relay teams have completed it.

There are many perils whilst swimming the channel. For starters, it is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with approximately 600 ships and about 200 ferries using the water every day, so the swimmers heavily rely on the little support boat to navigate and guide their way past the big ships. My children are worried that I’ll get eaten by sharks or swordfish and whilst that is unlikely, the prospect of huge jellyfish, or overly interested seals are a genuine concern. One of the most common reasons why Channel swim attempts fail is sea sickness, or diesel sickness. The former can be helped by motion sickness medications - although when I spoke to the doctor about this, he was very quick to point out that almost all motion sickness medications have a side effect of drowsiness. Not ideal if you need to swim to France. The latter problem, diesel sickness is the unfortunate problem when you have to swim in very close proximity to a boat. Invariably diesel enters the water and one wrong move you can end up with a mouthful. 

Since embarking on my challenge to swim the channel in a relay, the most common response I have got is Why? It’s a fair question and has a two-fold answer. Firstly, I always like to have a challenge. The second reason, and the most important reason is that I am proud to be completing my swim with The Mencap Marvels. The Mencap Marvels is run by Channel soloist and super woman Nikki Pope and her wife Cate. Nikki and Cate’s passions not only for swimming but also for Mencap is inspiring. Mencap support babies to old aged pensioners with learning disabilities. The work they do is incredibly important and to those who require their help – it is life changing. Asking for donations for events is something I feel quite shy about. But with the government cuts, and government targets relating to the provision of support for people with learning disabilities missed year on year, Mencap need our help more than ever.” 

Danni Kaelin

So, I'm swimming the Channel...