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69-year-old puts his name in the record books

Chris Shapland has just finished swimming across the English Channel.
Chris Shapland has just finished swimming across the English Channel. Contributed

UPDATE: He grew up splashing in the pools of Toowoomba. Now 69-year-old Chris Shapland can lay claim to being the second oldest person to swim across the English Channel.

He completed the crossing about lunchtime today after swimming for 16 hours and 28 minutes.

The successful attempt came after bad weather thwarted earlier attempts in previous days.

The Sunshine Coast man swam from Dover to the beaches of France, a distance of 33.79km as the crow flies but swam much further because of strong tides.

Chris Shapland attempting to swim the English Channel.
Chris Shapland attempting to swim the English Channel.

A member of Mr Shapland's support team said he embarked in perfect conditions.

The sea temperature was 18.9 degrees, the wind calm and waves just 0.2m high.

"He was relaxed and focused," a representative said.

"Chris has been training for this for two years and knows the importance of being mentally prepared.

"His aim was to remain relaxed and focused which is the key to a successful swim." A support team lowered food to him every 30 minutes so he could keep his strength up.

The way people swim the channel hasn't changed much since it was first completed by Captain Matthew Webb in 1875.

Chris Shapland is being guided by a spotlight from his support team and lights from the coastline of France.
Chris Shapland is being guided by a spotlight from his support team and lights from the coastline of France.

For Mr Shapland's swim to be considered official, he had to follow regulations which included no artificial aides and the wearing of a "standard swim costume".

The swimming teacher learned the art of swimming in the Toowoomba Municipal Baths which his parents leased from council between 1947 and 1960. The cold temperature of the baths, about 16 degrees, was similar to the frigid waters of the English Channel.

Mr Shapland told The Chronicle before leaving: "It's more of a mental than physical battle - it's not such a physical feat if you know how to swim properly."

He said he had fond memories of swimming in Toowoomba at a time when endurance swimming was respected.

6.47AM: Chris Shapland can see the coast of France and is nearing the end of his epic attempt to swim across the English Channel.

The 69-year-old, who was raised in Toowoomba and lives on the Sunshine Coast, started the swim last night (this morning English time).

In the latest update from his team, Mr Shapland was close enough to see the coastline of France.

He is now swimming at nighttime and is being guided by lights in France.

He started in Dover and has completed more than 30km.

A support team has provided him food and drinks throughout the attempt.

Mr Shapland swam straight through shipping lanes during the endeavour.

If he succeeds he will be the second oldest person to have completed the swim.

He's expected to make landfall within the hour.

EARLIER: Chris Shapland has started his attempt to swim across the English Channel.

At 69-years-old Mr Shapland will be the second oldest man to complete the crossing if he succeeds.

A spokesman for his team confirmed he had started the attempt tonight (morning English time).

Chris Shapland prepares to swim the English Channel.
Chris Shapland prepares to swim the English Channel.

He has been in the ocean for three hours now and was photographed eating mid-swim.

The endeavor comes after bad weather thwarted earlier attempts in previous days.

He will swim from Dover to the beaches of France, a distance of 33.79km as the crow flies. 

But he will have to swim many kilometres to either side during the swim because of strong tides and will likely swim at least 40km.

It's important he makes it past the halfway mark before the tides change.

Mr Shapland told The Chronicle before he left that he would try to remain relaxed during the swim to conserve energy.

It will take him about 12 hours to complete the crossing.

Topics:  chris shapland, english channel, swimmer, toowoomba



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