In September 2016, Beth French will embark on a ground breaking swim series that sees her test the boundaries of what is possible in the endurance swimming world. To date, only 6 people have completed the oceans7′s gruelling list over their lifetime. One woman managed 4 in a year. Beth will tackle all seven of these epic swims in a single twelve month period to become the first person in history to complete oceans seven as a swim series. The list challenges every aspect of a swimmer, from frigid cold water to exhaustingly warm swims, rough seas, fickle weather, strong tides, vicious currents, busy shipping lanes and abundant wildlife. The logistics of this project are not for the fainthearted, let alone the swimming!
The North Channel is widely considered to be the most difficult channel swim in the world. With an average water temperatures of 12ºC (54ºF) and normally overcast days, changeable conditions make it tremendously difficulty to accurately predicting weather and water conditions. Heavy seas, cold water, thunderstorms and strong currents are amongst the natural elements that must be overcome in the 21 mile channel. Swimmers also face large pods of jellyfish if conditions are calm. Crossing has been attempted at least 73 times since 1924, but only 8 successful solo swims and 5 relays have been achieved to date. Most of the attempts have been abandoned due to difficult conditions and hypothermia.
W/C 6th September 2016
The Catalina Channel is A deep-water channel that is comparable to the English Channel in terms of water conditions, difficulty, distance and the physical and mental challenges to the swimmer. From Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island to the San Pedro Peninsula the crossing stretches 21 miles. Water temperatures tend to be a bit warmer (15ºC – 20ºC) here compared to many other channels however nearer the coast do drop off. There is a high probability of strong winds and currents, and swimmers usually encounter large marine life including migrating whales and large pods of dolphins. The channel’s long distance coupled with its other challenging factors makes its crossing a formidable undertaking.
13th October 2016
Having already completed Molokai Channel once in December 2012, I am fully aware of what a formidable challenge it poses. During my last crossing, strong currents delayed my attempt significantly pushing my finishing time into a second night.
Late November 2016
The Cook Strait covers 16 nautical miles (26 kilometers) across immense tidal flows in heavily choppy water conditions. Water temperatures average a cool 14ºC-19ºC (57ºF-66ºF). Jellyfish and sharks are common place with 1 in 6 swimmers encounter sharks on their crossings. Both sides of the strait have rock cliffs making access and exit a struggle. To date, only 71 successful crossings have been made by 61 individuals from 8 countries. Hypothermia and quick changes in weather conditions during a crossing are the most common reasons attempts fail.
The Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The channels shortest point is between Punta Oliveros in Spain and Punta Cires in Morocco. This 8 mile crossing sees an eastern flow of water from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with an average of 3 knots (5.5 km per hour). Heavy boat traffic, logistical barriers and surface chop confront swimmers who take on this challenge. very strong currents combined with the unpredictability of the water conditions and high winds have resulted in only 185 successful one-way crossings and 7 double-crossings having been completed. Most attempts are made from Tarifa Island due to the influence of strong currents, a distance of 10-12 miles (18.5-22 kilometers).
The Tsugaru Strait is a deep-water channel between Honshu, the main island of Japan where Tokyo is located, and Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The channel’s closest points are Tappi Misaki in Honshu and Shirakami Misaki in Hokkaido. English and other western languages are not widely spoken in these areas making communication difficult. This international waterway is only 12 miles at its narrowest point but swimmers must cross a strong current, large swells and abundant marine life in order to complete a successful attempt. Swimmers are swept long distances due to the extraordinarily strong currents flowing from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean. Encounters with large blooms of squid are also common during the night. Swimmers are also challenged by occasional patches of cold water that flow up from the depths caused by the screws of the large oil tankers from the Middle East traveling through to the West Coast of the U.S.. There have only been four confirmed solo crossings and one confirmed double-crossing achieved to date.
The English Channel is the other channel, alongside Molokai, that I have already completed once and that makes up one part of the Ocean’s Seven. Despite having already completed a successful attempt, it would be foolish to dismiss this crossing as easy. Strong currents, tidal flows, strong winds and whitecaps are common with changing conditions. Hypothermia is a real danger, especially to a tired swimmer.
W/C 22nd August 2017