70-year-old left delirious by Channel swimming record

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

The 70-year-old who on Wednesday became the oldest person to swim across the English Channel said he was so left delirious by his gruelling feat he thought the French coast was a cloud in heaven.

British grandfather Roger Allsopp told AFP he was physically and mentally exhausted by his record-breaking exploits, having swum for 17 hours and 51 minutes across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The retired breast cancer surgeon waded in at Shakespeare Beach in Dover, southeast England, at 8:00am (0700 GMT) on Tuesday, aiming for Cap Gris-Nez, 21 miles (34 kilometres) away in a straight line.

But as he battled against tides and currents pulling him this way and that, he ended up taking a far longer, zig-zag route to reach the continent.

He had a support boat alongside him, but made no contact with it and swam in only a cap, goggles and trunks as Channel swimming rules dictate.

He staggered ashore near Wissant on the northeast French coast in the darkness of early Wednesday.

"There was a little beach lit up by the boat. I was really confused by that stage, I didn't know where I was," said Allsopp, who is 70 years and four months old.

"It looked like a little cloud. I thought I'm going into heaven or something. I walked on that.

"I didn't see anything. I was out of it. It wasn't instant elation, but as the day's worn on it's really sunk in."

Allsopp had no chance to celebrate ashore -- let alone crawl into a warm bed -- as he had to turn around and swim back out to the support boat for the three-hour return crossing.

"They won't let the boats land. Something to do with immigration laws. So you can't," he said.

"You must stand up and get clear of the water. You've then got to swim back to the boat but I can't remember doing it so it didn't bother me."

Official Guinness World Records adjudicator Anna Orford went on the support boat to verify the record.

"To swim the English Channel is a great challenge and to do it at the mature age of 70 years is astounding," she said.

"We are very pleased to congratulate Roger on this achievement and in doing so setting a new Guinness World Record."

The previous record-holder was retired airline pilot George Brunstad -- the uncle of Hollywood film star Matt Damon.

The American swam the Channel aged 70 years and four days in August 2004.

"I blame him for nearly killing me last night! He inspired me to do it," Allsopp said.

The former surgeon was aiming to raise £750,000 ($1.22 million, 850,000 euros) to fund medical equipment for cancer research at the University of Southampton, southern England, and is confident of reaching the target.

"A world record stirs people's imagination," he said.

Allsopp, who lives on the Channel Island of Guernsey, said that after a good sleep he was able to walk and speak again, though his shoulders and ribs were sore.

But the record-breaking grandfather is just about ready to celebrate.

"I'm going to see a friend and have a cola, I might even try a beer but it might be a bit early for that," he said.

"I think I'll give swimming a miss for a few days."

© 2011 AFP

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