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From England to France: Swimming the Channel

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball, Defense Media Activity - Europe

DOVER, England, Oct. 4, 2016 — After about two years of training and regimented swimming schedules, two American airmen attempted to swim the English Channel from here to the western coastline of France.

Air Force Majs. Simon Ritchie and Casey Bowen, both dermatologists stationed at the 59th Medical Wing based at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, viewed this challenging swim as the culminating point for swimmers across the globe.

‘Ultimate’ Swimming Event

“This is the pinnacle event in swimming,” Bowen said. “It’s been a long-term goal, and just a personal challenge that I have been thinking of for a long time. We scheduled a crossing years ago.”

Bowen and Ritchie felt confident in their abilities and dedication to accomplish the task, but they were also cognizant of the challenges they faced. The duo tackled Mother Nature’s unpredictability with wind, rain, tidal changes and cold temperatures, as well as a potential encounter with jellyfish. Aside from the forces of nature, the airmen coped with physical exhaustion and mental fatigue as they fought through the sea.

“I try to lose myself in the moment; you really just have to stay in your own moment,” Ritchie said. “Look at your support boat, and put your head back down in the water, and keep going.”

When they arrived in Dover, the two airmen had the opportunity to speak with several other swimmers from around the world who have completed the solo and relay swims across the channel.

After waiting for a few days for the right conditions for the swim, Bowen leaped off the support boat into the frigid salt water of the English Channel, and swam to the Dover shoreline, and started his official swim Sept. 26. Ritchie had to wait a few more days to start his swim yesterday.

Both airmen successfully landed on the shoreline of France and finished their swim. Bowen achieved a time of 12 hours, 9 minutes while Ritchie finished in 11 hours, 24 minutes.

“One of my old coaches from the Air Force Academy had emailed me, and told me that it was about the endeavor, and not about finishing, [and to] try to enjoy it,” Bowen said. “So I did.”
Distribution channels: Military Industry