No sting in the tale for channel swimmer

A city swimmer braved jellyfish stings, freezing water temperatures and strong tides as he battled the elements to swim across the English Channel.

Sunday, 4th September 2016, 8:00 am
Jonathan near France
Jonathan near France

Dad-of-five, Jonathan Ratcliffe (43) completed the 52km swim in 11 hours 59 minutes to raise money for an education charity.

Jonathan, who is now a member of Peterborough triathlon group PACTRAC, said before taking up the challenge he had not swam much for 20 years.

He said: “I always try and do something to push myself out of my comfort zone - last year I climbed the Matterhorn, and I am scared of heights.

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“I had always thought of doing it - I thought we are an island, and wondered if I needed to swim off, whether I could do it. I was a swimmer in my youth, but with five children I had not had much time to do any.”

Jonathan made the marathon swim on August 19, starting at midnight in Dover.

He said: “We got a pilot boat sorted and skipper. I was told my tidal window closed on August 17th, but on the 18th I got a call saying ‘you are going in the water in 24 hours.’

“I started at midnight. It was very choppy for the first hour or two, but then I was in beautiful water. The sunrise was majestic. I saw more jellyfish than boats, and luckily only got stung three times.”

To complete the challenge, Jonathan had to complete feeding stops in just 30 seconds - having fruit smoothy drinks, or blended flap-jacks to keep his energy up. He was unable to touch the boat for the swim to be ratified, and stopping for longer than half a minute would push him back against the tide.

He said: “My wife was on the pilot boat, and she was writing messages on a whiteboard.

“The water is very cold, and salt water is very abrasive, so it definitely helped.

“ When I got to France, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stand. I had taken about 46,800 strokes, mainly using my arms.

“I crawled ashore, lay in the sand, and let out a big scream. Then I swam back to the boat. I was seasick on the journey back.

“I don’t know if I will do anything next year. Julia (Jonathan’s wife) has said I have child rearing, dog walking and golf time to make up. But I have been secretly Googling some of the world’s hardest swims.”

Jonathan, from Bulwick, was raising money for Peterborough based charity CROPS, which is attempting to raise funds for a scheme to consolidate their mentoring in schools on a one to one basis.

He said: “It is such a great cause, helping children dealing with self image and confidence issues, especially around exam time.

To help the charity, visit