• Marathon Swimming

Olympian Rob Woodhouse makes history with English Channel crossing success

Rob Woodhouse has become the first medal-winning Australian Olympic swimmer to successfully complete a crossing of the English Channel.

Republished with support of Can Too

On Saturday 6 August Rob Woodhouse became the first medal-winning Australian Olympic swimmer to successfully complete a crossing of the English Channel.

This swim makes Rob only the second Australian Olympic swimmer to ever complete a successful crossing of the English Channel. The only other Australian Olympic swimmer to achieve the mammoth task was Linda McGill with her crossing in 1965.

Rob is now one of only five Olympic medalists to ever successfully swim the English Channel:

  • 1911 – Great Britain’s Bill Burgess
  • 1926 – American Gertrude Ederle (Also the first ever woman to complete the swim)
  • 1957 – Denmarks’ Greta Anderson
  • 1979 – American John Kinsella
  • 2022 – Australian Rob Woodhouse

With a finishing time of 10 hours and 45 minutes, Rob holds the second fastest crossing so far this season, which, in his own modest words is “Not bad for an old bloke”.

It’s fair to say that with this swim Rob has cemented his name in history as one of the greats of the sport. An outstanding achievement and well worth celebrating.

Along with the outstanding endurance swim achievements, Rob has also raised a significant amount of funds for Can Too Foundation. At the time of publication, Rob’s fundraising total for Can Too is $22,685. With donations still coming in, Rob is expected to hit his $25,000 target in the coming days. 

Can Too Foundation funds early career Australian cancer researchers, and these funds will go a long way to ensuring that the brightest minds are working to create a world without cancer. 

From all of us at Can Too, congratulations Rob on an astounding achievement and thank you for your support of the Can Too Foundation.

If you’d like to show your support for Rob’s swim with a donation to Can Too, follow the link to his fundraising profile

Rob’s own account of the swim 

“I had a reasonably good idea a day in advance that I’d be starting my swim in darkness in the early hours of Sat 6th August.  A call around 6 pm on Fri evening confirmed this, I was told to be at Folkestone harbour for 2.15 am ready to go!

A decent size bowl of pasta was consumed, then to bed for a good 4-5 hours sleep before the 1.15am alarm.  With my support team of Susie, Ron, Paul, Clare, Andy and Nils we got to the harbour on time and boarded The Masterpiece, my support boat for the swim.

Leaving the harbour around 2.50 am, we motored along to Semphire Hoe beach and anchored about 200 metres offshore.  With an official Channel Swimming Association observer on board our boat, I jumped into the dark water and swam ashore.  With a spotlight on me from the boat, once I was standing above the water line the observer blew the air horn and my swim started at 3.20 am.

After a few minutes, I swam up alongside the boat and just kept swimming.  The plan was to stop for a quick nutritional feed (200ml liquids in a water bottle) every 30 mins.  Apart from that, I just had to keep swimming until I reached France.

The darkness was a bit intimidating, but before long the sky started getting a little lighter.  After 2 hours or so the sky turned pinkish and not long afterwards the sun rose out of the ocean, quite a beautiful sight!

I tried to break the swim down into 3-hour blocks, with each block broken down into my 30 min swims between each feed.  By not thinking about how far I was away from France, and not looking up to see if I was any closer, I managed to pass the time well and before I knew it I was halfway across and swimming on the French side of the channel.

There was plenty of jellyfish in the water, fortunately, most of them were about 3 feet below the surface and amazingly I didn’t get stung at all during the entire swim. 

After 10 hours or so the boat captain began preparing the inflatable dinghy which was going to accompany me for the final mile or so once we reached the shallow waters of the French coast.  By now I was still feeling strong and really enjoying the swim, knowing of course that I was almost there certainly helped!

My brother-in-law Ron got into the dinghy when it launched and then jumped in to swim the final 300 metres with me.  I walked ashore between rows of mussel beds and raised my arms as the air horn from The Masterpiece went again, 10 hours and 45 minutes after I started.  Just like that, I’d become an English Channel swimmer!

The elation was huge.  Ron and I hugged on the beach then swam back to the dinghy and clambered on board.  Back to The Masterpiece, we went for the 3-hour boat trip back to Folkestone Harbour.  As you’d expect, we celebrated appropriately that night!!!

A huge thanks to everyone for supporting my English Channel swim, and of course to everyone who donated to the two charities I was fundraising for – Can Too in Australia and North Ayrshire Swimming Club in Scotland.”

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 16 August 2022
  • (Updated on 3 August 2023)

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