Michael Oram on Swim timing and Support/safety swimmers

Just a quick note for everyone as I keep being asked questions reference the swim rules just lately.

The rules are on the CS&PF web site - www.cspf.co.uk

Swim timings

For a 2-way swim the timing starts when the swimmer enters the water at the beginning of the swim and continues until the second leg is completed. This is a continuous timing.

2-way swim are however split into 2 separate legs --

The first leg is a 1-way crossing from the start until it is completed and the swimmer has cleared the water. This is swim 1 from England to France. This swim is then counted as a successful 1-way crossing E/F regardless of if the second leg is completed.


The return (second) leg is timed from the end of the first crossing - there is no "time gap" in the process even though the swimmer is allowed a short break between legs. The break is up to 10 minutes but it is in the water, not on the land. See CS&PF swim rules 10 (c) & (d) on the web site. 

Within that 10 minutes (which is included in the timing of the second leg). The swimmer must move back into water that is deep enough to commence swimming in. 

There are 3 separate timings for a 2-way swim --

1st is a 1-way England to France.

2nd is a 1-way from France to England

3rd is a 2-way E/F/E with is the total time from entering the water until the swim is complete.


Support/ safety swimmers

There is a need for swimmers and their support team to understand how the pilot looks at the rules and how the pilot has the overall say in what happens reference the use of support /safety swimmers.

The CS&PF rules for support swimmers state:

No support swimming within the first 3 hours and then it is: 1 hour the water - 2 hours out of the water -- with the pilots concent. There are other references as to how support swims are conducted in the swim rules.

The rules reference the support swimmer for solo 2-ways apply for the complete swim period as the 2-way swim recognition is for the total crossings. 

Support/safety swimmers are at the discretion of the pilot and only allowed if the pilot agrees.

Personally, as a pilot, I like to have a support swimmer available that I can call on at all times during the swim just in case - "I or my crew think they are needed"

I do not like support swimmers in the water "just for a social boost" or when there are tidal or weather problems. Looking after 2 people in the water is a headache at the best of times. I do however like a safety swimmer to accompany the swimmer to the beach at the end of the swim. I also like to be able to put them in the water for the 1 hour period during the swim if I am concerned. If the support swimmer has been used - because it is part of the planned swim cycle - and I or my crew can not call upon them if there is a need or a problem arising then my only option is to possibly call the swim and take the swimmer out on safety grounds. Often escort boat crews feel happier if there is someone in the water, or ready to go in the water, during swim "moments."

Some swimmers and their teams have an unfortunate attitude that seems to show they feel the pilot is not part of the swim plan system. They plan on an amateur basis with very little idea of the problems and concerns that arise during a Channel swim. If they realised that a Channel swim is different from most other open water crossings in as much as it is a swimmer/pilot partnership then there might be a few more successes.

Swimmers live on adrenalin and dreams - pilots work on reality and safety.


Michael O