Thursday 23 November 2017

Channel swimmer OAP: I’m not doing that again

At 70 years and four months, Mr Allsopp beat the record set in August 2004 by George Brunstad, the uncle of Hollywood star Matt Damon. Photo: PA
At 70 years and four months, Mr Allsopp beat the record set in August 2004 by George Brunstad, the uncle of Hollywood star Matt Damon. Photo: PA
Roger is presented with his certificate from Guinness World Records by adjudicator Anna Orford. Photo: Getty Images
Roger holds his certificate. Photo: PA

Tom Pugh

A 70-year-old grandfather who achieved his ambition of becoming the oldest person to swim the English Channel said today he has no plans to stage a repeat.

Retired breast cancer surgeon Roger Allsopp entered the record books after swimming from Dover to northern France in 17 hours and 51 minutes.

Wearing a pink swimming hat, he claimed the new Guinness World Record in the early hours of this morning exhausted by the 21 nautical mile distance.

At 70 years and four months, Mr Allsopp beat the record set in August 2004 by George Brunstad, the uncle of Hollywood star Matt Damon.

Retired airline captain Mr Brunstad, from Connecticut, swam the Channel aged 70 years and four days in a time of 15 hours and 59 minutes.

As he recovered from his ordeal in Dover and toasted his record, Mr Allsopp, from Guernsey, said: "I feel really, really good about it.

"The alternative to fail would have been very sad. It was very hard work and I had to work all the way."

He added: "My body has told me not do anything like this again."

Mr Allsopp said his first craving after arriving on dry land was a glass of lemonade and he was now looking forward to plenty of rest.

On seeing France come into view, he said: "I thought it was a long way away and the last bit was particularly hard.

"I remember treading on sand but I don't remember anything after that until about halfway home on the boat."

He added that the most difficult part of the challenge was waiting around as changeable weather patterns forced postponements over several days.

Today Mr Allsopp was presented with a certificate marking his achievement from Anna Orford, an adjudicator with Guinness World Records, who shadowed him on board a support boat.

Ms Orford, 33, admitted she was sick throughout the journey but she praised Mr Allsopp for clinching the record, describing him as "amazing".

She said: "I was seasick all the way through, so goodness knows what he was going through in the water. He didn't take a single break for the whole 17-odd hours.

"He was given sugary protein that was thrown out to him. He was a beautiful swimmer and the last two hours were very emotional as we saw France.

"I love the guy. He is the nicest man ever and he is what Guinness World Records is all about."

Mr Allsopp was backed by a support crew as he made the punishing crossing to Cap Gris Nez, the closest point of France to the UK.

The grandfather-of-three was initially inspired to take part in the challenge by an inscription at a pub in Dover marking Mr Brunstad's cross-Channel achievement.

Mr Allsopp's successful attempt came 136 years after British merchant navy captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the Channel, doing the breaststroke from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in 21 hours, 45 minutes.

He was motivated by a personal crusade to raise £750,000 for world-class medical equipment to help advance cancer research at the University of Southampton.

The money would pay for new equipment to analyse the blood of cancer patients and non-cancer patients to develop a test that would give a pre-warning of the disease.

Mr Allsopp, the BBC's Guernsey Sports Personality of the Year winner in 2006, said: "I was inspired by the research work that this is funding and I kept thinking about that.

"People who go through chemotherapy go through months of that. I just had a day of it. I can stand that."

He has received a personal pledge of £250,000 from Derek Coates, the chairman of nutritional and well-being supplement company Healthspan.

Mr Allsopp has a record of physical challenges, having run the London Marathon aged 60 and completed his first Channel swim at the age of 65 in 2006, at the time becoming the oldest Briton to do so.

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