Chris well into her swim across the Channel

Chris Pitman pictured in practice for her Channel swim
Chris Pitman pictured in practice for her Channel swim

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Bedhampton’s Chris Pitman is making good progress in her epic attempt to become the oldest British woman to swim the English Channel.

She entered the sea at Dover Harbour at 3.15am at the start of a day-long gruelling effort to reach France.

And the early signs were good. Shortly after dawn broke, her daughter Jennie said: ‘She is making good progress.’

Today’s swim marks the culmination of years of planning by Chris, who is 61 and works at the Horizon Leisure Centre in Havant.

Her preparations included taking part in the Solent Charity Swim in July, long distance training in the Lake District where she concentrated on night swimming, and joining a relay across the Channel earlier in the summer,

Chris, who is on her second heart pacemaker, is raising money for the British Heart Foundation.

Fifty per cent of all the money she raises in the Channel swim will go to the charity.

The rest will be split between Cancer Research and Help for Heroes.

A team on the support boat Suva, including Chris’s husband Pete, are following her swim.

Just before setting off, Chris said: ’The wait is almost over. My pilot, who’s out in the Channel at the moment, reports perfect conditions with little or no wind so keep you fingers crossed for it to stay like that!’

She hopes to get to France between 6pm and 7pm today.

Chris is taking breaks in the water to take on protein and energy shakes, which are being thrown to her in bottles from the boat.

She is hoping to reach France by 7pm as after that the tidal currents change and it could take her longer to reach shore.

Her daughter Jennie said: ‘There’s a current change at that time. If she doesn’t get there before then, it could take her a few extra hours as she will be fighting through the tide.’

And after battling all that way to get to France, Chris won’t be there for long.

She has not got customs clearance so will only be able to stay there for five minutes or so before she gets back on Suva and returns to England.

Chris anticipates her swim will take between 15 and 18 hours, meaning that if all goes well she should reach France at around nightfall.

It’s been Chris’s life-long ambition to swim the English Channel.

She has to swim at least 21 miles, depending on the tide, across one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

Support Chris online at chrispitman.