Rough seas and tide put an end to dream of Channel record

WATER WOMAN Chris Pitman during her training
WATER WOMAN Chris Pitman during her training
Nik Kershaw. Picture by Steve Ullathorne

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CHRIS Pitman’s heroic attempt to become the oldest British woman to swim the English Channel has ended in heartache.

The 61-year-old has spent years training for her record-breaking swim from Dover to Calais – but was defeated by the rough conditions.

She was 15 hours into the marathon 21-mile journey when choppy seas and strong tides forced her to give up on her dream.

Chris managed to get within five miles of the French coast, but in the end she said, despite being able to see the shore, it was just not her day.

‘The conditions were not favourable,’ she said.

‘It was very choppy out there and very rough.

‘My support boat was being tossed around all over the place and so was I.

‘Unfortunately there was no point in carrying on.

‘At one stage we were just being pushed along the French coast by the tide.

‘Usually I enjoy swimming but this time there was not one single stroke where I felt relaxed or got into a rhythm.

‘The conditions just weren’t right.

‘I feel pretty deflated – I hadn’t thought about not completing it, the thought never entered my mind.’

Chris, from Hulbert Road, Bedhampton, entered the sea at Dover Harbour at 3.15am yesterday, prepared for a gruelling day-long effort to reach France.

And the early signs were good as she made steady progress.

Alongside her was a team on the support boat Suva, including Chris’s husband Pete.

The swim marked the culmination of years of planning by Chris, who 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, pictured on the front page during her training, hasn’t yet decided if she will try again and beat the current record for a British woman which is 60-years-old.

‘At the moment I’m not sure if I will have another go,’ she said. ‘But it wasn’t to be this time.’

Despite missing out on her record attempt, Chris, who is on her second heart pacemaker, has managed to raise more than £1,600 for the British Heart Foundation.

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

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

Her daughter Jennie, 36, said: ‘It’s a shame, but she gave it her all and it just didn’t work out this time.’

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