A photo of Dr Gary Brickley

Tribute to “incredible” Channel swimmer

School of Sport and Service Management sports scientist and Channel swimmer has paid tribute to Sarah Thomas who swam the Channel four times non-stop for cancer sufferers everywhere.

Dr Gary Brickley, Senior Lecturer, said the 37-year-old American, treated for breast cancer just a year ago, was “incredible – I am in awe of her achievement”.

He said: “When I did my solo channel crossing in August 2016, I did actually start to wonder what it would be like to do a double channel swim. The limits of human endurance feats do astound me. I think with this one people thought that no one would be able to achieve it.

“The idea of being awake for that long seems a big struggle to most and then to be swimming in cold, dark conditions added to it puts many people off.

“Logistically, planning something like this would be tough. Typically a boat costs around £2,500 per crossing. Swimming over 50 hours like Sarah did you would expect to sweat around 25 litres and to stay hydrated you would need a similar amount to replace the losses. In this endeavour you would expect around 16-25,000 calories to be expended and although you will use some of your fat stores you would need to maintain carbohydrate and protein intake.

“Added to that the physical demands of continuous arm movement and the friction associated with it could easily lead to the inability to complete the task. More amazing were the times that Sarah took to complete this task – the first one in just under 12 hours and the second just over with only the last one at over 17 hours. Her pacing of around two hours an hour is exceptional even for a one way crossing.

“People do suggest that female swimmers may be able to maintain longer endurance efforts and this may be due to the ability to metabolise fat more efficiently but also to the economy of the stroke technique. Body position in the water may be more streamlined in the water with less drag of the legs compared to male swimmers.

“Sarah was very grateful to her crew who would have observed her swim and made sure she stuck to a rigid feeding plan typically every 30-45 minutes. Her boat pilot navigated the tides really well and the charts show that she covered more than 100 miles as the swim was carried out on more of a spring tide than a short neap tide.

“I am in awe of this achievement and the way that Sarah spoke so positively about her experience, it almost seemed like she was thinking of the next challenge.

“It would have been easy to quit at the end of each turn or at any time when things weren’t going well so having the mental capacity under periods of sleep deprivation would have been a huge asset.

“It was great to follow her tracking as she made history and who knows if anyone will have the ability to go 5 times, I doubt it.”