Anglia Ruskin student joins Channel swim elite

Published: 25 September 2006 at 13:01

A Film Studies and Drama student from the Arts Law and Social Sciences (ALSS) Faculty of Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus has become one of the youngest people to swim the English Channel this year. During the swim - which took him just 14 hours - he experienced agony and ecstasy as he pushed himself to the very limits on what he described as ‘the journey of a lifetime.’

Edward Williams (19), who is keen to pursue a career in radio and television when he graduates from university, told of how he began swimming in calm water with the sun on his back only to move into more typical English Channel weather and find himself battling 4 metre high waves.

He left Shakespeare Beach in Dover, Kent at 9.40am BST and reached France at 11.40pm BST – exactly 14 hours later. He had periods where he was pushed physically and psychologically but fortunately not at the same time.  It was while he was considering what excuse he could use to pull out of the swim, while negotiating heavy swells and busy shipping lanes, that he first saw France and knew that he must continue. A sprint swim at the end lifted his spirits and swimming with the stars above and jelly fish below, he completed his marathon event.

The last stretch was the hardest as the cold started to affect his whole body. Explains Edward:

“I could feel my eyes rolling in my head as hypothermia started to set in. Suddenly, I felt a wave starting to catapult me towards the beach, followed by another one and I knew I was close. As emotion welled up inside me, I felt myself touch rock. I held onto that rock as hard as I could and pulled myself out of the water with my last ounce of strength.”

“It was incredibly tough. It’s not the distance that is the challenge but the extreme and varying conditions of the Channel. This will undoubtedly be one of my greatest achievements – at just 19 I am delighted to have joined the ranks of the elite (and incredibly hardy) group of cross Channel swimmers.”

In the year’s preparation for his swim, Edward put in four hours of exercise around his day of studying which equates to around 40 miles a week in the water. He swam for 2 hours in the morning, and 2 in the evening but he loves the constant balance of studying and training. Edward also works as a DJ and somehow also manages to fit this in as well!

His performance will be scientifically monitored whilst he is in the water by the team from Anglia Ruskin University in order to give him the best possible chance of success.

The Sports Science team is made up of Adrian Scruton, Dan Gordon, Roy Luckhurst, Dr Don Keiller, Nathan Thompson, Kjell van Paridon and Dr Monèm Jemni.

“We wanted to give Edward every chance of success and the best way we could do that was offering him our knowledge of how Sports Science can help improve human performance”,

said Dr Monem Jemni the team performance director.

“There are just over a thousand people who have done the swim to date in history,” explains Edward. “About 30 to 50 people from around the world attempt it each year but around 70 percent of these fail. It is the Mount Everest of the swimming world but a lot more people have successfully climbed Mount Everest than have swum the Channel, which demonstrates what a challenge this is.”

“It’s all for charity so the more publicity I can get around the event, hopefully the more money I can raise.”

Edward planned to complete the 21-mile sea swim within 10-14 hours. His challenge was to raise money in aid of Prostate Cancer Research.  His father, a Harley Street surgeon, devoted a huge part of his career to the disease only to contract it himself.  While his father has now beaten the disease it still affects 40 000 men in the UK every year. 11 000 of the cases are fatal. So far he has been pledged £18,500.

His tough training regime saw Edward put in four hours of exercise around his day. Edward also works as a DJ and so somehow managed to find time for evening work as well.

In the run up to the event, his performance was scientifically monitored whilst he is in the water by a team of sports science experts from Anglia Ruskin University in order to give him the best possible chance of success.

They included Adrian Scruton, Dan Gordon, Roy Luckhurst, Dr Don Keiller, Nathan Thompson, Kjell van Paridon and Dr Monèm Jemni.

Adrian Scruton of the Sports Science Team added:

“We are hugely impressed with Edward’s performance. He gave the swim everything he had, and more, refusing to be beaten when others would have given up.”

“We have all learned a great deal from supporting him during this life-changing experience – and we know that Edward has too!”

Edward embarked on a three-week training session in Barbados with the Caribbean Olympic team and Channel Swimmers during the early summer. He was doing 10-20 mile non-stop swims around the island every day and was stung numerous times by jellyfish. He even had to swim for the beach when a 10ft hammerhead shark took an un-nerving interest as he was swimming on his own in the early hours one morning. He was not at all bothered by this encounter insisting that it was all par for the course!

His aim is to follow in the footsteps of fellow Channel Swimmer and comedian David Walliams - who completed the swim a few weeks before him - and join the entertainment industry.

Concludes Edward:

“I have always been an entertainer and I will go to great lengths to ensure that I deliver my promise – and that is why I was up for this challenge.”

An accomplished swimmer, Edward had been planning the swim since he was 14-years old.  Last year, he was the fastest 19-year old featuring in the National Masters Championship in Sheffield in the 200m backstroke and 50m butterfly.

Edward is living in Cambridge but is originally from Bedfordshire, where he was the youngest ever Captain of St Neots Swans swimming club at the age of 14.

Anyone interested more details about his swim or giving donations to his sponsorship fund can visit