The knack: How to swim the Channel, by Michael Read

"There are only about 13 days a year on which you stand a reasonable chance of getting across, due to the weaker tide; these occur at the end of each fortnight in July, August and September. Find a pilot - the chap who will watch and record you from Dover to France - and establish when he will take you and at what cost. You'll be looking at something like pounds 1,250.

Grease, a blend of lanolin and Vaseline, is not compulsory but it helps to keep the cold out ... for the first 30 minutes. And if you have a good layer of this on when you go through shoals of jellyfish, you won't be stung too badly. Cold is a major factor so start your open-water training early to acclimatise yourself. Eat what you like best and what likes you best while crossing, but don't eat it all in the first few hours, you'll just feel ill. You can have food thrown to you in a polythene bag, and tread water while you eat. You need a cast-iron stomach, because you will take regular mouthfuls of sea water, and this, combined with the diesel fumes from the boat and what you've eaten, has a dramatic effect on your gut. You will feel sick, and the pilot may lean over the boat and say, `Are you feeling all right?' and the answer is, `Of course not!' But when they say, `Do you want to get out?' the answer is, `No I don't.' It will take you between 10 and 16 hours to cross. And remember, nothing great is easy." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Michael Read, known as "King of the Channel", has successfully swum across the English Channel 31 times. He is chairman of the Channel Swimming Association (01303 814 788).

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