Smeared in goose fat, David Walliams swims the Channel

Clad in the briefest of swimming trunks and smeared in goose fat, David Walliams might have simply been trying out a new Little Britain character yesterday.

But instead, the comedian who bade his parents a fond farewell on a Dover beach at sunrise before plunging into the icy waters of the Channel was about to perform a sporting feat. Ten hours and 34 minutes later, the 34-year-old arrived in Cap Griz Nez, France, having swum more than 21 miles and raised more than £400,000 for Sport Relief. Walliams negotiated one of the world's busiest shipping lanes to do so, not to mention jellyfish, sewage and debris in temperatures of around 15C.

"I was thinking about lots of Pet Shop Boys songs, Morrissey songs and Abba songs, it helped to calm me down," the comedian said as he headed back to Dover by boat last night.

"I've been told that my time puts me in with the top 50 Channel swimmers of all time, how did that happen? I've never done anything sporty before, I don't know what happened. I think it must be all the good vibes. I did it much faster than I thought; I thought I would do it in about 14 hours. I feel relieved, I felt there needed to be a happy ending to this story and there is."

Chomping on bananas and chocolate bars that were handed to him by pole from an accompanying boat, he completed the swim in good time as a helicopter and coastguard spotter plane flew overhead.

The Channel Swimming Association chairman Michael Read, who is the "king" of the sport, having completed the crossing a record 33 times, kept a watchful eye from the boat. Mr Walliams, he said, had remained "remarkably calm".

"The last mile, and then the last few yards, are the most difficult. Everything seems to go against you, you're exhausted, your body feels like lead and seeing the end in sight doesn't necessarily help," said Mr Read.

Despite the fact that 600 tankers and 200 ferries cross the Channel each day, Mr Read explained that the most imminent danger was from jellyfish.

"We've seen some of the larger ones, but there could be lots of little jellyfish in there too which could catch him," he said halfway through the swim.

Meanwhile Walliam's trainer, the former Olympic pentathlete Greg Whyte, watched for any signs of hypothermia.

The 34-year-old agreed to the challenge after witnessing the problems faced by the people of Ethiopia during a trip with his fellow Little Britain star Matt Lucas. In the past 11 months, he has undertaken a rigorous training programme under Whyte. It included swimming for up to eight hours in one go, and spending time in a special "cold tank" to acclimatise his body to the chilling temperatures.

"The first time I swam in a lake at that temperature as part of my training, I started hyperventilating with shock. It's difficult to get your head round just how cold it is," he explained.

Walliams being a comedian, the only cloud on the horizon was the vague suspicion that the whole venture was some sort of spoof.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week