Question: who was the youngest person to swim the Channel and why will his record never be beaten Answer: Tom Gregory, in 1988, aged 11. His record will stand forever because, shortly after his feat, the Channel Swimming Association set a minimum age of 16.
Gregory’s extraordinary achievement is the subject of his book, which won the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.
A Boy in the Water takes you from Gregory’s early swimming experiences as a reluctant doggy- paddler in a pool in south-east London, through his increasingly gruelling training regime with his coach – he was allowed no contact with warm water for nine months before the swim – to the event itself: a night ferry to Calais, being treated to cooked breakfast by a trucker; entering the water in nothing but a pair of swimming trunks, an orange cap and goggles; the elation of cresting waves and looking at the support boat in the troughs beneath him; the luminescence of the water; falling briefly asleep; hallucinating; the final few strokes; the pebbles of Dover beach.
A final question: how long did the swim take? Answer: 12 hours.