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24 September 2014

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You are in: Suffolk > Sport > Features > "Absolutely fantastic"

Picture by Andy Abbot

Hoffy training at Felixstowe

"Absolutely fantastic"

Paul Hopfensperger of Bury St Edmunds has successfully completed his charity swim to France. He did the trip from Dover in just under his expected time.

Notes for swimmers

Dover to Calais is 21 statute miles

It's the equivalent of 1344 lengths of a 25 metre pool

The water will be 15-18oC

600 vessels cross the Channel each day

Swimmers have to join The Channel Swimmers Association Ltd and abide by their rules

Thermal clothing is banned, but petroleum jellies are allowed

With over 250 miles of swimming practice, Paul Hopfensperger was aiming to complete the 21 mile swim in around 14 hours.

His recorded time was 13hrs 50 minutes: "I'm chuffed to bits. All the way over was very rough.  After four or five hours my right shoulder was really starting to hurt.

"Because you've got the boat on one side of you, you keep looking at it and overworking one of your shoulders.

"After about six or seven hours I was thinking I wasn't going to make it.  When I asked other swimmers for advice they said just get in the water and keep going.  I kept thinking about this and it made me laugh, but it was good advice.

Feeding was also a problem.  Swimmers aren't allowed to touch the boat, so food is lowered to them on the end of a pole.  Hoffy says it wasn't easy: "Because of the swell, it's quite difficult to take the food as you rise up and down.  At least one banana ended up in lost in the water.

English Channel

The view of Calais from Dover

"In the latter stages, I was told by the boat that everytime we stopped for feeding we were losing half a mile and once I could see France, it seemed we were never getting any closer at times.

"Walking to shore was wonderful. All these French people clapped me - it was like the man from Atlantis arriving from Dover!

"Absolutely fantastic."


'Hoffy' is an experienced swimmer, but it was murky world of local politics which finally made him take the plunge - his wife is trying to raise money via the Mayor's charity.

Hoffy was captain of Bury Swimming Club in 1978 and now he's grown up he runs his own IT business in the town which he represents as a Suffolk County Councillor. Did anyone mention swimming with sharks?

He's been inspired by a local long distance swimmer: "It's been an ambition of mine to swim the English Channel since I first met Mike Read [not to be confused with the EastEnders/stand-up or former Radio One disc jockey].

"He's swum the Channel 33 times and we met at the annual presentation and awards ceremony of the Bury St Edmunds Swimming Club in October 1980. 

"I remember thinking as a 17 year old town and county swimmer ‘How can anyone swim the channel? I must try it one day.

"When my wife became the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds in 2006, and nominated her two charities as CLIC Sargent and St. Nicholas' Hospice, I thought of ways of trying to help her hit her target of £50,000.

"When I saw Little Britain star David Walliams swim it last July, also with the help of Mike Read, I decided to attempt the channel at the ripe old age of 44."

So far the ambitious totals for two charities are a long way short of £50,000, but Paul hopes the donation will increase as the big day approaches.

Paul is attempting the cross channel swim on Tuesday 10 July and BBC Suffolk reporter Jon Wright is on the support boat, capturing his efforts live on air.

You can find out more information about Paul from his website and blogspot by clicking the links on the right >>

last updated: 12/07/07

You are in: Suffolk > Sport > Features > "Absolutely fantastic"

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