Sevenoaks Water Polo’s Danny Hanlon completes English Channel solo swim

Danny Hanlon, Sevenoaks and Invicta water polo player, recently completed one of the most unique and demanding open water swims, considered by many to be the ultimate long distance challenge, by swimming solo across the English Channel.

‘Swim, Feed and get to France’ was Danny’s mantra when on 18 September 2021 he set off from Samphire Hoe, Dover just before 9am and arrived in Wissant, France some 14 hours 31 minutes later. The English Channel Swim is approximately 21 miles or 32 kilometres, from the shortest land distances. However, due to currents, winds and other factors, swimmers train to swim significantly more miles.

For a swim to be officially recognised by The Channel Swimming Association the swimmer must not be assisted by any kind of artificial aid and they are only permitted to use goggles, one cap, a nose clip, ear plugs and one costume that must be sleeveless and legless.

Cold water temperature is one of the biggest hazards for open water swimming so the training is long and hard. Danny started with a 20 minute swim in May and got out shivering, spending the next hour recovering. Gradually over the summer Danny’s training swims got longer and longer until he was regularly swimming 5 and 6 hour swims. His longest, to test endurance, was 10 hours at the beginning of August. Each training swim built confidence, physical and mental endurance and gave Danny and his support team an opportunity to test everything from different feeding plans to long distance stroke techniques.

Danny took up open water swimming 10 years ago on a bid to stay fit during the water polo off season and says: “I am so proud to have completed this challenge and to have now joined a very exclusive group of less than 3,000 people who have completed an English Channel solo crossing. I am the 232nd Australian to have completed the swim and as a teenager growing up in Perth, Western Australia, it seemed like an unachievable dream to me. This swim meant so much to me because it proved that you really can achieve your dreams when you are committed, disciplined and fully focused on achieving your goal! It just goes to show what is possible!”

Despite this being called a solo crossing, the word ‘solo’ could not be further from the truth! Danny says, “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my crew, Bernard Stone and Deborah Vine for their support and words of encouragement throughout the entire day/night. Between them, they kept my feeds on time, kept my family and friends updated and kept a close count and eye on my stroke rate to make sure that I was swimming consistently strong. I also owe a lot to my pilots on Sea Leopard Charters, Stuart Gleeson and Sean Marsh. The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through each day. My escort and pilot’s job was to make sure I was not steamrolled and to liaise with both the English and French authorities to ensure safe passage. Big thanks to my open water swimming trainers at Dover Channel Trainers, Emma France, Mandi Bodemeaid and Paul James. To my swim coach at Swim Canary Wharf, Ray Gibbs, for helping to transition my Water Polo stroke into something that might just hold up and go beyond 14+ course of sea swimming! To each of my fellow open water swimmers and of course to my No. 1 fan, my wife, Susan Hanlon who for 5 months willingly sacrificed all our weekends together to allow me to fully focus and train for this challenge. Eternally grateful to you all!”