Brave Amy makes her French connection
At 3.20pm on a Sunday afternoon Amy Hayes waded into the sea at Samphire Hoe on the south coast.
Almost 15 hours and 30 jellyfish stings later she was on the beach at Cap Blanc Nez in France just as the sun was coming up.
The 41 year-old Peterborough Triathlon Club member, an American who lives in Hampton had just become the 1,767th person to swim the English Channel - a feat first achieved by Captain Matthew Webb on August 25, 1875.
“I still can’t believe that I did it,” said the mum of four. “It was so hard. I suffered 30 jellyfish stings, I swam for eight hours in the dark and for the last two hours I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was physically capable of. I had a painful shoulder and I was exhausted.But I was so determined to finish.
“I have done lots of triathlons and the finish line feeling is huge for me. I convinced myself 18 months ago that getting out of the water in France would be the best finish line I could ever get to experience and it most certainly was.
“Mind you there was nobody there to cheer me because you never know where you’re going to land. The tides take you all over the place.
“But one of my crew members broadcast the last 20 minutes live on Facebook and over 200 people watched it. They were cheering from all over the world.”
Amy, whose official time for the 22-mile crossing was given as 14 hours and 41 minutes, almost had to be pulled out of the water because of the changing tides, but she was having none of it.
“I was told that I was going to be pulled from the water because the tide changed and we weren’t going towards France. So I swam faster and harder against the tide and we were soon heading in the right direction again.”
Amy did the whole swim using the front crawl stroke and only stopped at hourly intervals to have something to eat.
She said: “My crew threw nutrition over the side of the boat to me and I would drink warm Gatorade, eat race gels (energy supplements), apple sauce, bananas, canned pears, bite-sized peanut butter and honey sandwiches and oatmeal, all while kicking on my back to keep moving.”
Amy spent 18 months training for the big event and that involved lots of river swimming in extremely cold temperatures wearing only a swimsuit, goggles and a swimcap.
She also gained 20-25 pounds in weight for added natural insulation against the cold and that meant a diet of doughnuts for a year.
Amy has so far raised $5,000 from the swim - half of which will go towards paying for the cost of the support boat and the rest to a US charity.
“I’d love to swim Gibraltar to Morocco next or Molokai to Maui,” said Amy. “Crazy, I know, but I’m so competitive.”
‘It’s crazy, I know, but I’m so competitive’ Amy Hayes
Amy Hayes is exhausted after swimming the English Channel.
Amy Hayes (left) and her back-up crew.
Amy Hayes in action during her 14-hour ordeal in the English Channel. The bottom picture shows her arriving in France