Thirteen years after making a record-breaking crossing of the English Channel, super swimmer Dee Llewellyn-Hodgson has done it again.
And this time the 35-year-old mum and her fellow swimmers smashed the existing record, slicing more than an hour off the time.
The feat has been described as “amazing” by officials with the Channel Swimming Association (CSA) in Dover, who were on tenterhooks as Dee and her teammates – Nikki Fraser, 24, Jane McCormick, 35, Lucy Lloyd-Roach, 33, Emma Ross, 30, and Natalie Massey, 28 – slogged through their final hour to finish the three-way crossing in just 31 hours and 20 minutes.
The CSA says it’s highly unlikely that the time will be beaten before season’s end in October so Dee and Co – aka Andy’s Channel Ladies Relay team, named after boat pilot Andy King – can look forward to receiving their winner’s trophy at a ceremony in November.
What’s more they also broke the existing men’s record, meaning that they can expect a battle of the sexes as male swimmers gear up to win it back.
Speaking yesterday as she travelled back from the south coast, Dee said the crossing was completed despite inclement weather, heavy traffic and jellyfish.
“Swimming the Channel is like a pedestrian trying to cross a motorway,” she said.
“No matter how fast we are as swimmers we are still slow compared to tankers and there are a lot in the English Channel.
“We did come close to a few. That made the water quite choppy. Gusty winds also affected us. At the end of the second leg we were swimming in the dark. That was quite frightening and a difficult part.
“Then we swam through piles of jellyfish. We all got stung, which is not pleasant because it’s like being burned. One of the girls had a bad reaction with red slash marks on her arms and legs.”
Each swimmer spent an hour in the water followed by five hours rest. In Dee’s case she attempted to sleep but she also points out that she may be the first Channel swimmer to have expressed milk on board and put it in the boat’s fridge to bring back for her five-month-old son, Rhys.
Rhys, dad Paul, 37, and Dee’s parents Gwyn, 70, and Pat, 69, were all at Dover to see her off at 7.40am on Tuesday. The team made landfall at Cap Gris Nez, near Calais at 4pm French time clocking in at 31:20:50:72.
The team’s record time has already been ratified by the CSA.
Administrative Secretary Susan Ractliffe said: “A three-way crossing is a very difficult thing to do – it’s huge. The original record in 2004 was extremely fast. The girls did an amazing swim.”