Solo swimmer Phil Yorke is back on dry land after becoming only the 12th person in history to swim the English Channel by breaststroke.
Phil, 43, completed his epic swim in 18 hours and two minutes, despite being buffeted by the tides, whipped by the wind and stung in the face by a jellyfish.
Volunteer swimming teacher Phil, of Mirfield, trained hard for his 21-mile Dover to Calais challenge in July only for it to be postponed due to the weather.
When he finally got the go ahead he was given less than 24 hours’ notice.
Since Capt Matthew Webb became the first man to swim the Channel unaided in August 1875, Phil is only the 12th to cross the treacherous stretch of water by breaststroke.
“It’s only just sinking in what I have achieved,” said Phil. “Not only was I the 12th to cross but I am the seventh fastest. It all started as a personal challenge to test myself.”
Phil, who was part of a relay team that swam the Channel two years ago, decided to go solo for the same charity cause, Aspire, which raises money for people with spinal cord injuries.
Phil gave up swimming in his mid-20s but returned to it three years ago to get fit.
He trained for the swim five days a week from February, travelling to Dover every weekend to swim in the harbour.
He also swam in open water in Kent where temperatures plunged to around 5C.
His big day was called off due to high winds but he got the call just the night before to say there was a slot available.
Solo swimmers are led by a boat with an official observer on board to ensure they complete the challenge without even touching the boat.
Phil set off just after midnight from Samphire Hoe near Dover and swam for the first few hours in pitch darkness with only the boat to guide him.
He fuelled up beforehand with porridge, Pot Noodle and a banana and every hour he was allowed to stop – treading water all the time – to drink liquid food. The stops were for no more than 30 seconds.
Wearing only the regulation trunks, goggles, swimming cap and Vaseline – goose fat has, in fact, no thermal properties – Phil plunged into the darkness.
“The water was about 16C and a bit warmer on the French side so it didn’t feel too bad,” he said.
“Swimming for the first five hours in the pitch black played mind games but you have to trust the boat to take you in the right direction.
“Going across I swallowed a lot of saltwater and got very achy across my shoulders but you have to keep going.”
The wind got up and changed direction. With the wind blowing against the tide Phil was pushed south and ended up swimming about 26 miles, though the Channel crossing is always measured as 21 miles.
As well as the mental demons Phil ran into a live one, a huge jellyfish, which stung him down both arms and across his face.
He was fortunate, however, to avoid the rafts of seaweed and rubbish which collects between the shipping lanes.
“You can’t communicate a lot to the boat so you are on your own and must focus on your own little world,” said Phil.
“The winds got up to 40mph and when you can eventually see France the land never seems to get any closer.”
Eventually, an exhausted but elated Phil made it ashore at Wissant. He was then taken back across the Channel by boat and had to drive home.
Phil, who manages the sports facilities at Leeds University, is now recovering at home.
“My tongue was swollen and numb from the saltwater and my throat was sore and so are my biceps but it was all worth the effort,” he said.
Phil hopes to raise £500. To donate go to www.justgiving.com/Philip-Yorke2/