English Channel Relays – What are they all about?

Thinking about swimming a channel relay or already signed up? I have had the privilege of being involved in three English channel relays with people of varying abilities. I love them!! It is a great way of introducing you to the channel and you may then decide to go on to do a solo! They are also a great team challenge and often people raise money for many worthwhile causes.

You are training regularly, you have already completed or are about to complete your observed 2 hour qualifying swim and you have chosen your governing body (e.g. CS&PF / CSA). You have your forms and all your paperwork is sorted. Phew – so what else is there to think about?

Applying VaselineThe rules
The rules are strict, similar to a solo in terms of wearing standard swim wear, one latex/silicon hat, ear plugs and goggles. If you want it to be official, you cannot wear a wet suit. The biggest difference from a relay to a solo is each member must swim one hour without touching the boat before the next one jumps in behind the swimmer, not in front. This is very important as jumping in ahead of your team mate won’t constitute you swimming the whole distance and therefore the team could be disqualified. Your governing body of choice will provide you with a comprehensive guide on their rules.

How to choose the swim order?
Many do this based on fastest to slowest as once every swimmer has done their hour, it goes around again in the same order. Once you give your swimming order to the observer and start swimming you cannot change this if someone gets ill and doesn’t want to swim. You will be disqualified. It is important to have the fastest swimmer first to get out into the channel as quickly as possible.

Can I do any stroke?
The answer is YES! As long as you are in the water for your allocated time you can do whatever stroke you want. Just keep in mind that those pesky currents may try to send you home, so a leisurely breast stroke most likely won’t cover the same ground as front crawl.

How do I support my team mates?
Everyone has a job to do, while at least one person watches the swimmer in the water, one is getting ready for next swim and another gets ready to dry current swimmer off when they get out of the water. Talk about this with the team and be prepared.

What food do I bring?
Something easy, I took packet soups, pot noodles and treats. Check the facilities on the boat, e.g. does the boat have a kettle! I suggest you don’t eat/drink in the water as you would in a solo swim as it will slow the team down.

What equipment will I need?
Here are the crucial basics:
Vaseline – helps prevent rubbing
Plastic gloves – to apply vaseline
Whistle – to get swimmers attention
White board – to warn how long to go and encouraging messages
Spares – change of costumes, towels and goggles
Warm clothing – woolly hat, lots of warm tops, sleeping bags etc
Plastic container with lid –  to put food/drink and clothes in case it rains!!
There are a lot of things you can take, but think realistically about carrying only what you need onto the boat.

Team buildingTeam building
Training with your team members is a great way to build relationships and to also understand each other – so you know how each of you is doing while at sea. Sometimes this isn’t practical with work and distance between members, but highly recommended if you can do it. I run 1 day swim camps specifically for Channel Relay teams and as well as being a fun day, its packed full of useful information. For more details click here>>

4 thoughts on “English Channel Relays – What are they all about?

  1. Adam , I have just started to to go into the water non wetsuit , I have done 20 min max so far , do I continue like this building it up or mix it up with wetsuit and skins swims ? I am part of a four person relay this July .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes keep doing the small dips building up for acclimatisation. However it’s still early in the season at the moment so stick to 20 minutes until early May or whatever your comfortable with. Then increase 5/10 minutes each time. Your goal is to do 2 hours by Mid June.


      So u know by request I have put on two one off swim camps for channel relays http://oceanwalkeruk.com/opencart/index.php?route=product/product&path=20_27&product_id=74


  2. Hi,

    I am really keen to be part of a channel relay swim team but live in Cornwall. What do you think might be the best training option for me.

    Hats of to you Adam on your Ocean 7 – unbelieveable!!!


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